Well shit.  We just got back from the 2024 World Ninja League world championships, and I haven't even told y'all about last year!  So strap in for another long one (of two) and let's review the 2023 WNL season VIII...

Rose made it to a handful of New England region competitions in 2023, easily qualifying for Regionals even though she never quiiiiiite got through an entire course to hit a buzzer. The WNL New England Regionals happened once again at Ultimate Obstacles in MA, a great facility with an amazing staff that we always enjoy traveling to. I hate to do this to you, but here is the official WNL video with commentary from her group...on Faceblech.  I don't know how to screen-grab the relevant section, and obviously FB won't let you save anything off the goddamn platform, so just FF to the 20:45 mark and enjoy her performance and the commentary thereto (no spoilers).  OH AND: you'll want to right click and "open in new tab" or else you'll have to hit the back button to return to OPW.  Because Fuckbook wants to take over your browser.

I suspect some readers are asking "wait, what's the big deal?" WELL. The "Circuit Board" obstacle is a grip and endurance killer; you have these little T-pins with short handles that you have to hang from and move around through slots in a horizontal board, 15 feet off the ground, to get from point A to point B around 10 feet distant.  It was taking the boys almost a minute to complete the obstacle, and all of them were wiped out afterwards; they didn't have any grip or bicep strength left.  IIRC, only a single young adult (age 15-17) cleared the entire course, and that kid is a horse. Rose knew she had to at least get through the Circuit Board to guarantee she would qualify, but she also knew the rules: once you clear an obstacle, you can continue to use it for assistance as part of the next obstacle provided you don't let go.  In her case, "assistance" meant skipping the circuit board entirely and going for a huge 10+ foot flying dismount. She still had to stick the landing on that pad for it to count, but that is the kind of one-ups-person-ship she and her crew and her coaches push each other to do after class every week. Nailed it! This was easily the most pumped up she has EVER been about a competition performance. She saw a legal but non-obvious move that played directly to her strengths, SENT IT, and landed the trick. Even after she showed everyone else how, only a couple boys even attempted the skip move, and nobody else successfully landed it! Cutting to the chase, and perhaps obviously, Rose won the Young Adult Female division for the New England Regional and qualified for Worlds.  Sick. The commentator in that video was still talking about this move a year later at the next Regionals (see part two).  "Rose is always a contender, for heaven's sake, she has an 11.5 foot laché [those swinging release moves from point A to B without landing] in her arsenal" 🤣

Long time readers may recall that the 2022 Worlds were an utter physical and emotional roller coaster, with an early mistake on the course nearly derailing the entire weekend before things happily turned around with a victory in the Speed Skill. Leading up to the 2023 Worlds, Rose had been a busy busy bee...She acted in both school plays, sang with the Madrigal group on weekends, missed a bunch of training, but still managed to get to a half dozen competitions. She had good runs and marginal runs, learned to accept what her body and level of exhaustion would let her do on any given Saturday, and was just generally in a much better head space. Lessons from 2022 well-learned and dare I say, almost internalized. She was happy to get to go hang with her sport-people, and she was gonna have fun at World's regardless.

Sidebar: Because I didn't want to jinx it by booking anything for Worlds before she qualified, we found ourselves shut out of all the WNL sponsored hotels. Oops. What to do, what to do. Oh look, here is a downright ancient looking hotel (with some obscure connection to the actual robber baron Vanderbilts?), in the middle of downtown, maybe a 10 minute drive from the Coliseum? This could work? Hey they have a room available, we're in.

Friends, the Biltmore Greensboro is a HOOT.  Every hallway and stair has big thick old carved wooden molding with 100 layers of paint on it. The elevator is an old-school "call for the elevator with an exceedingly mechanical clicky button, turn the doorknob then slide the grate sideways by hand to open and enter" contraption.  Watch the floors and doors scroll past as you ascend.  The room keys are actual, you know, big metal keys, like your great-grandmother's summer cottage back door key. The  queen bed in the room was a gigantic 4 post thing so high off the ground it came with a stepping stool. Posh looking art on the walls, maybe actual vintage? Or else, well done replicas.  A nightly staff-led $10 tour of Greensboro landmarks, which includes, I kid you not, the very spot where Vick's Vaporub was invented in 1894.  Upon checking in, the exceedingly fabulous front desk staffer, in silk-scarf, slippers, and brocade smoking jacket, asked if we would be joining them for the nightly wine and cheese tasting.  "Uh, I'm 17, so...no?" says Rose. Over the weekend we meet the rest of the staff and everybody is funny and queer and friendly with ink and weird color hair and they all want to hear all about Rose's exploits.

On the flight, then at the hotel, and with touch ups and additions all weekend, Rose uses temporary tattoo markers to don her competition armor:

A forearm, with tattoo-marker art of many blue flowers.

Our days are long, we wind up eating late dinners, but just down the street from the Biltmore is a local fixture, a pizza joint that has been around forever and in that same spot for 22 years, it ain't the healthiest food, but it's good NY style pizza in the deep south and they are open until midnight. THAT tatted and inked staff ALSO want to know what's up with the arm art, and wow you are here to do WHAT, that's awesome, how did today go? We become late night fixtures with our cheese and veggie slices and just water, thanks.

There are 51 young adult female ninjas in the competition.  Rose had a slightly different and IMHO better schedule than the year before; Friday night she was just a spectator for the 4 of her gym-mates who qualified (all young adult guys), worked on her sleeves some more sitting in the stands, then an early-ish night and some good sleep.  Saturday morning, she started with the Stage 1 course, then Skills in the afternoon/evening, then if things went well...more stage 2/3 course runs on Sunday.  Here is her stage 1 run:

Awww, dang, she came up ONE swing, literally 4 feet short of the buzzer! That knocked her out of the running for "World Champion", because several girls cleared stage 1. But that DID qualify her for Stage 2 in 8th place, a first! So she got to run another new course on Sunday morning with harder obstacles to try, could continue to progress on the "Course Overall" ranking, and her stage 2 (and maybe stage 3) score(s) would count for her "World's Strongest Ninja" placement also. No matter what else happened, this was a strong run that she was absolutely thrilled with.

That afternnoon, it's Skills time again. The first skill, "Tech", is this absurd connect-the-dots George of the Jungle thing, with a ridiculous "Slide a piece of PVC pipe UP a slanted pole while you are hanging onto it" finishing move and you know what? Words fail. Here's a clip of Rose's coach, Sonic, doing it pretty well, actually:

That attempt was 6 or 7 seconds or so...which placed him square in the middle of the pack.  54th out of 105 in the Elite Male division 😮 I mean, that looked pretty effieicnt, right? The winner got through that nonsense in TWO AND A HALF SECONDS and I honestly can't even. I didn't see it. I have trouble imagining it. That's one swing that throws your whole body UP.  Did he blind grab the far side mail slot on the middle box and just hurl himself out there?  Does he have an 8 foot wingspan?  HOW?!  Anyway, Rose...Did not figure out this particular finishing move.  Also, she got over amped to keep trying it aggressively, when for this particular skill, slowly grinding out one buzzer tap to get the extra point was way WAY more important than the time...especially in her division.  Ah well. She places 10th.

Second skill is "Dash", the "run on weird surfaces and swing from bars" one, where in 2022 Rose won the gold medal by not only being faster than anyone else, but by scoring an extra point completing two full laps on the apparatus.  This year, there were some extra obstacles built in, and she was still gassed from the Tech skill run; she got all 3 points, but a stumble and a hitch getting over a 6' wall slow her down, and she ends up 11th. 

Third skill is Grip, just what it sounds like, all variations on hand-stressing themes.  This was tucked into such an impossible corner of the facility that I couldn't get a good video, but  you should still see it:

Those obstacles, in order, are: Devil Steps-- last year the entire Grip challenge was just this obstacle, and she got the bronze medal for third place-- into a new weird Hand-Hop-on-pedestals thing, into Doorknobs, then Cliffhangers (2" wooden bars at various angles, tacked on the side of the wall you can't see there)...then she peels off trying to do another "the landing is higher than the start" move.  Note the smooth, continuous movement?  Skipping a doorknob or three?  This is her "Any Given Saturday" pace, and just like we discussed the year before, it is pretty damn good! Only 6 out of 51 got past the Doorknobs; nobody else got further than she did; and only two girls were faster, so just like last year, she brings home the bronze 🤘 Most kids got slowed up on the Hand-Hops, and stressed their wrists out so much they couldn't complete the Cliffhangers.

The fourth and final skill was the Power category.  Perhaps you have noticed, in these pictures, that Rose is kinda jacked, and enjoys being so, and only competes in tanks or sleeveless T-shirts.  Late in the weekend, she got to adding shoulder roses to her marker-armor and instantly love-hated them...becuase they REALLY brought out the contour of her shoulders, it looked amazing, but crap, now she would want to/have to draw them *every time*.  Anyway.  Pocket powerhouse Rose, the Buff Chipmunk, the Weightlifter Anne of Green Gables, the Cat with KGB Training (all things she has lovingly been called by her friends) approaches the Power Skill like so:

...and that's all you are getting, because she lost a shoe on the last move jumping up to the buzzer, and took so much time failing to get it back on her foot that she didn't complete another run within the time limit.  Which didn't matter, because her first and only run was the fastest in her division (so far) by almost a half second! By now it is late afternoon; I looked at the standings and almost all of the ninjas I would consider to be her competition had already run except for two, and I didn't think either fit the mold of a Power Skill person, so I was hopeful that her time might hold up. It did, first place, a gold medal!

Sunday morning, she got to run Stage 2 at World's for the first time.  Just like the way they progress skills on the TV show, Stage 2 is a mostly airborne affair, maybe a balance bit right at the start to slow some people down, then jump up, grip strength, laché, grip strength, laché, grip strength, buzzer, often with brand new, invented-for-this-competition obstacles that none of these kids had ever seen before.  Here is how it went:

I just now noticed: at Regionals, she finally fell on a "take this ring with you to the next hook" obstacle...but here on stage two she completed that move twice! Also, this is not the first time that Rose almost fell on a course, hung on by one arm, then kept going.  A short lived reprieve in this case, as her grip was really shot at this point, but...stage2!  and she got 75% of the way through it!  She was very happy, but we wouldn't find out how it went until later, so we left the coliseum complex in search of food, and now we come to a moment that still tickles me almost a year later: we are on this break in between rounds, out hunting for a light healthy meal. In North Carolina. Near a gigantic sporting complex that usually offers sixteen different fried and breaded delicacies, plus waffle fries, nachos, and Dippin Dots. So "healthy" is relative. Then...salvation? A vegan Mexican joint? Cashew cheese and Impossible beef and otherwise all the trimmings for tacos and burritos and bowls and whatnot? Sold! We go in, and of course the place is stuffed with other ninja families who had the same problem and found the same solution.  We are sitting down with our food when one of them comes over with her dad, another YA girl named Hannah, a year or two younger than Rose and basically the exact opposite body type; much taller and skinnier, super long blond braids (these are relevant facts, as you will soon see). Also relevant: Hannah is a VERY talented ninja.

Hannah introduces herself to Rose-- Nervously, maybe? but all these kids are teens (or younger), everybody is a little gangly and awkward-- I say hi to Dad, we are small talking about the course setup, where we are from, food choices (Hannah is vegan all the time, not "just looking for a not-fried option today" vegan), when Hannah says to Rose "Weren't you on American Ninja Warrior Jr. in Season 1? and you won a couple races, right?" which, yes, she was, and yes she did, and suddenly it dawns on me: skinny long blond hair-in-braids Hannah competes in Ninja as her chosen sport SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE she saw a skinny long blond hair-in-a-ponytail 12 year old Rose on ANWJR Season 1. So I smile, raise an eyebrow at dad, and ask "How long has Hannah been competing?" and when he smiles and raises an eyebrow and says "oh, 5 years or so" I am now 100% certain. I mean, the "we are a tribe" camaraderie in the ninja community is still one of the most pure things in youth sports, the competitive spirit almost never turns nasty...whenever one of these kids so much as says "hi" to another there is an instant bond, awkward teen or no awkward teen. But I am sure of it: Hannah was nervous introducing herself to Rose because Rose INSPIRED HER to do this sport. Rose is her HERO. This whole conversation is now ADORABLE, and Rose is completely CLUELESS.

When I tell her my theory later, it kind snaps into place for her too, and she has no idea what to do with this knowledge. She is flustered by compliments most of the time anyway (see: teenagers are awkward), but this is a whole different level of "what, who, ME?" that she isn't used to.  It's useful though, because later when we get back home, and she starts her summer job coaching camps at the ninja gym, there are a LOT of smol ppls who also look up to her, and now she knows a little of what to look for, and how to low-key be that role model and inspiration without letting it go to her head. Good life skill, that.

Back to the Coliseum to find out Rose finished Stage 2 in 9th place, and will only get to watch Stage 3.  Only FOUR girls made it through to this final stage (a group which included Hannah, it turns out; she winds up second both on stage 3 and on the overall world champion ranking). So three of them will get hardware, and one will get shut out. Stage 3 is, as always, insane, a real playground of difficulty. The first obstacle here has you pull on a rope emerging from a hole in a big anchored box, then haul yourself, standing on a sled, some 12-15 feet across astroturf.  The first competitor reaches down, grabs the rope, gives a pull...and discovers more slack line than she anticipated. She falls backwards, lands on her ass...and that's that. Done. Absolutely brutal. Not unexpected, or even contrary to the demonstration video they sent out, but jeeeeez what a time and place for a mental error. She is off the podium without even making any forward progress at all. (footnote, so I don't forget to mention it on my 2024 recap: This girl, Rebecca Harris, was again in the YA category this year, and she took home 3 medals, making it to Stage 3 and finishing second, then taking bronze in the Speed and Tech skills. Good for her!)

All told, Rose's tally for 2023 is:

  • Sooooclose to a stage 1 buzzer
  • Qualified for stage 2 in 8th
  • Finished stage 2 in 9th
  • ...for 8th place in the world in the Young Adult Female World Champion standings
  • 10th, 11th, third, and first in the skill challenges
  • ...for 4th place in "Skills Overall"
  • and summing all of that and ranking low total to high, she is 5th in the "World's Strongest Ninja" rankings.

...stay tuned for a recap of this past weekend, when the 2024 World Championships went down 🤘🤩

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Holy freaking fartknockers. I haven’t even watched the videos yet (I’m saving them for tomorrow when I can watch them on a bigger screen) but this whole situation sounds like two or three lives in a day.
I have never been able to do any of that because my delicate fingers are suitable only for typing. I did do some rock climbing at HOTT.BOB, but I'm pretty sure I was only lifting with my legs.
I hadn't seen video of Rose in a long time and no joke -- she is indeed jacked.
Also, PLEASE don't make us wait a whole year for the 2024 videos!!!!
I won't! Editing for YT and writing up a longer version than appeared on toot.cat.