The Making of an American Ninja Warrior

I started gymnastics when I was two years old because both of my older sisters were doing it and I wanted to do whatever they did. After a year of mommy and me, my mom was approached by the coach because they said that I was beyond advanced for my age and that they would love for me to join the pre-team. At 3 years old, I was training for competitive gymnastics and by 4 years old, I began officially competing. Alongside gymnastics, I was enrolled in dance multiple times a week along with soccer and jiu jitsu.

Gymnastics was way more than a sport for me and every other competitive gymnast in the world. It isn’t something you attend once or twice a week and at the time, it wasn’t a positive environment for a child. To be on the team meant that you were physically the fittest a human could be and our coaches would push our limbs to be flexible beyond what is healthy or normal. The coaches told our parents if they didn’t like what they saw, they didn’t have to stay and watch but if they wanted me to be on the team, this is what goes on. My mom used to watch me cry from the viewing room while a grown man sat on me pushing my toddler body into a split with my leg elevated on a mat so that I could go beyond 180 degrees. They would pull my arms behind my back tearing my shoulders so that I would be able to do specific skills on the bars that require dislocation and of course when you raise your arms to salute to the judge, it always looked better when you arms went further back behind your head.

Coach would weigh us before each practice and if she didn’t like our weight, we weren’t allowed to do gymnastics. We would condition for the entire 4 hours and the torture was not just physical. Luckily, I was always so tiny I was always able to train however, if our teammates would misbehave, we would all condition for 4 hours as punishment. Most gymnasts were more afraid of their coaches than the scary flips and skills they had to do on a regular basis. When I look back, it was child abuse on so many levels but for some reason, I couldn’t get enough. Everyday all I cared about was training and getting better and making my coaches proud and of course competing to win.

By 9 years old I had already suffered multiple sprains, tears, and breaks throughout my body and was living on 3 Advil a day to get me through a practice (which led to serious digestive issues and eventually stomach ulcers). Both of my ankles were in agony each day as my growth plates were trying to grow, but I was tumbling and training for 3-4 hours a day. I will never forget what I endured to do gymnastics. My body was in chronic pain everyday and instead of complaining or quitting, I somehow convinced myself it wasn't there until the point my body actually believed it wasn't. I broke my toes slamming them against the uneven bars during giants, I sprained my back missing the bar on a release move, I once missed the safety pit and landed on the concrete and got the wind knocked out of me where I couldn't breath. I've sprained each ankle 3 times to the point where my ligaments are holding on and every doctor who sees the range of motion in my ankles is astonished. I broke three fingers the day before a competition in Mexico and competed anyway.