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"This will be really neat to see" - the Canadian Ninja Championships come to Sudbury
2024-05-09
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Over the years, Sudbury has played host to a great many national sport championships.

The Memorial Cup?

Check. 1978 – New Westminster Bruins bested the Peterborough Petes 7-4 in the final

The Canadian Senior Men’s Baseball Championships?

Check. 1983 – Saint John (NB) claims gold; Windsor Chiefs earn silver.

The Canadian Figure Skating Championships?

Check. 1990 – Kurt Browning captures the Men’s event but newcomer Elvis Stojko steals the hearts of the crowd.

National Curling Championships?

Check – The Brier - 1953 and 1983.

Double-Check. Scotties Tournament of Hearts – 2001.

Triple-Check. Canadian Mixed Doubles – 2023.

The Canadian Ninja Championships?

Well, that’s a new one to add to the list.

Come the weekend of May 31st – June 1st – June 2nd, the nickel city will claim another sport joining the long list of competitions that have welcomed folks from across the country as the Canadian Ninja League and the Nickel City Ninjas (NCN) gather 150 or so of the best high-flying, fast-stepping athletes in the country to the Garson Arena.

The event, on a local level, is the brainchild of NCN coach and driving force, Patrick Drolet – often times a competitor but limiting his involvement to chief organizer for this particular showdown.

“I’ve been with the Canadian Ninja League almost five years now and have seen the sport grow to the next level,” said Drolet. “It’s been a goal of mine since I have been involved with the sport to run an event of this magnitude”

“It will be a lot of fun to watch this skill level.”

With participants ranging in age from as young as six to the masters 40+ grouping, Garson Arena will be bustling with activity. That said, Drolet is nothing if not a proud Sudburian. He is almost equally as excited about the chance to share his home with the ninja community he has come to call home.

“Once athletes are done their run, they can go to visit Science North, visit the Big Nickel,” said Drolet. “They will get a chance to see what we are all about here in Sudbury.”

The highly energetic business owner fully understands that the scope of knowledge of the average Sudbury resident regarding what is clearly a passion for him is most likely limited to whatever they may have seen in watching American Ninja Warrior from time to time on TV.

That was a big part of the rationale in offering a three day pass for just $30 – a ticket that allows one to flow to and from the venue at various points over the course of two days of preliminary runs leading into championship Sunday with the top three in each age bracket advancing to one final head to head battle.

“This is still a sport that a lot of people don’t know about,” said Drolet. “To be able to pay a relatively small amount of money to take in an event like this and learn a little bit about the sport is great.”

The logistics of this competition are relatively straight-forward.

Participants will partake in one run on both Friday and Saturday – and for as much as those who will be here have already worked their way through two qualifying stages before heading to the Eastern and Western finals (with the top five advancing from each), the truth is that they can only prepare so much for what they are about to face.

“They don’t actually even know what kind of run they will be facing,” said Drolet. “It could be a strength run, it could be a speed run, it could be any type of run that we choose to do.”

While there are parameters, the course layout has largely been left to Drolet and Sault Ste Marie native Sylas Snider, a friend and American Ninja Warrior participant in season 15 last year. They, of course, have been sworn to secrecy, with competitors taking in the course for the very first time on day one of the weekend festivities.

“All three runs are totally different - although the runs (from one age to the next) are extremely similar, with some obstacles scaled or adjusted slightly,” said Drolet.

There will be some hometown talent to cheer for as Luka Montpellier (age 6-8 – boys) and Jonathan Kelly (age 9-10 – boys) both enter the championships ranked near the very top of the standings in the 10-person bracket in which they will compete.

Though Montpellier acknowledged that he might be a “little more nervous – this (event) will be different because it will be harder; the course might be harder” – coach Pat Drolet is not terribly concerned at all about any anxiety kicking in for the young man who swings from obstacle to obstacle with the greatest of ease.

“When he gets to the competition, he just steps up to the course like it’s a regular workout,” said Drolet. “He just does it because he does it. He steps up and is ready to crush the course, without really thinking about it.”

Still, being a pre-event favourite in the realm of Ninja competitions does not necessarily allow for a great deal of margin for error. “In a sport like this, the top people can make one mistake and it ruins their run,” said Drolet.

For the uninitiated, the rules are relatively simple: “whatever you want to do with your body is fine, as long as you are not touching specific parts of the obstacle – rigging, strapping, carabiners”, Drolet explained.

Over the course of the weekend, some will falter.

This, in the opinion of Drolet, is where his brethren in this pursuit truly shine.

“The Ninja community is so supportive,” he said. “It’s really nice to see how everyone comes together. I don’t believe I have seen anything like this at any other time in my life. Everybody wants to make it such a positive place for the kids.”

“This will be really neat to see.”

Northern Hockey Academy