By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Adam Losch hopes to conquer what thousands of others have tried, but only three successfully.
Defeating what's billed as the most difficult obstacle course in the world carries with it a $500,000 cash prize and a title -- the first-ever "American Ninja Warrior."
For Losch, a Pittsfield native now living in Festus, Mo., the test begins Sunday night with the Midwest regional competition in Denver for the television show airing on NBC beginning July 1.
"What they do is have four obstacles set up. You run through those. If you make it through those four, you go to Monday night, the regional finals, where you have the first four and they throw in an additional four or five obstacles," Losch said. "If you make it through that night, you've made it to the finals, the big show in Vegas."
One hundred competitors, selected from four regional events, make the big show, and making the cut has been a goal for Losch since last summer, when he and his sons watched the extreme obstacle course competition in its fifth season in Japan.
The boys -- Landen, now 6, and Levi, 2 -- loved cheering for the competitors, so Losch decided to show them he could compete on the course.
"I told them I'm going to try out, and they were all for it," Losch said.
Losch started working out last summer to build upper body strength after days spent at his job in quality assurance for Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis.
"It was a different type of training. It was not power lifting like a lot of people do. It was a lot of pull-ups, finger strength, grip strength," he said.
Competitors are selected for the regionals based on video submissions, so Losch wanted to stand out. He decided to emphasize his love of outdoor sports and country living.
Instead of a gym, Losch worked out in the hay barn on the family farm in Pittsfield for the video.
"I'd hang onto the tractor and do pull-ups with a hay bale hanging on me for extra weight," he said. "I would hang a rope from the top of the hay barn, the tallest structure, and I'd climb that rope pretty often, bottom to top and do it again."
Producers liked the outdoorsman look and called wanting more background information on Losch and his family.
"They asked if we do other outdoor things like shooting guns or bows, and they wanted footage of me and my family. I've got my wife and both boys shooting, hiking in the state parks," he said.
He got the call about two weeks ago, learning that he'd made the first cut to compete in the Midwest regional.
"I get to run the course. That doesn't guarantee me a spot to be on TV, but it looks good," he said.
Losch will have plenty of support in Denver, with his wife Misty, his boys and their newborn brother Lane, his parents from Pittsfield, two sisters, a soon-to-be brother-in-law and friends all making the trip.
"To further stand out, we'll play up the country theme," he said. "The whole cheering section will be camo clad."
No matter what happens with the competition, Losch already feels like a winner.
"I feel good. I'm in the best shape of my life," he said.
He hopes the effort sends a message to his sons.
"Just because you're not from the East and West Coast and you're from a small town in the Midwest doesn't mean you can't do something that gets nationally televised, that's big, that's important," Losch said. "I told the boys from the beginning if you work hard, you can do it. They realize if they want something, they can work hard and there's a good possibility you can make it happen."
"American Ninja Warrior," an alternative one-hour series, begins airing July 1 on NBC.
The website touts the show's obstacle course as beyond challenging, the endurance beyond comprehension and the competition beyond compare:
"It's going to take a lot more than muscle to conquer the world's most daunting athletic challenge. Only those with enough courage, determination and heart will claim this ultimate honor that so few have achieved. ... Japan's famed Mount Midoriyama will come to the United States as the National Finals culminate in Las Vegas. From there, all that stands between the final 100 competitors and greatness are dozens of punishing obstacles, set in a brutal four-stage course that will push their endurance to the limit."