Sean Michaelson is an aggressive skater from Libertyville, Illinois who currently lives in Winthrop Harbor. He turned 34-years-old on April 30th, which was the night that he achieved his dream of running on American Ninja Warrior in Indianapolis, Indiana. I sat down with Sean and we discussed his skating background, how fitness and training for ANW has benefited his skating and his goals for the future.
When did you start skating and what kind of skating did you grow up doing?
I learned how to skate very poorly in 1994 when I was 9-years-old. Then a few years later in ‘97 I started aggressive skating, which solidified my love for blading.
When did you start getting into fitness?
About 4 years ago I was in the tail end of a toxic relationship. I saw Ninja Warrior on TV and it became my distraction when I was feeling depressed. After we split I started to drink a lot and eat horrible everyday. I finally pulled myself out of my funk and started going to a ninja gym and fell in love with the goal of trying to better myself. So it all took off from there.
Did focusing on fitness impact your skating or did you manage both at the same time. How much has fitness helped your skating?
I was only blading a handful of times a year before I started ninja training. Now that I’m feeling healthier because of ninja training, it actually brought me back to strapping my blades on way more often. I definitely feel more agile when I’m on my skates now too.
What made you want to try out for American Ninja? How many times have you tried out for it? What kept your drive alive to the point you finally were able to try out?
After watching the show for a while, I got tired of saying “hey, I could do that” and decided to build whatever I could at the time in my backyard. Shortly there after, I drove out to Kansas City with a friend and his twin brother, three days before the filming and attempted to be walk-ons for the show. When we arrived a laminated sign was posted that said no more walk-ons needed. Since then, I’ve tried to walk-on two more times. Last year I was actually number 19 out of the 30 walk-ons, and the line got cut off on me. I gave up on ninja after I went home. A couple months later my dog slipped a disc in his spine and became paralyzed. I was luckily able to get him the surgery he needed, and about a month later he slowly learned to walk again. Watching him push himself was the motivation I needed to keep my dream alive.
How difficult is the process of getting to tryouts?
There are only two ways to get on the show. One: by sending in a submission video telling your story and showing your athletic ability. Two: by waiting multiple days in the walk-on line. Both are respectively difficult. Last year they had over 70,000 video submissions. And some of the walk-on lines start as early as a month before filming starts in each city. So, needless to say I was extremely grateful to get “the call” this year.
Were there any obstacles you struggled on?
My roots in blading made a lot the obstacles super easy for me. Like the quintuple steps and the warped wall. Which were basically doing wall rides and running up quarter pipes. What I struggled the most on was upper body obstacles. Especially the Salmon Ladder. That was one of the obstacles I built in my backyard when I started, and I took a really bad spill on my back because I was over confident and lacked technique. I didn’t touch another salmon ladder for years out of fear until about 7 months ago when I finally got over my mental block! Since then I’ve been getting better and better on it.
Do you have your own obstacle course or do you go somewhere to train?
I don’t have any of my own obstacles anymore but a good friend of mine who’s been on the show five different seasons just opened up a ninja training gym near my mom’s house in Libertyville. I have a yard at my new place, so I do plan on building some backyard fun!
What’s your next goal in fitness?
My next goal in fitness is to continue pushing myself in the ninja gym on my weaknesses. I’m also going to start doing some real long distance blading for my cardio!
Any blading goals?
As far as blading goals, I promised myself after the filming for ANW in Indianapolis I would finally take on the 30-day blade challenge! So that starts this Saturday. It’ll truly be a bit of a struggle because my job is pretty demanding some days and Illinois weather sucks most of the time, but I will make it happen! I plan to put out a small support edit when I receive my Them skates, and also plan to put something special together for my off-roaders. Other than that, there’s a skate park two minutes down the street from my new house, so just blading as much as I can is in my future!
Do you participate in any other forms of big wheel blading? How long have you been skating the Powerslide Kaze SUV skates?
I always loved the idea of skating dirt bike jumps. I used to try to do it on my aggressive skates when I was younger but not very successfully. Last summer I started blading for fitness reasons with my Sebas and the K2 r100 frames. I took those down some dirt hills a few times. I really wanted a cool skate to walk out with on Ninja Warrior, so I used it as an excuse to finally treat myself to the Kaze SUV skates. Expect something cool from me in the near future on them!
How did people react to you carrying the skates out on the show?
I surprisingly got a TON of props for them and questions about them. A lot of other ninjas were blown away by how big the wheels were, and they didn’t believe me when I said they were meant for off-road skating. That felt pretty cool and I am looking forward to pushing some boundaries with them this summer.
Hopefully Sean makes the cut on the episode of American Ninja Warrior that airs on June 18th on NBC.