- Courtesy Of Eva Sollberger ©️ Seven Days
- Amir Malik
If you've ever seen "American Ninja Warrior" on NBC, you've probably thought, Holy crap! It's a nail-biting adrenaline rush just watching contestants propel themselves through a sadistic-looking obstacle course. For the athletes, it's an extraordinary test of human fitness and endurance with the additional pressure of reality-show competition and a national audience.
Last week, 20-year-old Amir Malik of Essex Junction, aka "Sonic," competed on the show — one of two Vermonters this past year. He passed a qualifying round at a competition in St. Louis, Mo., and will appear in the semifinals, which begin this week.
As praiseworthy as it is to earn a slot on the show, it's a near miracle that Malik took up the sport in the first place. As Eva Sollberger recounts in her "Stuck in Vermont" video about Malik, at the age of 9, the rambunctious kid felt something "funny" in his heart. He was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome — an electrical anomaly that causes a rapid heartbeat — and told that participating in sports could cause him to go into cardiac arrest.
At age 14, Malik had a catheter ablation surgery that changed that; he says in the video that he's been fine ever since. He soon got back into action and found his passion at the Vermont Ninja Warrior Training Center at Regal Gymnastics Academy in Essex. The No. 1 necessity to be a ninja warrior, he says, is "confidence."
Sollberger caught up with Malik at the gym, where he trains and teaches, and in his backyard, where he has constructed his own ninja obstacle course.