BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - He wasn’t supposed to be a father. At least that’s what his doctor said. But the day he welcomed his baby girl into the world was the beginning of a journey that has him leaping into a national spotlight.
Ken Singletary was 4-years-old when he was diagnosed with leukemia (AML). Thankfully, he survived, but his doctor said it was unlikely that he would be able to have children due to the amount of chemo therapy he received.
But then, a miracle.
After thirteen years of marriage, Ken’s wife became pregnant. After learning he was going to become a dad, he turned to a friend for advice.
“He was very simple. He said to just get on their level and play with them,” Ken recalled.
Ken, now 46-years-old, took his friend’s advice to heart.
“...I knew I was going to be her primary playmate and I wanted to be able to keep up with her, so I had to be in good physical shape,” he explained.
Ken turned to fitness and physical activities to make sure he could keep up with his baby girl, Theresa.
“You don’t have to spend a ton of money on toys and other activities. In fact, most of the time, at least with Theresa, she just wanted to play with a box or whatever was in the house. It didn’t actually matter; it was just investing that time."
The backyard became a playground for the two to explore together. Then, Ken was introduced to a new physical activity for the father-daughter duo to explore.
“I didn’t really compete in organized sports growing up and it wasn’t really until 2014 when a friend introduced me to Tough Mudder obstacle course racing,” he said. “And at that time, I had no idea what it was, but we did it together and I just got hooked. So since 2014, I’ve been doing tons of obstacle course races.
“It was pretty clear after competing in the first few races that I wasn’t the fastest guy out there,” he said with a laugh. “But I was very good at the obstacles and so that’s why I directed myself toward that area and gravitated to that. I started working on upper body strength and being able to be a bit more flexible and agile in doing those types of events.”
As the years went by, Ken became known as The Flying Tiger. And his playmate and best friend is known as The Flying Squirrel.
“It was Theresa who convinced me to do American Ninja Warrior in the first place.”
That’s right, Ken is going to become a ninja! Playing on his backyard obstacle course in Baton Rouge has landed him a coveted spot on season 11 of the national television show.
"We were sitting on the couch last August watching reruns of the show and she’s like, ‘daddy, I think you can do that. I’ve seen you do stuff that much bigger guys with bigger muscles can’t do.’”
Not fully convinced, but willing to give it a try, Ken and Theresa recorded a three-minute audition tape and sent it off to the network. Months went by with no word and Ken had all but given up.
“We knew the odds were against us. I still can’t believe I was picked.”
Ken’s first challenge was on Friday, April 12 in Oklahoma City. He competed against 99 people to try and land in the top 30. If he does that, he will move on to the next round where he will have to be in the top 15. And if he does that, he will go to the National Finals in Las Vegas.
“I already feel like I won, just being able to go.”
And he’s not going to squander this opportunity. Ken hopes to use his position on the show to raise money for Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.
“When I was diagnosed, I was fortunate enough to get treatment close to home,” he said. “I didn’t have to travel to St. Jude, even though that was an option. And I know that was just a huge relief for my family. There’s so much stuff going on when your child is diagnosed with something so devastating, but then having to factor in all the travel and the expenses that are related to that, I really wanted that to be the focus of this fundraising, so that’s why I chose this fund.”
He hopes to raise at least $1,000 for the Dr. Sheila Moore Fund for Kids with Cancer and Blood Disorders.
“I super excited about this opportunity and I just hope my body holds up long enough for me to compete,” Ken joked.
Based off his audition video, he will do just fine. And he says achieving your goal is possible, too. All you have to do is take that first step.
“Just do something. Get up and have a plan. Even if it’s just to do a few push-ups, do a few pull-ups, or walk a little bit, just pick something that you can physically do and start with that. You always just have to start with one thing and then build on it.”
Since he competed in Oklahoma City, Ken has organized a local Ninja Warrior event to get kids active by doing an obstacle course race. The event, scheduled for Aug. 10 at Gym-Fit, sold out in five days after tickets were made available.
“A lot of the kids might not be able to do everything out there, but I want them to just try their best, and I want all the other participants to just support them," Ken said during his July 30 interview with Get Fit Red Stick.
While the event is full, you can still donate to the cause through the official Facebook event.
Louisiana-based “ninjas” who participated in this season of American Ninja Warrior will coach the kids.
Ken said there were only 6 participants from Louisiana, and that they want to try to grow the ninja community in the state. This would include having more gyms that nurture that “ninja lifestyle,” Ken said.