Lumberton’s Ninja Dentist

By James Johnson

June 21, 2014

LUMBERTON — Locals fans of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” might have noticed a familiar face during Monday’s show.

“Ninja warrior” may not spring to mind when one meets Desiree Walker, a Lumberton dentist who stands 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 115 pounds, but one look at the 35-year-old gymnast’s biceps and washboard abs was enough to catch the attention of the show’s producers after watching her audition tape.

“It was the most exciting and thrilling athletic experience in my entire life,” said Walker, who has operated her own practice, Lumber River Dental, since March. “My ultimate athletic fantasy. It was pretty remarkable. The adrenaline rush was like nothing else. I was around Olympic athletes, professional baseball players, and people with professional backgrounds like myself. The mix and the energy and with it being held at night — it was quite different doing an athletic event in the middle of the night. The bright lights, the crowd cheering, commentators, it was almost … it was surreal.”

Walker was invited onto the show, which was recorded last month, to compete in a qualifying obstacle course, that had she passed, would have allowed her to go on to compete in an even bigger obstacle course in Las Vegas, where she would have had the opportunity to win a $500,000 prize.

“American Ninja Warrior” is an American spin-off of the Japanese game-show, “Sasuke,” which challenges contestants to participate in elaborate obstacle courses. It is currently in its sixth season. During Monday’s show, Walker failed to complete the qualifying obstacle course when she wasn’t able to grab a rope mid-jump and fell into a pool of water.

Walker spent Monday night reliving her experience by watching the show with friends and family at Arnold’s Restaurant on Roberts Avenue. Though she didn’t end up completing the obstacle course, Walker says she remains grateful for the experience.

“[My friends] were so excited and proud of me for representing Lumberton,” Walker said. “They were so very proud. Of course everyone was disappointed that I didn’t make it to the finish but just the excitement around was astronomical.”

It was her friends who had recommended that Walker audition for the show, which led her to research the show on YouTube. Walker submitted a 2½-minute video audition and six weeks later received a phone call from producers inviting her to be a part of the show.

Walker takes her fitness regimen as seriously as she does her dental hygiene, and has worked hard to keep up daily exercise, even within the constraints of working in an office. To stay in shape, Walker has fitted her office space with a doorway chin-up bar, as well as a pair of gymnastics rings that hang from the ceiling.

For Walker, who first took up gymnastics during high school, finding ways to exercise while in the office is something she feels everyone can benefit from.

“Some other dentists around the the country have contacted me [after seeing the show] about doing some fitness-oriented dental blog that talks about staying in shape while in an office environment,” Walker said. “A lot of dentists have pains in their necks and backs because of the positions we put our bodies in every day.”

Walker said that she is hoping to return to the show next year with a bit more preparation and experience under her belt.

“I plan to take it all the way and beat it,” Walker said. “I am continuing with my home gym and planning to meet up with several competitors around the country who have replicated the course at their homes.”