Trending Topics

After losing his left leg, Texas FF took on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

Denton Firefighter Gary Weiland was back in the firehouse in less than a year after his amputation


American Ninja Warrior/YouTube

By Brayden Garcia
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

DENTON, Texas — Gary Weiland vowed that his leg amputation wouldn’t be his end.

The Denton firefighter went in for partial knee replacement surgery in 2018, where complications during the operation resulted in the decision to amputate his left leg to save his body.

And just like that, Weiland’s entire life changed.

“I made the decision pretty early on that this wasn’t going to beat me,” Weiland said. “I was going to do whatever it took to get back to fighting fire.”

Weiland, 43, has made it his life’s goal to share his story and show that people can adapt and overcome any obstacle.

To prove his point, he was back in the Denton Fire Department station just a short 10 months after losing his leg. Since then, Weiland has become a motivational speaker, USA Para Beach Volleyball player and even tried his luck on “American Ninja Warrior.” Twice.

Weiland said changing his mindset to be more positive led him to where he is today. Of course, the presence and support of his wife and four children has helped. A lot..

“I had setbacks along the way, but for the most part, everything just kept moving forward for me,” he said. “I have a real supportive family, friends and work.”

On one fateful day, everything changed for Weiland

Whether it is playing basketball or working out, Weiland has always been athletic.

A firefighter in Denton since 2011, Weiland said he put a lot of wear and tear on his knee. He first underwent a partial knee replacement surgery in 2016. His knee would swell and hurt, but after resting, it would start feeling normal again.

Two years later things changed for Weiland during a Thanksgiving football game between family and friends. Weiland was running down the field and felt his knee swelling up like it had in the past, and this time was different.

“I ended up losing feeling in my foot, my popliteal artery ended up being severed,” he said. “It was horrible.”

For 13 hours, doctors tried to restore blood flow to his left leg and failed, Weiland said. The decision was made to amputate his left leg from the knee down.

“I was literally just dunking a basketball and running down the football field and now I don’t have a leg,” he said. “I was scared, I was nervous, I was really apprehensive about my future and about my family’s future.”

Toughest battle of his life

While laying in his hospital bed, Weiland vowed to bounce back from this.

He was hurting physically and mentally. Then there’s the grieving process. Losing a limb is like losing a family member and coming to terms with that was hard, Weiland said.

“As much as I water it almost every day, it still just hasn’t grown back yet,” he said.

All he can do is get to work on rehabilitating his mind and learning how to walk again with a prosthetic leg. It was a daunting journey full of ups and downs, but he pushed through with support from family and friends.

Weiland was warmly welcomed back to the Denton firehouse. His story began to make the rounds. Soon he had teachers reaching out to him about speaking to their classes. Local and national media also wanted to tell his story.

It was during this period that Weiland came up with his personal motto — “adapt and overcome.”

“It’s amazing when you find your purpose and you live it to the max,” he said. “I definitely receive more than I give.”

Full-time firefighter, part-time ninja

Weiland’s story will once again be told on national television through “American Ninja Warrior”.

The competition show pits players against a series of obstacles for a chance at the $1 million grand prize. Weiland was familiar with the show. Weiland applied for the show last year, and after hearing his story, the show came calling. He appeared in an early episode last season, where he crossed two obstacles with ease but fell into the water during the third.

For season 15, Weiland was asked about making another appearance.

“I guess me being on one leg, being a firefighter, that’s pretty decent backstory,” Weiland joked.

Weiland can’t say much about his attempt on the show this year, other than it was filmed in Los Angeles back in March.

Regardless of the outcome, Weiland said he’s just happy to be on the show to spread his message of adapting and overcoming. He’s been through a lot and knows his story will resonate with many.

“I want people to not just see what I’m doing, but really feel something inside of themselves that motivates them, encourages them and inspires them to go out and challenge themselves in ways they never thought that they could,” Weiland said.

“American Ninja Warrior” airs at 7 p.m. on Monday’s on NBC.

©2023 Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.