Richmond motocross star takes aim at American Ninja Warrior

Richmond motocross star takes aim at American Ninja Warrior

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Zach DiPaolo knows about hard work, bright lights and pressure. That’s good because all those things are on his plate as he gets set to compete on America Ninja Warrior.

“I went from being a fan of the show to just kind of having a crazy idea one day,” DiPaolo said. “I saw something online about submitting.”

The Richmond resident sent in his submission video and he’s taking part in this year’s season, but to understand how he arrived at this point you have to look back on his journey.

Zach began by trying many different sports and found that the individual activities were more his style. He took part in boxing, but it was motocross that eventually hooked him, and while his two arms and two legs will have to get him through American Ninja Warrior, his identity in the competitive arena will salute his time on two wheels. He’s known as the Dirt Bike Ninja.

DiPaolo took the next step in motocross when he was 19 years old, getting much more competitive and eventually taking his place on some international circuits. He’s spent the last nine years competing in different parts of the world, riding in events throughout the United States and in 13 foreign countries. He also got used to overcoming obstacles, and not the ones he’ll encounter during his new endeavor. The long list of injuries Zach has come back from would make most walk away from the sport.

“I broke both my arms in half, displaces, collarbone in three places, ribs and my C7 in my neck,” he recalled.

“I crashed, pretty much ripped my thumb off my body,” DiPaolo said of an incident in Japan.

But it was after a 2017 wreck in Miami that doctors told the stunt veteran he may have to cease doing the sport. He came up short on a metal landing when a headwind caught him at the wrong time.

“Broke my femur in half, broke my pelvis in three places, my sacrum, lower back and my hips. They put a rod in the old femur and I was down for about six months or so.”

DiPaolo set out to prove the doctors who had told him he would never walk normally again wrong. He applied the same kind of focus that he would on his bike to his rehab and recovery. After about eight months of rehabilitation, he was able to walk again, then started running and now, he’s in the best shape of his life.

He’ll put that to the test and on display to the nation when stepping onto the American Ninja Warrior course. The Richmond resident has been working every part of his body to get ready for any obstacle he may see, from his arms and legs to his fingers and toes. Zach has been following a strict diet and soaks his hands regularly in Epsom salt- anything he can do that might give himself an advantage.

“I’ve been doing everything I could to prepare myself, so I’m kind of at a point where I’ve prepared as much as I can, I expect nothing, so it’s all upside.”

DiPaolo points out that he’s a competitive person and will be giving his all to try and win the competition, but after all, he’s overcome, just being there is a win in itself. He’ll make sure to enjoy the moment and take it all in.

“I think if you’re doing what you authentically love and what you’re passionate about, you can’t lose.”

Zach competed in his first American Ninja Warrior competition on Wednesday, but the program will not air until May 31, so, we’re going to have to wait a bit to see how he fared.

Fans can follow Zach on Instagram (@ZachDiPaolo) and keep up with his journey on the show and motocross by clicking here.

To see more work from Jeff Kress Jr, who provided some of the video in the story for NBC12, click here, or visit Jeff’s Instagram page.

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