UW-La Crosse senior to compete in ‘American Ninja Warrior’

A local college student is about to compete in a national sports competition.

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse senior Janelle Kopa will be one of the competitors on “American Ninja Warrior,” a televised competition where participants race through challenging obstacle courses.

Kopa is an elementary education major, student teacher, babysitter, gymnastics coach and now an “American Ninja Warrior” competitor.

She’s hoping to show her students anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

“I started gymnastics when I was just 2 years old,” Kopa said.

Kopa came to UW-La Crosse from Michigan to compete in gymnastics.

“My gymnastics coach, Drew Knapp, who is a UW-L alum, he did Ninja Warrior, too, and so that’s how I got interested in it and I was like, ‘Oh, someday I’m going to try that,'” Kopa said.

Because of injuries and burnout, she had to quit gymnastics after her freshman year and that’s when she decided to give ninja training a try.

“I came into ninja thinking that gymnastics would be the best foundation ever and that was so humbling,” Kopa said.

She said getting used to Ninja courses was a challenge because they’re constantly changing the obstacles.

“The unpredictability of the course. Often times when I go to competitions I’m seeing a course and these obstacles for the first time and I do not try that,” Kopa said.

After training an hour or more a day for years, Kopa is starting to master the sport.

She’s hoping her success will show students they can accomplish anything.

“To show them that you can work hard, you can set dreams and I will help you get there. To just be a role model is amazing,” Kopa said.

Kopa will be competing for “American Ninja Warrior” in Tacoma, Washington, on Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May12.

Unfortunately, she’s going to miss her graduation ceremony at UW-La Crosse, but she says the sacrifice is worth it.

Kopa, would like to win, of course, but because this is her first time competing on the show, she says she’ll be happy just making it to the second round.

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