COURTESY PHOTO 
                                Maple Valley’s Justin Gielski holds his Guinness World Record certificate for doing the “most consecutive skips over a rope on a slack line,” a feat he says helped him earn a return appearance on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior.”

COURTESY PHOTO Maple Valley’s Justin Gielski holds his Guinness World Record certificate for doing the “most consecutive skips over a rope on a slack line,” a feat he says helped him earn a return appearance on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior.”

Putting it on the line

Maple Valley’s Gielski returns stronger, leaner to give ‘American Ninja Warrior’ another try

To get another shot at prime time, Justin Gielski had to break a world record.

The Maple Valley man did just that, and in doing so, caught the attention of producers of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” a made-for-reality TV, obstacle-course competition series. More than 50,000 people submitted video auditions for a spot on Season 11.

Gielski, just as he did four years ago, got the call.

“There’s a lot of good athletes out there who want to get on (the show), so you really have to prove yourself athletically and also have something that makes for good TV at the end of the day,” said the 34-year-old Gielski, a 2003 Kentlake High School graduate who works today as a business analyst for Signature Interiors & Design, a floor-covering company in Kent.

“For us, it’s a sport but, for them, it’s a production, so you have to have very interesting types of stories,” Gielski said of the popular series. “I needed something to set me apart, a dramatic story line.”

Breaking a Guinness World Record certainly helped Gielski’s chances to return to “Ninja.”

A year ago, Gielski shattered the record for “most consecutive skips over a rope on a slack line,” nearly doubling the previous mark of 15. What began as a training exercise to improve balance became an idea for a Guinness World Record. Gielski would steady himself on a thin nylon strap ratcheted between trees, later adding complexity by skipping rope while suspended.

Covered live on Facebook, Gielski’s feat went viral. The record was documented, signed and notarized. Gielski received a certificate of the record’s authenticity.

“It’s just one of those things I ended up trying and ended up realizing I could do more than anybody else,” Gielski said.

A new and improved Gielski earned an invitation to compete in the indoor city finals at the Tacoma Dome filmed early in May, the first time a “Ninja” course had been erected in the Pacific Northwest. Just how Gielski did won’t be known until NBC airs the episode on June 24.

Top regional qualifiers will move on to the outdoor nationals in Las Vegas, Nev.

In 2015, Gielski advanced out of the city regionals to reach the Las Vegas Strip, where he met elimination in Stage One, a victim of the seventh obstacle on the course, the “Coin Flip” that featured three unforgiving spinning, swinging disks. Competitors had to run across the free-floating disks while maintaining their balance in order to reach the landing platform and continue the course.

Gielski, 10 pounds leaner and stronger than he was four years ago, vows to go further this time around. He’s grateful for another chance.

“I really wanted to see if I could keep doing it and perform at the level that I had in the past,” Gielski said. “I’d say I actually felt stronger going into it this time, especially because I had more experience (with the course) and how to train.”

To prepare for the rigors this season, the 6-foot, 180-pound Gielski emphasized balance and cold exposure training. To test his endurance and focus and reduce muscle recovery time between workouts, he jumped into frozen lakes. The chill was no thrill but it sharpened his mental edge for competition.

“You only get one shot a year if you’re lucky,” Gielski said of the “Ninja” obstacle course. “A lot of good competitors mess up because when your adrenaline is going, your mind just isn’t working at the level that you’re used to.”

Gielski, who retired from the Air Force and the National Guard, moved from New Jersey, where he lived during his first “Ninja” go-around, to come home, work nearby and train with the support of family.

More competitors train specifically for obstacles, some even replicate them, Gielski said. But no matter how hard one trains to improve grip strength, agility and technical moves on familiar obstacles, producers often throw an unexpected, new barrier on stage that can foil any challenger.

Luck plays as much a part as effort.

“We get no trials on the course, no practice runs … that’s what makes the show so challenging,” Gielski said. “Everything going into it is sort of an unknown, so you just try to prepare as best as you can. You get one shot, one time to put your hands on it and if you mess up, that’s it.

“It’s very challenging just to get on (the show),” he said. “It’s nerve wrecking. It can be overwhelming.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@covingtonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.covingtonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

King County could be in Phase 2 in two weeks

The county is also hoping the state lets them reopen several businesses by Friday.

Looters break into 26 Tukwila businesses Sunday night; 9 arrests made

‘What happened in Tukwila was not a protest, it was coordinated looting,’ police say

South King County area police respond to Seattle protests

The responding officers are members of the multi-agency Valley Civil Disturbance Unit, officials say.

Kabal Gill, owner of East India Grill in Federal Way, wears gloves to hand over take-out orders at his restaurant on March 23. File photo
New guidelines for Phase 2 reopenings in King County

All workers will need to wear masks as restaurants, retail shops and other businesses reopen.

This undated file photo provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows CDC’s laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus. Courtesy photo
Inslee wants nursing home residents and staff tested by June 12

Governor says state will pay for test kits and personal protective equipment.

Stock image
Campgrounds to reopen in 22 Washington counties

Campgrounds in counties actively in Phase 2 of the reopening plan will begin to welcome visitors June 1, state says.

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht. FILE PHOTO
King County sheriff releases message about Minneapolis Police officer

Mitzi Johanknecht calls video of officer kneeling on neck of George Floyd ‘heartbreaking and disturbing’

File photo of construction near North Bend on Aug. 16. Sound Publishing file photo
                                File photo of construction near North Bend on Aug. 16. Sound Publishing file photo
Rural King County mayors want state to let them enter Phase 2

Mayors cite heavy economic damage from prolonged shutdown.

Most Read