Competitive Jump Rope Opens Up New World For Ajani Robinson

Jun 7, 2024

Ajani Robinson isn’t a hop, skip and a jump from his home of Hamilton, Bermuda. But hopping, skipping, and jumping has given him a chance to travel all over.

Robinson, a rising junior at William Peace University, competes in high-level jump rope competitions, something he got into when he was 12.

“I was a couch potato and my parents were trying anything to get me to work out,” Robinson said. “Jump rope ended up doing something that basically no other sport did and that was work out my mind while also working out my body at the same time. It kept me engaged while also not making me bored and not being too upfront like other sports are.”

Robinson tried other sports — volleyball, and diving were somewhat interesting — but nothing else stuck like jumping rope.

So he started attending competitions as a fan and watching videos, teaching himself the more complicated movements. When he was 14 he participated in a competition for the first time. Now, 20, Robinson is committed to the sport and participates in up to three competitions a month. In the last year, he’s competed in Maryland, Ohio, and Virginia.

“When I was home people from different parts of the U.S. and European countries would come teach us and basically help us grow in the sport,” Robinson said. “My biggest exposure was going to two World Championships in 2018 and 2019 and seeing the level of skills there, internalizing that, and making myself come out even better than I was before.”

Robinson recently went to a regional competition in Morrisville where he finished in first place three times, second five times, two third place finishes, and earned one fifth-place finish in various categories, some with a partner, some solo, and others with a group.

Robinson’s goal is to do well enough at the nationals next year to earn a sport at the World Championships in Japan.

PHYSICAL TOLL ON BODY

Robinson, an honors student majoring in pre-law political science, got to WPU through a family connection.

He had relatives in the Triangle area and one of their children went to WPU. Robinson toured different schools in the area but decided WPU was the best fit for him.

After he arrived at WPU, Robinson joined the YMCA Super Skippers. The group has become a popular attraction at halftime of local sporting events. Last year Robinson participated with the Super Skippers at halftime of a UNC-Duke basketball game.

Robinson commits about 15 hours per week to practice, splitting time between the Skippers and working out alone.

And it’s not just jumping rope, which is a full-body workout itself. Robinson lifts weights, runs, anything he can do to improve his lift (height on his jumps) and stamina when he competes. Like any other high-level physical activity, it takes a toll on the body.

“It’s all over your body. When you are a competitive jump roper you’re using every single aspect of your body,” Robinson said. “If one muscle group isn’t working, you’re probably not pulling off every trick you’re trying.”

A SHOT AT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

The first time Robinson picked up a jump rope for a serious competition was eight years ago, and his first competition was two years later. Even then Robinson was able to envision where this could take him in the future.

“I obviously saw people come to Bermuda and some of them were from the U.S.,” Robinson said. “Some of them were from Germany and different parts of the world, so I had maybe an idea of different parts it could take me, teaching and sharing the sports.”

If he’s good enough, it’ll take him to Japan, but it won’t be an easy task.

More than 600 athletes will compete in nationals, trying to secure one of nine spots.

That journey starts with the US team trials next February in Chapel Hill. Regardless of what happens then and in between, Robinson has found his tribe.

“It’s probably one of the best communities I’ve been a part of,” Robinson said. “Some of the most positive people. As a sport, we are still brand new so things are still brand new and things are still changing. But the people making the changes are always receptive to what the athletes want.”

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