"We are confident that over time, CrossFit will be one of the most popular and massive areas of sports."
When it comes to sports, Russia goes all out. The government is pouring billions into preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and the country will host the FIFA World Cup in 2018. In Moscow, globo gyms are everywhere and well equipped with a mess of the newest and shiniest fitness machines.
Against this penchant for grandeur, keeping things simple has been a challenge for the small, but growing community of Russian CrossFit athletes. Russia, it seems, has lost much of the tradition of basic physical training that was a focus during the Soviet Union. “Well-to-do Muscovites who walk around in mink coats and drive Mercedes’ patronize the fanciest globo gyms to uphold their status, and an empty garage space with kettlebells and bars is a tough sell, regardless of the effectiveness of training,” says Moscow athlete Aleksey Nemtsov. “In Russia today, it’s all about making money. If you work with medicine balls and jump ropes, you won’t make a lot of money, so big fitness clubs don’t bother with things like that.”
Despite this sentiment, some elite athletes have emerged from Russia recently. Nemtsov is a former powerlifter who stands at 6-foot and weighs in at 209 pounds. Nemtsov, 29, discovered CrossFit videos online and has been a devoted CrossFitter for more than a year. He trains four to five times a week and boasts a 110 kg clean-and-jerk, and a 3:13 Fran.
Nemtsov competed in the Open this year and his jaw dropped when he saw the announcement of Workout 12.4. He had never done a wall ball before, nor did his training facility have any for him to use. Luckily, he found a good space at fellow competitor, Eugene Bogachev’s, gym that was equipped with a 9kg medicine ball. The ball was old and lopsided with most of its weight concentrated to one side, but Nemtsov successfully completed all 150 reps. Not a bad feat for a newbie.
“The [Open] showed me my weaknesses and the weaknesses of the gyms where I train,” Nemtsov says. “But it was all amazing.”
Also hailing from Moscow is 27-year-old competitor Danila Shokhin. This year’s Open landed him in 79th place in the Europe Region. Workout 12.1 showcased his strengths as he logged 161 burpees in 7 minutes. Shokhin has a background in competitive aerobics and is known as a met-con powerhouse among Moscow’s CrossFit community.
If you head a little further east you will find Vadim Darchinov, 45, and Marat Sachabutdinov, 49. Both are former weightlifters. They finished in 39th and 40th respectively in the Open among the 45-49 Masters Division. Sachabutdinov wrote on CrossFit.ru, Russia’s main information portal for all things CrossFit, that he wants his fitness to send a message to younger and older generations alike. “My plans are to achieve maximum results with minimal injury to maintain longevity and to prove by example that it’s possible to practice CrossFit at any age,” he says.
Russia’s CrossFit community is set to grow in the coming months. Promotional events such as the use of mobile boxes – cargo containers with CrossFit gear – will begin to show up in parks and other public spaces in Moscow and other cities. The company plans to open five official Reebok CrossFit boxes in Moscow by the end of the year.
“We are confident that over time, CrossFit will be one of the most popular and massive areas of sports,” Sergei Shevyrev, Reebok brand director in Russia, said in a statement last month.
Nemtsov says with Reebok’s support, the community will quickly overcome past challenges and will grow in numbers and exposure. He hopes by the time next year’s Open rolls around, he’ll have had plenty of opportunity – with proper wall space and equipment – to brush up on his weak spots.
“And after three or four years, Rich Froning, I’m coming for you,” he says.