Cancer might have taken his leg, but not his courage. Zach Gowen is a one-legged former wrestling champion who took on the difficult obstacle course on season 8 of American Ninja Warrior and the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Gowen took off his artificial leg and waved it at the crowd before undertaking the gruelling course, expertly negotiating several features of the course to rapturous applause.
The 33-year-old Gowen, who lost his leg after being diagnosed with cancer at age 8, has previously spoken of the time his limb was amputated.
“I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. I didn’t realise how close to death I was, because at 8 years old, I really didn’t understand the concept of death. All I knew was that I was in a ton of pain,” said Gowen.
Not that he has let it stop him from achieving his dreams. He became professional wrestling’s first one-legged competitor after taking part in shows for the WWE and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.
He says that wrestling was the only thing that truly made him feel better. Sadly, he was let go from the WWE and then turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. That left him feeling “mentally and spiritually bankrupt” and he ultimately managed to beat his demons.
Gowen has demonstrated a great attitude about all the travails he’s gone through.
“I’ve had the gift of having cancer. The gift of losing my leg. The gift of almost losing my life to drug addiction and alcoholism. These are all gifts,” he said.
In season 8, American Ninja Warrior follows hundreds of competitors as they test their skills on new obstacles in an attempt to join Isaac Caldiero as just the second person ever to win the $1 million grand prize.
Watch Zach Gowen’s inspirational Indianapolis Qualifier run.