McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

March 8, 2014

American Ninja/dad/firefighter

Ada — Ada firefighter Danny Manuel wants to be the top Ninja warrior on NBC’s popular American Ninja Warrior television show.

He is anxiously awaiting word on whether he has been selected as one of the contestants for this year’s show.

He went through this same process last year but was never contacted.

Just like Charlie Brown on the mound in a rainstorm, Manuel keeps training and hoping for the best, even when nobody’s watching.

In the meantime, Manuel, who turns 40 this month, is preparing as if he’ll get the call for what promises to be another strenuous competition in 2014.

No American has ever completed all four stages of the competition, something he hopes he gets the chance to change.  

He just can’t become the first until they give him a chance to compete.

No problem. He says he’s not discouraged, and  he enjoys the preparation, anyway.

For instance, he loves hanging himself upside down with his feet on a bar, or, as is the case most of the time, hanging by his hands from a bar — or water tower or whatever is convenient.

It’s all about preparation.

He’s not a  big guy at 5-10, 166 pounds, but he keeps moving, stretching, hanging and running.

Never touches the weights, not that he’s against free weights. He just prefers body weight workouts.

“I would be the weight,” he explains. He does push ups as effectively as the Oregon Duck.

He’s all about flexibility and using his own strength to will his body to do things a couch potato’s body wouldn’t attempt in a dream.

Just for grins, he climbs ropes, does pull ups and, of course, push-ups.

He enters all kinds of running events, including triathlons, and recently won a mud run.

“There was lots of mud,” he said. The event was held west of Ada on the Motocross track.

He takes advantage of his shift duty schedule, which has him working for 24-straight hours and then being off for the next 48 hours.

“I usually run six days a week and do strength exercises five or six days, depending on the schedule,” he said.

He says these are usually 45-minute workouts and he has two of those a day.

If he can get on this show and outlast the other contestants in the survivor competition, he could also bring home some big bucks.

“That’s what my wife wants,” he said. “She wants me to bring her that $500,000 check.”

The couple has been married 20 years. They have a daughter, Grace, 10, and a son, Blaise, who is 6. They serve as Dad’s volunteer coaches to make sure he doesn’t drift.

They are also in the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia. That child, he said, is between 18 and two years of age.

Needless to say, the family stays busy.

“A lot motivates me,” he said. “A body is a gift from God, I’ve been entrusted with,” he said.

“For the most part, I try to be responsible. I eat fruits and vegetables, lots different meats,” he said.

“I try to limit fried foods. I utilize a lot of protein shakes,” he said. “I’m not a fanatic. I’ll eat some fried catfish occasionally and some ribs.”

He also takes vitamins and supplements.

He graduated from Byng High School 22 years ago.

His children work out with him at times, and, of course, they all watch the show together.

Both kids are involved in dance and his daughter is into tap dancing, hip hop and ballet.

His son does tap dancing and hip  hop.

Mom teaches kindergarten, takes care of the kids at school and home, cooks, cleans and anxiously awaits her $500,000 check. She feels no such need to hang from the rafters.

The television show’s producers are currently scouting the country to locate the top competitors for this year. “I’m still waiting to find regional qualifiers finals in June,” he said.

Manuel has tried to let them know he’s out here in the hinterlands. He remains optimistic that they’ll find him, sooner or later.

Once picked, they’ll compete in a series of competitions at regional locations.

Survivors will come together for the finals in Las Vegas.

By the way, you can watch Manuel’s application video from last year by going to u-Tube and looking up Daniel Manuel, Ninja Warrior.

“I did have this year’s video up too,” he said. “But the producers took it down.”

Reach Art Lawler at

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