Five young South Florida women are shaking up sports locally and nationally—even toppling the giants in their fields.
2019 was the year of the woman.
With the U.S. women’s national soccer team winning its fourth World Cup and vehemently fighting for equal pay, young girls everywhere are looking up to their (s)heroes. Some may recognize South Florida as a football hub, but Palm Beach County is home to women athletes who are paving the way for young players across the world. Each day this week, Boca mag is profiling one of those athletes who calls South Florida home—and this will not be the last time you see their names on big screens.
Christina Gambino is no stranger to adversity, especially when it comes to competing on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” an obstacle course competition series drawing extreme athletes from across the country.
She awaits her fourth try for the series, as life has gotten in the way of every year she’s been on the hit NBC show— from injuries to illness to taking time off to open Jumptwist Ninja Academy, a Boca Raton gym. “I’ve never actually gotten to show what I’m capable of, but I keep coming back, and that’s what it’s all about,” she says.
This is a recurring theme in Gambino’s life. After her father passed away when she was 12, she quit gymnastics in order to cope with his death. However, she came back six years later, trained and walked onto the Rutgers University gymnastics team as a junior.
“Before I could compete, I had a terrible injury. I damaged cartilage in my knee, [endured] slight tears in my calves and Achilles, bone bruising in my ankle, and worst-case scenario ankle sprain … to both legs,” Gambino wrote on her website. “Not only did this injury take my college gymnastics career away from me, but it also caused me chronic pain for five years following.”
Yet Gambino persevered. She became a personal trainer and started composing original music for gymnastics floor routines at Jumptwist, but still yearned for competition. In 2016 she tried out for “American Ninja Warrior” and was one of the lucky 1,000 who received a call and competed in 2017.
On her first try, she fell before reaching the end of the course. In preparation for her second attempt, she trained so hard that her right arm was paralyzed for two months.
She didn’t give up, and found herself back on the “American Ninja Warrior” stage for a second time. A year later, she was called back to the set in the midst of building Jumptwist. Gambino competed even though she had bronchitis for six weeks and was exhausted from building the business.
Now, she’s ready for a fourth try, pending a callback and the renewal of its 11th season. She continues to train and run her gym, where she teaches children and adults, hoping to pass on her determination for the sport to others.
“They’re happy, and it’s almost like everything I ever wanted to share with the world is happening here,” Gambino says. “Like overcoming obstacles—you might fall 100 times, but then on the 101st time you get it, and then you take that outside of the gym and you feel like you could just take on the world.”