Lance Pekus is a fan favorite on American Ninja Warrior. A long-time veteran, his trademark style of a cowboy hat and jeans always leaves an impression on viewers. And the look isn’t just for show. Lance is a rancher in Idaho. He’s also good at what he does on Ninja. He’s competed since season four with frequent trips to the National Finals.
During the season nine National Finals, Lance answered the question of why we hadn’t seen his wife, Heather on the sidelines all season. The family decided it was time to share that Heather has multiple sclerosis. While she had been diagnosed years before, her symptoms had stayed manageable. However, during season nine, her condition had advanced to the point where she was unable to walk and not well enough to travel.
The decision to share such a personal battle quickly changed their lives. A doctor reached out and now works with Heather once a week. Fans shared an outpouring of love and support. When Lance returned for season 10, he stepped on to the course with the support of a new community, and most importantly, with Heather standing on the sidelines.
Lance powered through the Minneapolis Qualifying course. He tripped on the Mega Wall, but still cleared the course with a smile.
We talked to him ahead of time about what went into the decision to open up to a national audience and how it might be affecting his performance this season.
“Last season I made it to Stage Two, all the way to the Wingnuts. Since then I’ve been training hard. Working hard. Doing a lot of cool stuff. Raising two kids and being with my wife. Me and my wife came out with her having MS last year. That’s big for us. We kind of kept it a secret for a long time. It’s been good having the support from everyone across the country.”
“It was a hard decision. It’s something that we’ve been struggling with as a family for years now. It took a while for us to come into it ourselves, to accept it. To accept, you know, my wife has medical problems. Eventually we felt that it was good we had a voice, that we could share our story. And then hopefully use that as a way to give support to other people who are maybe going through the same thing.”
“We definitely felt alone going through it. So when people started reaching out to us, emails, social media, stuff like that, it made us feel less alone. So if we can help other people who are going through these situations isolated feel less alone, share our experiences, hopefully share our recovery, it’s just good to get that support. And to be able to give my wife a voice.
We’re loving the comments, loving the stories, loving the encouragement. We thank everyone for reaching out. Keep doing it. We love hearing it.
The prior two seasons, it was almost a mental burden, keeping that secret. My wife wasn’t on the sidelines with me at all last year. We didn’t really tell anyone until Vegas. So now that that’s released, I feel rejuvenated coming into this season. I’m really excited for what I can potentially do.
“You get to a point where you’re physically capable of doing each obstacle. Your body knows what to do. It comes down to the mental end. I know a lot of people that are physically strong and they can do the course blindfolded, but they get in front of the cameras, lights, potential million people seeing you on TV, and it becomes all mental. You gotta push doubt and fear aside and the best way to do that is to be prepared. The more prepared you are, the more you can push fear away.”
“I’ve been really good over the years of being able to improve on past performances. I’ve had a couple slip ups in the past. I don’t like that feeling. Definitely going to try to prevent the little mistakes and hopefully get back to Vegas and finally break through that Stage Two wall.”
A rejuvenated Lance will be back for the Minneapolis City Finals of American Ninja Warrior.