Skip to main content
Hero Image Loading


Office of Communications

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401



Submit Your Deposit
Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Steven Bachta ’03

Steven Bachta ‘03 becomes the Knox Kninja in American Ninja Warrior television debut.

Steven Bachta ’03, a biochemistry major, works in the Chicago area as a pediatrician. In early 2022, he was able to live out his dream of competing on the American Ninja Warrior television show.

Steve Bachta, '03 completes an American Ninja Warrior obstacle.

Knox College alumnus, doctor, ninja: It may sound like the premise for an action movie, but it’s reality for Steven Bachta.

Bachta ’03, a biochemistry major, works in the Chicago area as a pediatrician. Since graduating from Knox, he completed his M.D. at the University of Chicago and started a family in the Chicago area.

As an Illinois native, staying close to home was of great importance when Bachta selected a college in 1999. He says he was attracted to Knox’s small campus, close-knit environment, and excellent pre-med program. 

During his time as a student, Bachta studied sports medicine with Scott Sunderland, currently associate director of athletics. When he wasn’t studying, he could be found on the courts practicing for the Knox tennis team. Almost 20 years after his graduation, he says he still meets up with a group of fellow students on a yearly basis. For Bachta, Knox is home. 

“Anytime I’m driving that direction, I try to make a stop in Galesburg,” said Bachta. 

One evening, as Bachta was watching television he came across American Ninja Warrior. At the time, he says he was searching for a sport his 5-year-old daughter could take part in. She never enjoyed sports with balls, but always had a blast playing on the monkey bars at the park. Seeing his daughter’s interest in the show, he decided they would go to the closest ninja training gym and try it out. 

“My dad always played sports with me. I thought it would be more fun if we tried it together,” said Bachta. 

The pair spent many nights in the gym together, attempting each challenging obstacle. Bachta recalled how overcoming the difficulty of the sport was a process that took time and dedication. Growing ever-confident in his ability to complete the course, Bachta decided that it was time to try to get onto the live show. 

He said the auditioning process was similar to a college application. Contestants submit a video showcase of their talents, demonstrating their skills and proving they have the physical ability to complete the course. They also submit a brief biography. After failing to be selected for the show in 2021, Bachta received the phone call he had been waiting for in January 2022. 

“I was at home with my kids and I still remember how nuts I went when I got the call,” said Bachta. “I definitely started screaming.”

Bachta was flown out to San Antonio in March 2022 for the competition. He said going through the media circuit and completing interviews and photoshoots was a unique experience. 

When his time finally came to compete, he felt familiar with the course and was able to block out the noise of the crowd. With so many eyes and cameras pointed at him, he admits that the pressure was hard to deal with at first. Still, he was able to focus and complete five out of six obstacles in the course, good enough to get him into the next round. 

The semifinal round was held in Los Angeles, where Bachta would compete on a more difficult course against top-tier competitors. Though he gave it his all, he was unable to make it past the second obstacle and was ultimately eliminated from the competition.

Looking back, Bachta said that the opportunity was unlike anything he had ever experienced. 

“I was just so happy I was able to be there. It was an honor,” said Bachta.

He continues to compete in local ninja competitions that are hosted by the World Ninja League, a sports league designed for smaller ninja course competitions around the country. His daughter is also taking part in courses in her age range and is loving being a ninja alongside her dad. 

“It was kinda like winning the lottery,” said Bachta. “My life would have been complete without it, but it’s been such a fun thing to share with people. It keeps me young.”

Bachta plans to return to Knox in 2023 for his 20th class Reunion during Homecoming. He says that he’s excited to walk through campus once more with his family and alongside his former housemates with their children. He also plans to visit Sunderland and Janet Kirkley, professor of biochemistry. 

Bachta says he’s excited to see the many campus renovations and make a stop at his favorite purple tennis courts. On the way, he says a trip to the Gizmo is a must.

“If they still serve pizza bagels at the Gizmo, I will definitely be devouring one of those,” said Bachta.

You can follow Bachta’s ninja journey on Instagram @docta.bachta 

A recap of Bachta’s qualifier run can be seen on American Ninja Warrior Season 14 Episode 3 on Hulu at the 11-minute mark.

Share this story

Knox College

Printed on Thursday, April 25, 2024