Going into Event 6 of the 2012 Mid Atlantic Regional, Steve Pinkerton and Brian Quinlan were tied for third place. A trip to the Games had come down to the final event. Pinkerton didn’t make the podium.
“It was frustrating, but there was nothing that I could’ve done differently last year,” Pinkerton says. “I didn’t wake up on Sunday and need something crazy to happen to make the podium.”
Pinkerton’s first quest for the Games was in 2011. That year, he finished the Regional in ninth.
“I was naïve then,” he admits. “I didn’t realize how competitive it was in the region.”
No longer naïve, Pinkerton approached his training differently for 2013.
“I trained smarter. I focused on quality, not so much quantity. I really took care of my body with regular massage, chiropractic and preventive care,” he says. “I’m healthier than I’ve ever been.”
In addition to altering his training, Pinkerton also changed his perspective.
“My mistake last year was assuming there was only one spot available for the Games,” he says. “No one has their ticket punched. Now I know anyone can be beat and it’s about me executing my game plan.”
Pinkerton has the drive and determination to execute this game plan. Being an officer in the United States Marine Corps instilled in him the discipline and “stubbornness,” Pinkerton jokes, to succeed in CrossFit competition. At Regionals, where the skill level is close, Pinkerton feels mental fortitude is a greater factor for success than physical ability.
While many say Pinkerton does not have the ideal body type for CrossFit, at 6-foot-5, and 240 pounds, he is a noticeable presence in any arena. He refuses to let these critics get him down. Instead, it fuels his determination.
“I’m not the ideal body type, but that excuse no longer works,” he says. “I just have to be really good at bodyweight gymnastics. I’m 5 pounds heavier than last year and I’ve gotten better at gymnastics.”
Pinkerton has a strong support system. He says his wife, Jessica, understands his competitive nature and works hard to help him balance training and family life. She and their 5-year-old daughter, Reagan, often join Pinkerton for workouts on the weekends.
The owner of CrossFit Vitality in Concord, N.C., also has the support of his 200+ members. Always eager to see their coach in action, many Vitality members will, once again, make the six-and-a-half hour drive to this year’s Regional. Pinkerton doesn’t feel any added pressure with such a fan club.
“I want to do well, especially since they’ve made the trip, but it won’t negatively affect how I do in the (events),” he says. “It’s advantage for me to see familiar faces.”
Along with the familiar faces in the crowd, Pinkerton will also be reunited with many competitors from previous years.
“At Regionals, there are 48 extremely competitive individuals, and it’s not about beating someone because you don’t like them or you think you’re better than them,” he says. “CrossFit is such a unique sport. You want to beat a competitor because you respect how good of an athlete he is and what he brings to the sport.”
Pinkerton even has athletes he is looking forward to watching and competing against this year.
“I’m excited to see Rory Hanlin. He’s missed the last two Regionals due to deployment. I have a tremendous amount of respect for his service to our country. His schedule is determined by others and he’s been able to maintain his training and continue to compete at this level. That’s amazing.”
Despite his intense focus on making the podium at the 2013 Mid Atlantic Regional, Pinkerton hasn’t lost his sense of humor about the competition and exploring all options to reach the Games.
“I spoke with Ben Smith and his dad prior to opening of their box, CrossFit Krypton. I jokingly said to them, ‘Those Virginia winters can be cold. Don’t you want to move someplace warmer, like Florida or Hawaii?’” he jokes. “But, no, Ben is staying in the Mid Atlantic Region.”
He’s watched Regional competitions the past two weeks and developed his own strategy for each event, but he knows victory will go to the one who wants it the most.
“For the past two years, I’ve had a good view of the Games from my couch,” he says. “I’m tired of it. I feel this year I have as good a shot as anyone else of making the Games. I know I can do it, it’s just a matter of executing it.”