Wounded warrior will fly across the world to compete in a reality show

By MIA AZIZAH | Lincoln Journal Star, Neb. | Published: August 26, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. (Tribune News Service) — As Keith Knoop pushed through all of the procedures to repair his right leg torn apart by a roadside bomb in Iraq nearly a decade ago, he didn’t know if he would walk again.

For Knoop, a top athlete in his Army Reserve unit and someone who has always had a thirst for adventure, it felt like hitting rock bottom.

"It brought me down to my lowest point," the Lincoln man said recently.

Knoop, now 32, spent months recovering in a Texas military hospital. The blast tore apart his right leg, shattering his femur, knee and hip and resulting in major blood loss. He also endured a brain injury that affected his memory and ability to think clearly, he said.

For almost a year, Knoop moved around in a wheelchair, each of the multiple surgeries followed by months of physical therapy.

"It was extremely painful," he said. "But I just gotta do it."

And after the long road to recovery was complete, he promised to never take life for granted.

Though he still endures pain, Knoop said he strives to seize any opportunities for adventure, whether it be working out at the gym, running a marathon or climbing California’s Mount Whitney.

Now, Knoop is set to fly across the world to compete in the revival of a reality survival show. "World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji" will play out Sept. 5-25 on the volcanic island known for its cliffs, ocean, dense jungles and remote villages.

The expedition race produced by Mark Burnett, the man behind the CBS hit "Survivor," will stream on Amazon Prime in 2020.

The race will consist of teams who must navigate extreme obstacle courses, ranging from jungle trekking, rappelling, rafting and mountain climbing, according to the show's website.

The four-person teams will have no access to cellphones or GPS devices. If one member quits, the whole team will be off the show.

Knoop, who now works for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said he’s never been to Fiji, so the trip will be a new experience as well as an opportunity to push his limits.

Knoop has been preparing for the competition since the beginning of the year.

He said he spends almost every day working out at the gym for two to three hours. He’s also traveled across the country to practice his skills as a mountain climber, rappelling and navigating water crossings with other members of his team.

Among the friends and family supporting him is his brother Kenneth.

Kenneth, who also served in the Army Reserve, said he has always been Keith's biggest cheerleader. After Keith was back on his feet, they both competed in a special, all-military edition of the NBC television show “American Ninja Warrior."

Some days, the identical twins exercise together, perhaps biking or running with a weighted vest.

“Everything we do is kind of for each other," Kenneth said. "As long as one of us is succeeding, we both feel like we are."

That's why Kenneth is proud of his brother's willingness to take the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity after having gone through a near-death experience.

“After his injuries and nearly dying, he's very motivated and dedicated," Kenneth said. "In his mind, the only option is to succeed."

©2019 Lincoln Journal Star, Neb.
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