American Ninja Mom

Health Transformations: Joyce Shahboz

Joyce Shahboz with her husband, Marc, and daughters Lain, 11, and Gwenny, 8, at Darkside Athletics and F2 Arena gymnasium, where she works out.

Doug Finger
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 8:57 a.m.

Joyce Shahboz insists she's “just a mom.”

But this summer, the 42-year-old physical therapist and mother of two from Gainesville joined 299 elite athletes from all over the country, including former gymnasts, Olympic gold medalists, aerial artists, NCAA champions and professional stunt men and women, to compete in the 2013 season of NBC's popular “American Ninja Warriors” obstacle-course game show.

“I was the only mom out there this year,” says Shahboz, whose agile 5-foot, 6-inch frame and easygoing personality belie the athletic powerhouse within.

In 2012—her first year as a contestant—Shahboz completed more obstacles in the regional meet than all but one other female contestant nationwide. She outperformed 60 of the 96 male contestants in Miami, as well—including her husband, Marc Shahboz. (Only about 10 percent of all American Ninja Warrior contestants are women, who compete on the same course as the men.)

“When I hit the jump-hang obstacle, the producers said to Marc, 'She's just tied Luci—she's gone the farthest of any woman,'” Joyce recalls.

Luci Steel Romberg is a professional stunt woman who lives in California.

This year, Joyce made game-show history for being the first woman to make back-to-back finals in the American edition of the show.

Not bad for a woman who's only competitive team sports in high school were flag-twirling and rifle, and who says she couldn't do a pull-up until she was 30 years old.

How did she do it?

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