Meet Malone: The World's #1 Preteen Ninja Sensation

April 12, 2024

Did you know that Ninja Warrior is an official sport? The World Ninja League (WNL) is the governing body for the sport of Ninja and New York City Ninja Academy, located in Midtown West, is a sanctioned WNL facility that hosts ninja competitions and trains a competitive kids ninja team. 

The New York City Ninja Academy Team features some of the top athletes in the sport, including Malone Canter, the Number One Preteen Female in the World Ninja League. We talked to Malone about how she got her start in Ninja, what makes her a top competitor, and what motivates her to push forward. 

At the young age of 12, Malone is a role model for her teammates, a shining example of excellence in work ethic and sportsmanship, and an inspiration to ninjas of all ages. Malone is also a junior coach at New York City Ninja Academy and loves to share her knowledge and skill by teaching, coaching, and spotting some of our younger ninjas. She particularly loves coaching “Mini Ninjas,” future ninjas ages 3 to 5 years old.

Malone, how did you get started in Ninja?

After I quit gymnastics, my younger brother, Dempsey was enrolled in a summer program at New York City Ninja Academy. I grew up watching the show, and when I no longer had to go to gymnastics summer camp, I decided to try out Ninja, as I convinced myself I could do what all the amazing athletes on the big show could do.

What was the moment you realized that you wanted to take Ninja seriously as a sport and begin competing in the league on a high level?

My very first competition - it was on New Year’s Eve 2021. I finished the whole course and I won first place! At first, I didn’t want to compete, coming from weekend-long gymnastics competitions but after the amazing experience I had at the New Year’s Eve Recreational Ninja League Competition, it made me realize that maybe I could get somewhere in this sport.

Can you share a story about a particularly memorable win or achievement in your Ninja career, and what it meant to you?

A significant moment in my Ninja career was my second regional championship, where I placed first out of all girls in my division. I didn't think I would win or even place in the top five, especially after watching all the other girls run. I gave myself no expectations, which allowed me to focus on the course, not what place I ended up in.

How do you handle the pressure of competing at high-stakes Ninja events and what strategies do you use to stay focused during intense moments?

When I am competing, I try to compare the obstacle on the course to ones I have done previously. If there is an obstacle I have never seen before, I compare the movement to another similar obstacle of movement. I also have a warmup/stretching routine that keeps me focused on myself, and not get caught up in what other people are doing, on or off the course. When I am at the starting platform of the course, I use a trick that I learned from my first coach, Jordan Carr, to channel my nerves. With my eyes, I follow my finger in different directions to get myself to calm down and get ready to focus.

What do you think sets apart a successful Ninja athlete from others in terms of skills and mindset?

A huge part of competing is the ability to channel nerves and adrenaline in high-stakes moments. Some athletes get in their head, get shaky, or tense up, but knowing how to get yourself into a calm mindset allows you to focus on the course, not focus on your nerves.

What are your Ninja goals?

One of my biggest goals in Ninja is to win the World Championships. They happen at the end of June and there are competitors from all over the world. It is a three-stage competition with increasingly more challenging courses. But my biggest goal is to finish the course on American Ninja Warrior. It has been my dream since before I even started Ninja. I watch the show and convince myself that I can be like all my Ninja idols.

At age 12, you are one of the youngest coaches, if not the youngest coach, in the whole league. How does it feel to coach younger kids, and what motivates you to do it?

I have always loved working with kids, whether it be babysitting my younger brothers or befriending a toddler at the playground, I have always found joy in helping kids. Knowing that I am part of a child’s incredible Ninja journey and knowing that I have made an impact, no matter how small on their life motivates me to continue coaching and doing Ninja. I look forward to Wednesday every week - to the hugs I get when the kids' team walks in, to the joy on their faces when I say we can play Ninja Tag. I look forward to being a mentor and being a part of the lives of kids who I know, for a fact, will be such amazing people.

Tell us about who your Ninja mentors are and what they mean to you.

Many people have made such a big impact on my Ninja journey but the biggest impact was made by my very first coach, Jordan Carr. At only 14, Jordan was already so involved in coaching and at the same time deeply involved in the Ninja community. She was on American Ninja Warrior Junior Season 3 in 2021 and American Ninja Warrior Season 14. At 15 years old, she became the youngest woman ever to hit a buzzer. Every day, whether I am coaching, training, or competing, I aspire to be like Jordan. She is the foundation of my entire Ninja career and has taught me so much. Although I don’t get to see her a lot, the time I get with her is amazing and reminds me why I continued to do Ninja.

What advice would you give to aspiring Ninja athletes who are just starting their journey?

This goes for any Ninja athlete but applies more directly to newer Ninjas. Don’t be afraid to branch out and find somebody to talk to, whether it is at a competition, or even in your own gym. A huge part of Ninja is the community, where so many people are insanely supportive and kind, and will always cheer for you. When I compete, I feel the most comfortable when people cheer for me, and because of the friends I’ve made. I always have somebody, no matter where I am. Even my biggest competitors are some of my best friends because although we compete against each other, that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are still such kind and supportive people.