Jack Giordano rolls his baton using his elbows, then seconds later takes it firmly in hand, throws it up toward the ceiling of the gym, spins his body around twice and catches it.
Despite suffering a broken arm in March, he’s been practicing moves he’ll take with him to represent the United States at the Baton Twirling World Championships in Paris Aug. 3-5.
“It was really painful not being able to practice when all my competition was on top of it,” said Giordano, 19, of Mattituck, who has been twirling competitively since the age of 8. “Japan and France are always on their game.”
Giordano, a multiple-time world championship gold medalist, has been back in training for the last two weeks, spending his time practicing at Accompsett Elementary School in Smithtown with three teammates who are also heading to the championships.
The rest of the Dynamics baton twirling team includes Trina Catterson, 11, of Glendale, Queens, Toni Ann Cox, 16, of Deer Park, and Victoria Massey, 19, of Selden.
“There is a certain type of personality and dedication that you have to have to stay at the top of this sport, so there are very few kids that do stay at the top,” said Alaine Robbins, 48, who coaches the Dynamics team out of Smithtown. “They learn how to fail, they learn how to succeed and they learn how to try harder. It’s an extremely difficult sport to do, and unfortunately it doesn’t receive the recognition that it should in the United States.”
Since Giordano joined the team at age 13, he has been competing nationally and globally in Italy, Norway, Canada, Ireland and Australia, among other places.
“Even though, in Japan and France, it’s a boy and girl sport, here it’s a predominantly girls’ sport,” Giordano said. “You have to bring your own [style] and add your own style to it.”
The United States Twirling Association holds state, regional and national competitions. Every other year, in March, the organization holds trials, which select 18 athletes to represent the United States in the world championships.
In March the team went to Stockton, Calif., where the four qualified for the 2012 U.S. World Team. The team will leave for the world championships on July 28.
“Just to be on the team is an honor and it’s my first time,” said Massey, who will be traveling to the world competition for the first time. “I’ve pretty much been waiting my whole life for this.”
Catterson was inspired to pick up a baton at age 5 because her mother coached the sport.
“I’m on the world team and I’m only 11 years old,” said Catterson. “I’m the youngest one that’s ever made it. I think it’s a great achievement.”
Giordano said his arm is still sore, but he’s confident that he has what it takes to grab another medal this year.
“You have to have stamina. You have to have strength and mental focus and while you’re doing all that you have to focus on performing,” Giordano said. “I think we’ll do great.”
Above: Toni Ann Cox, 16, of Deer Park, poses with Jack Giordano, 19, of Mattituck, Victoria Massey, 19, of Selden, and Trina Catterson, 11, of Glendale, Queens, clockwise from left, at Accompsett Elementary School in Smithtown during training for the Baton Twirling World Championships. (June 6, 2012)