Once a competitive gymnast and cheerleader, Angela Fuller thought her active life was over after suffering a debilitating back injury.
Now, the Highlands Ranch mom was selected out of thousands to compete on the upcoming season of American Ninja Warrior.
In the early morning of St. Patrick’s Day, Fuller, a 42-year-old married mom of two children, stood on the stage at Universal Studios Hollywood, preparing to run the course, when memories flooded back to how she got to this point.
Fuller grew up in Littleton and was a competitive gymnast and cheerleader. She cheered at Colorado State University.
Not long after graduating from college, Fuller broke her back in a car accident.
Thinking her active life was over, Fuller gained 50 pounds and in her words, “lost myself.”
During her second pregnancy, two disks in her back herniated and she was put on disability.
“At one point I was crawling, it was pretty awful,” said Fuller. “I hit rock bottom and suffered from postpartum depression.”
Soon, Fuller started to move again after a friend recommended a Zumba class.
But the moment that changed everything for Fuller was when her best friend of 26 years was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.
“It made me realize that tomorrow isn’t promised,” said Fuller. “I wanted my life back… and my comeback story began.”
Through clean eating and high-intensity interval training, Fuller lost weight and was able to heal her back. Back into her active lifestyle, Fuller felt inspired and began teaching group fitness through the Highlands Ranch Community Association to help other moms. In addition, Fuller began to participate in competitive gymnastics.
One day at school, one of her sons heard about a gym called Ninja Nation in Centennial and when Fuller was in the gym with her boys, her eyes lit up and her passion came back.
Fuller first applied for American Ninja Warrior in 2020, but due to the pandemic, the show was shut down.
For two more years, Fuller continued to apply to the show.
The audition consists of a three-minute video where applicants introduce themselves, tell their story, show their athletic ability and pitch why casting should pick them. There is also a paper application, getting to know who the applicant is as a person.
“The biggest thing I learned from being on American Ninja Warrior is they want people that are inspirational, that are heroes, that people can look up to,” said Fuller. “They want somebody who’s been through something and has come out of it and make the world a better place because of it.”
The biggest difference between Fuller’s application this time around compared to previous years was the fact that she now does public speaking.
Fuller has told her story to different church groups and even at a Zumba convention, inspiring others to never give up and that it is never too late to fall in love with a passion and achieve a goal.
With nearly 70,000 people applying each year, Fuller applied for the fourth and final time.
It was Valentine’s Day and Fuller walked into her house from teaching Zumba and saw her husband standing there. He told her to look at her phone but she didn’t recognize the number, so he told her who it was and emotions poured out.
Not knowing what the course was going to be like, Fuller continued to teach group fitness and high-intensity interval training classes during the week, trained in gymnastics and was at Ninja Nation twice a week.
Created by a previous winner of American Ninja Warrior, Ninja Nation has obstacles that mirror the courses on the show.
“So the big thing with Ninja is you have to have good grip strength,” said Fuller. “It’s all about your upper body strength.”
Arriving in Los Angeles a few days before competing, Fuller spent an entire day filming B roll, getting photos taken and an in-person interview.
“When you get there, they run you through the course and you never touch anything… you just go for it,” said Fuller. “You just train at the gym and just hope that your skills transfer.”
As the show is filmed at nighttime in the Universal Studios backlot, Fuller said the two nights before competing, she was staying up all night getting her body ready to compete in the middle of the night.
On March 16, 2023, Fuller got up, meditated and prayed before getting on set. At 2:30 a.m. on March 17, Fuller walked up the stage to run the course.
“I remember just walking on and being like Angela, 11 years ago you were on disability and crawling and now you’re walking on the stage in American Ninja Warrior,” said Fuller.
Standing on the sideline was Fuller’s lifelong best friend to cheer her on along with family members.
Fuller is the oldest female from Colorado to compete on the show and those competing include kids as young as 15 years old.
“So when I was on set, the moms of the kids were my age,” said Fuller. “That was so cool to show these moms like, hey, you don’t need to be done.”
Season 15 of American Ninja Warrior will premiere June 5 on NBC.
“I’m so glad I never gave up and I’m so glad that I persevere through everything I’ve been through because it was all worth it for that moment of walking on that stage,” said Fuller.