We needed the 2021 CrossFit Games to remind us why we care.
For those of us who fought for new leadership, we needed to taste the reason we were so passionate about the power of the community and why we needed the fresh ideals of a new owner.
To those who stood fast behind the previous regime and never left, you needed a reminder that those who fought for change did so for the benefit of the community and not out of any hatred or intent for malfeasance.
I headed to the CrossFit Games in Madison, WI this week with the goal to document the first-ever adaptive athlete competition in Games history. Leading up to the tournament, I’d begun recruiting podium contenders for on-site interviews. One athlete interaction, in particular, left me feeling anxious about the week to come. While many competitors embraced the opportunity presented by my invite, this one was different.
Below is an anonymized transcript of the conversation:
Athlete: Hey Ben! I’m flattered that you reached out to me! Just want to know more about what specifically we would talk about. Just want to make sure I would be a good fit. Thanks!!
Ben: Hey [Athlete]! Sure! My goal is to tell the stories of adaptive athletes and their experiences at the Games. I think the community is longing for a visual story about CrossFit outside of the classic ‘Fittest’ documentaries.
A: I’m not sure you’re going to like my perspective on things but I am always willing to tell my story!
B: It’s only fair if we tell all sides of it! Are you frustrated with CrossFit as an organization, how they’re handling the adaptive categories, or something else? I’d still love to have you involved – I’m just getting emotionally prepared.
A: No sir, actually the opposite. I value deeply the CrossFit methodology and community that Greg Glassman built and that Eric is maintaining. I owe a lot to both of those men and everyone who has assisted in making it a path toward health for all. Just noticing based on your posts that we may disagree on the amount of good CrossFit has done for everyone. But I’m game if you are!
B: Oh! Hahahaha [sic] no, I’m a huge fan of both leaders and a diehard believer in the community and methodology. CrossFit could never exist without Glassman, and the reason the community is as strong as it is is the result of his libertarian ideology (even if I don’t share it with him). It’s a tough line to walk, being critical of a part of a person’s personality and how it affects the community but still believing in all the good they’ve done. I really hope, after a much-needed, long, long vacation, that Glassman picks up where he left off in fighting chronic disease and big soda.
Thank you SO MUCH for sharing. I’m emailing you details right now.
The athlete would go on to turn in some incredible performances at the CrossFit Games, solidify their spot on a podium, and in the history books as one of the first-ever fittest adaptive athletes.
They also ultimately declined the opportunity to be involved in the documentary.
I hope, five years from now, we both look back on that decision as a mistake. Not because of any ambitions I have for the success of the film or in any ill will I have toward them.
In fact, I’ll call it right now. This won’t be their last CrossFit Games podium appearance, and they’ll inspire thousands of adaptive athletes to get involved in the sport for the first time.
The reason I hope for regret in this scenario is because I long for a world where mutual trust has returned to these two suspecting factions of the CrossFit community.
The CrossFit of today is a different CrossFit than that of 2020. The sense of purpose has been renewed, the leadership, competitive divisions, worldview, and outlook are new. All this, while the methodology is unchanged and unwavering.
I had the opportunity to attend the CrossFit Games as a member of the press in 2019. Two years, two CEOs, and a global pandemic later, I returned to Madison in 2021 more empowered than ever to tell the community’s story, and not just the story of elite athletes. That is meaningful change.
This athlete, suspicious of my motives (as someone who believed CrossFit’s former owner and his interim CEO replacement weren’t ideal for the long-term growth of the community), was invited to truly participate in their sport for the first time. Not in Greg Glassman’s CrossFit, but in Eric Roza’s CrossFit. That has to count for something.
What I fought for changed her life.
For those entrenched in the community, the Games isn’t about competition. It serves as a reminder that any of us, from any nationality, any ability, and any skin color, start each year on an even playing field of fitness. Our limits are our work ethic. Our altitude is limitless. Our passion is renewed.