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Justin Gielski: American Ninja Warrior
by U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen - September 6, 2015

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JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - Tech. Sgt. Justin B. Gielski may be the next American Ninja Warrior.

Problem is, he can't tell you. At least, not yet.

In June 2015, the New Jersey Air National Guard Airman competed in Las Vegas in the finals of the popular television show that requires strength, agility, endurance and more than a little grit. He's not allowed to talk about his performance until the show airs sometime before the end of the month.

Tech. Sgt. Justin B. Gielski swings on a set of bars he built in the backyard of his home in Medford, N.J., as he trains to compete on the TV show “American Ninja Warrior” Aug. 21, 2015. Gielski placed fifth in the all-military city final on the TV show and advanced to the finals in Las Vegas. Gielski is a loadmaster with the 150th Special Operations Squadron, 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)
Tech. Sgt. Justin B. Gielski swings on a set of bars he built in the backyard of his home in Medford, N.J., as he trains to compete on the TV show “American Ninja Warrior” Aug. 21, 2015. Gielski placed fifth in the all-military city final on the TV show and advanced to the finals in Las Vegas. Gielski is a loadmaster with the 150th Special Operations Squadron, 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)

To get to the finals, Gielski, a loadmaster with the 150th Special Operations Squadron of the 108th Wing, took part in an all-military preliminary competition and placed fifth. His performance in that competition was aired on the Aug. 17, 2015 episode. In all, 30 military members competed and the top 15 were invited to the finals.

“I think it reflects well on the New Jersey Guard and the Air Force because there are not that many Air Force or Guard members that made it through to this level,” Gielski said.

Gielski also gives credit to the creators of "American Ninja Warrior" – for creating a diabolically difficult obstacle course.

“Lot of bizarre obstacles, the people who engineer these things have to be partially insane, but they're fun, they definitely test your abilities,” he said.

For Gielski, this is his first season with "American Ninja Warrior" but his interest started long before the American version of the show came out.

“I used to watch Japanese version of Ninja Warrior when I was younger and I thought to myself this looks really fun, I think I could do this,” said Gielski. “I found a parkour gym in Cherry Hill ... I actually really enjoyed it and I had a lot of fun and kinda saw the potential that I could be good at it.”

It is not an easy road; the training is intensive – an hour during lunch and then another one to three hours in the evening.

“I have definitely gotten a lot of support from the Wing in this adventure, which I thought has been really cool; it's been neat that they've allowed me to do this,” said Gielski. “I'm glad I could represent them well in return for their sacrifices to help me with my dreams.”

There was also an unforeseen benefit from preparing for the competition, Gielski's family got interested in working out.

“My kids kind of started taking an interest in it as well as they saw me doing it, so we started building some things in our backyard like bar setups and stuff and they really love it,” said Gielski. “We just have a blast and I've noticed it has actually brought our family a lot closer together.”

“Every day is different, we're not just working out, we're always striving to meet a new goal, to accomplish some new flip, hang longer, swing farther, things like that. We get really excited when someone in the family does something new that's awesome; we take a lot of videos and post a lot of video.”

One of the show's hash tags for Gielski is #MagicFingers.

“We're a Seahawks family and when the Seahawks are close to the end zone, we'll send magic to them [visualize hands extended and fingers wiggling toward the television screen] and we try to will them to score,' said Gielski. “So it just became something that we do. My son is having a hard time with this obstacle, [we'll say] ‘you're really close, let's give him some magic' and we give him magic and it kind of motivates you to do well.”

“I got up there the first night [of the show] and I saw my kids there [and I said] ‘alright kids give me magic, it's going to be tough',” said Gielski. “So it became a thing I talked about [on the show] and they gave me the hash tag #MagicFingers.”

“I hear stories of ‘hey, my kids were giving you magic through the TV rooting you on' and it's pretty cool to hear that. I'm glad our family could share something like that.”

When asked about the Vegas episodes, Gielski could say only one thing.

“It's going to be exciting.

By U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2015

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