Jon Maillet For the Journal
Eight local athletes are heading to the World Ninja League Championships in 2024, following a successful showing at the Canadian Ninja League (CNL) Finals in Edmonton, Alberta, last month.
“Ninja is essentially what you see on television,” said coach Scott Burnett, president and executive director at the Sarnia Super Ninja OCR Club. “It originated in Japan with a show called Sasuke, which is what we know as American Ninja Warrior.”
The growing sport allows CNL athletes to compete on the world stage, he added.
Burnett and a team of 16 local athletes, ranging from the 6-8 age category to 40+, competed at the national games, where the top 15 in each age/gender earned a qualifying spot at the world champions to be held in Greensborough North Carolina next June.
Eight local athletes qualified, including Kylie Cutler who placed 2nd overall in the Mature Kids Division Girls (9 to 10 years).
Cutler, who also sits 2nd in the CNL leaderboard with 400 points in her division, has three first place finishes and has finished top three in each of her seven competitions.
Aveya Lopez also qualified in the Mature Girls category, with a 12th place finish in Edmonton. Lopez is 6th on the CNL leaderboard with 270 points.
Olivia Chipman qualified in the Kids Girls division (ages 6-8) with a 10th place finish, while the
Mature Kids Boy division saw two qualifiers in Bradyn Kingma (7th) and Brady Burnett (15th).
David Reyes finished 15th in Canada and qualified in the Young Adult Males division (ages 15-17), as well Tammie Randall, who had a 12th place finish in the Amateur Adult Female (18+) division.
The CNL also offers a masters category for those 40 and over, in which Amy Burnett put in a top 10 finish, placing 9th and also qualifying for worlds.
Other competitors included: Madison Cutler, (Kids Division Girls) 26th place; Bryce Burnett (17th) and Alex Dionne (24th) in the Kids Division Boys; Rory VanWaterschoot (28th) in the Mature Kids Division Boys; Tayvin Young (18th) and Xavier Chipman (44th) in the Pre-teen Boys Division (ages 11-12); Caoimhe Deery (27th) in the Teen Girls Division (ages 13-14); Nathan McCartney (29th) in the Teen Boys Division.
For those who did not qualify however, Burnett says they still have another avenue to qualify for the upcoming world championships.
“Our team will be continuing to compete in WNL competitions in the states, primarily Ohio and Michigan,” he said. “The nice thing about competing in the states too, is for our athletes who didn’t qualify through CNL, they can still qualify through American regionals.”
Burnett, whose club took a hit during COVID-19, is happy to see the sport growing, especially locally.
“Since reinstating the club when we first started up, we had 150 members and now we have 400 members, so there is definitely a lot of people participating.”
Burnett’s competitive team has grown as well; after starting with just a handful of athletes, the competitive team now boasts 20 members across two tier levels.
If the prospect of National and World Championships wasn’t enough, it was recently announced that Ninja will be included in the 2028 Olympics in LA, as a part of the modern pentathlon.
“I think that is where the ninja sport is moving,” Burnett said of the announcement.
“This is a legitimate sport, with a governing body, with rules. That’s exciting and it really legitimizes it as a true sport — which is important for the athletes, to know that their sport is no different than gymnastics or cheer, they are indeed athletes in a sport.”
With the growth of the sport, Burnett believes that more and more will also see this as an opportunity to gain an advantage in whatever sports these athletes compete in, as Ninja makes a great training ground to gain transferable skills.
“The one thing I love about ninja as a sport, especially for young people — everything you do in ninja when you think about the upper body strength, the balance, the agility, the power — all these other attributes that you’re building in ninja, doing this sport that is fun and exciting, is transferable to other sports.”
Whether Super Ninja Sarnia will have anyone qualify for the 2028 Olympics remains to be seen, but for now Coach Burnett will continue to push his team to accomplish their goals and watch his athletes grow, something Burnett says he will never tire from.
“It never gets old, whether it’s a four-year-old kid or a 40-year-old woman; when you get to see somebody accomplish that new skill and to see the reaction and the utter joy, there is no better feeling.”
Registration for the winter program is open, for more information visit the Sarnia Super Ninja website www.superninjaocr.com.