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Woodlands fifth grader to compete on American Ninja Warrior Jr.

October 12, 2018

Lots of kids spend recess climbing a jungle gym, swinging from monkey bars and going down slides — but not every kid gets to be a ninja.

Ten-year-old Mitchell Intermediate School student Anthony Austin will compete on American Ninja Warrior Junior, a spin-off of the wildly popular American Ninja Warrior franchise with 9- to 14-year-old contestants. The show’s first season airs Saturday.

After only two months of training, the fifth-grader was chosen from more than 6,000 applicants to be one of 200 contestants on the show, which filmed in Los Angeles this summer.

“I felt prepared but I trained for two months and all these other kids trained for two years,” Anthony said.

Anthony was a fan of American Ninja Warrior for years, but said he is relatively new to the sport himself, where contestants go through a series of obstacles in the hopes of getting the fastest time and go through more of the course than other competitors.

The new activity, his mother — Jennifer Austin — said, helped channel the energy in a boy who’s already excelled at soccer, hockey, baseball, football and wrestling. For kids with similar conditions — Anthony has ADHD and a form of dyslexia — the ninja community is open and welcoming.

“They compete, but they also collaborate,” Jennifer said.

After their application was accepted and their slot on the new show secured, the Austins began Anthony’s training regimen at Iron Sports in Spring under the supervision of co-founder and two-time American Ninja Warrior contestant Josh Salinas.

“(Anthony) came in and he was a ball of energy,” Salinas said. “He definitely caught on quickly and shows incredible potential.”

For training, Anthony said, he would do a few push-ups, some sit-ups, maybe run around the building a few times, followed by working on the obstacle course over and over until he got it right.

Salinas traveled to Los Angeles for the competition and helped coach Anthony throughout the event. Contestants are broken down into three age groups — as a contestant in the youngest one, the biggest issue is nerves and stage fright, Salinas said, but it didn’t look like that would be too much of a problem for Anthony. He was one of the most confident contestants there, Salinas added.

“To be a good ninja, you have to have that,” Salinas said. “That’s where Anthony excels — he just wants to have fun and play.”

With his parents and little brother cheering him on, Anthony jumped, climbed and swung his way through the competition. Filming is over and a winner has been declared — although it’s a secret until the show is broadcast — but no matter the results, Anthony said, he’s glad to have gone on.

“My favorite part is that the ninja community is so welcoming and open to everybody,” Anthony said. “Being a ninja shows a kid that they can do anything.”

American Ninja Warrior Junior is hosted by Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila. The show’s first season airs Saturday, Oct. 13, at 6 p.m. on Universal Kids Network.

mrincon@chron.com

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