By Chris Paul
After just two years of training, two young Londonderry athletes are one step closer to their dream of becoming American Ninja Warrior champions.
Eli Parece-Grogan, 11, and Livia Ficara, 12, have taken the first step to achieving this goal by participating in a number of local Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association (UNAA) competitions and qualifying for placing in the top three of a regional competition to move on to the UNAA World Ninja competition taking place at The Orleans in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 21-23.
Eli and Livia are south Londonderry neighbors and during the COVID-19 Pandemic became interested in the parkour-type sport, along with Eli’s twin sister Pacey.
The three friends train at the USA Ninja Challenge gym in Hudson, which is owned by Brian O’Connor, and they train with Coach Claire O’Connor.
After becoming enamored with the sport, Eli wanted to be able to train outside the two-days of practice at the Hudson gym, so with the help of his parents and grandfather, they built a number of Ninja obstacles in their backyard.
Eli has also been paying off his parent’s investment, and with the price of building materials these days, that’s another big challenge.
The largest obstacle in many of the Ninja courses is the Warped-Wall, a 10- to 14-foot curved wall that challenges runners to ascend and climb over it. The Parece-Grogan family built a 12-foot version of the wall as part of the training apparatus in the backyard.
There are also a number of other challenges set up in the yard, including a Spider Wall, a Salmon Ladder, Quad Steps, Spinning Logs, Jump Hangers, Rings and Cliffhanger Rails to name a few.
All this training paid off at the regional qualifier competition in Southington, Connecticut, where Eli placed first in his division and allowed him to move on to the worlds in Las Vegas this month.
At the regional competition, in Manchester earlier this year, Livia placed third and also earned a trip to Las Vegas.
Eli’s twin sister Pacey missed out on competing in the world competition by just one point.
Both young athletes are extremely excited about the upcoming trip and have been busy training at the gym and their backyard to start the summer.