Nine-year-old Fitzgerald is a high flying snowboarder
The most pressure-packed situation for most nine-year-olds in Fairfield involves homework or a spelling test.
But TJ Fitzgerald is not like most nine-year-olds.
The Unquowa School fourth-grader competed at the United States of America Snowboard Association National Championships in Copper Mountain, Colo. against the best eight- and nine-year old snowboarders in the country.
"It was fun," he said. "I was nervous."
Fitzgerald was the only competitor in the nation in his age group to compete in all five disciplines. His top finish was in Slope Style, where he registered a ninth-place finish.
Fitzgerald is able to compete at the highest level, because he is used to competing with competitors who push him to the next level. He rides as part of the Southern Vermont Snowboarding at Stratton Mountain Ski Resort in West Wardsboro, Vt.
The Fitzgeralds frequent Stratton during the winter. TJ's parents, Gwynne and Ted Sr., are ski enthusiasts and their interest in skiing is what got TJ on the mountain skiing at age two.
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They love the treks they make to Stratton, because it allows them to unite with TJ and seven-year old daughter, Madelyn.
"It brings us together as a family," Gwynne said. "It's three hours up and there's no TV."
TJ shifted his focus to snowboarding when he was five because he thought it "looked more interesting" than skiing. Ever since, he's made boarding a large part of his life. Fitzgerald skateboards, locally and when it is too warm to snowboard.
But his first love is snowboarding. At the behest of his coach, Raschid Joyce, Fitzgerald will be attending the Mount Hood Ski and Snowboard Camp in Parkdale, Ore. in June.
"He's a great guy," TJ said of his coach.
Fitzgerald's adventurous spirit has been at the crux of his advancement in the snowboarding world. At nine, he's already incorporated a 540 in his bag of tricks. As part of his competing, Fitzgerald has to go off 45-foot jumps off of berms and has been pushed to go bigger and better by being the youngest at Stratton.
"I prefer to be around the older kids," TJ said. "They push me to do bigger tricks."
He's only been injured once as a result of his snowboarding, bruising his spleen, a year ago.
Fitzgerald's prowess on the mountain has grown to where BodyScience Compression, a brand of athletic tops and pants, is sponsoring him. Fitzgerald also trains at CrossFit Performance on Mill Plain Road twice a week in the offseason doing a variety of workouts to improve his snowboarding fitness.
TJ's goal is to become a professional snowboarder. His favorite boarder is Shaun White. Fitzgerald's mapped out plan is to attend high school a the exclusive Stratton (Vt.) Mountain School where there is a curriculum integrating snowboarding and high school.
"That would be great," TJ said.
The passion for snowboarding is evident, and that is what makes TJ's success so rewarding for his parents.
"He loves it," Gwynne said. "If it isn't fun for him, he wouldn't do so well."