The CrossFit Games—Time for an Adaptive Athlete Division?

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Damect Dominguez

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What if Kevin Ogar, Stephanie Hammerman and adaptive athletes like them from all across the world could compete at the CrossFit Games? Imagine for a second the addition of an adaptive athlete division for the CrossFit Games. CrossFit would take on an entirely new meaning for these athletes, as they would now have the opportunity to train 

specifically for the Open, have goals of making it to Regionals and potentially winning in Carson. The Games would grow not just in terms of numbers of participants, fans and revenue, but in regards to adhering to CrossFit’s all-inclusive ideology.

Look at the Summer Olympics, and the Winter Olympics that just happened in February. For each Olympiad for able-bodied athletes, the Paralympics (both winter and summer) immediately follow. Paralympians take part in modified versions of the same sports (most, but not all) that are present in the Olympics, each faces extreme adversity, each has their chance at a medal and achieving their dreams.

This is no different for the adaptive athletes of our sport. Just like any other individual who does CrossFit, they do it because they enjoy it, they want to improve their health, and they want the chance to compete. One need only look at the Open to see that this is the case. Last year, CrossFit Rubicon hosted adaptive athletes from their gym and CrossFit Walter Reed—a non-profit military CrossFit affiliate that trains wounded service members, veterans and caregivers—to perform 13.4 of the Open. In 2014, Kevin Ogar (an athlete who was paralyzed following a missed snatch at the OC Throwdown in January,) performed scaled versions of 14.4 and 14.5 . Or how about the story of retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Brendan Ferreira, who, despite the loss of his left arm, performed every single Open workout with prescribed weight (though with certain movements modified). These are just a few of the numerous examples of adaptive athletes who have that desire to compete, who want to be challenged and won’t let any obstacle stand in their way.

We are already seeing adaptive CrossFit athletes compete in local competitions, sometimes in their own scaled division, other times alongside non-adaptive athletes. In 2012, Corey Reed, a right leg amputee and blind athlete became the fist adaptive athlete to compete in an able-bodied competition at a CrossFit box. In 2012, CrossFit Rubicon also hosted the first ever Working Wounded Games, a competition for severely wounded veterans and amputees. And in January of this year, adaptive athlete Stephanie Hammerman, the first-ever certified CrossFit traininer with cerebral palsy,  competed in her own scaled division at Wodapalooza in Miami.

The CrossFit Games are still in their infancy relative to other sporting competitions, and we are constantly seeing new changes and additions to the qualifying format, rules, regulations and competitive divisions (including Team, Masters and even Teens). I don’t think it’s too early to speculate when (rather than if) the Games will add an adaptive athlete division to their format too. CrossFit HQ already recognizes these athletes through numerous articles on their site(s) as well as profiling them in short videos online. CrossFit-The Story of an Adaptive Athlete: Steph Hammerman was posted back in November of 2012. In the video Hammerman expresses her desire to one day open up her own affiliate where she would train adaptive and non-adaptive athletes together, so that they may learn from each other:

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“I really want people to take it seriously because one day I want to see adaptive athletes in CrossFit competition as a division.”

I am hopeful that CrossFit HQ does have plans to make this happen, as they must surely be aware of the relationship that so many adaptive athletes have with their coaches, fellow CrossFitter’s and local affiliates all over the world. They are athletes, just like the rest of us—we should all have an opportunity, a chance to compete doing a sport that we love. If someone is good enough in their division, be it Individual Men, Women, Team, Masters, Teens they can go to the Games. There is no reason why an adaptive athlete should miss out on this opportunity.

In short, having an adaptive athlete division would make the Games and CrossFit as a whole more complete, and a better sport for it. We, the community, can make this happen-so let’s get to it.

About Damect Dominguez

Co-founder of BoxLife Magazine. Author: Training Day: 400+ Workouts to Incorporate in Your Training.

1 thought on “The CrossFit Games—Time for an Adaptive Athlete Division?”

  1. I as an Adaptive Athlete welcome this challenge. I am the first ever Pro Reebok Spartan Pro Adaptive Athlete and I compete all over doing Obstacle course racing along with wheelchair racing.. I would love to see this added for the Adaptive World!!!!!! BRING IT ON!!!!


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