“I will go into each event giving my all and learning from each experience to make me the best athlete I can become.”
Quite simply, Roy Gamboa’s success in CrossFit boggles the mind. The 26-year-old Texan started doing CrossFit on his own last August after four years of football at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas.
This March, he competed in his first CrossFit competition, the Open, where he turned heads by taking second place overall in the South Central Region. Worldwide, he was 71st.
He’s a bit of a prodigy, but the Open is completely different from the gauntlet of Regionals with its scrutinizing judges, multiple events over three days and grizzled veterans like Aja Barto and Jason Hoggan. Surely the rookie would stumble.
In San Antonio, Gamboa took third place, earning a ticket to the Games. On one level, it’s simple to explain how he got there. During a weekend of wild fluctuation on the Leaderboard, Gamboa didn’t win any single event, (he didn’t even crack the top three) but he didn’t fall out of the top 20 either. His lowest finish was a tie for 16th place on the Overhead Squat Event, which meant that in the end, he displayed more consistency than all the other competitors except for two (Mike McGoldrick and Aja Barto). In CrossFit competition, consistency will get you to the Games.
On another level, you still have to ask the question: how did he do it?
His background in college football and weightlifting (he has a 250-lb. snatch and 500-lb. back squat) helps to answer this question. Looking at Gamboa’s mindset and mental approach also contributes to a portrait of his success. In conversation, he manages to be both competitive and humble. He seems perfectly self-contained, but at the same time has the utmost regard for his fellow competitors, believing the relationship between athletes is symbiotic. In other words, athletes need one another in order to be great.
“My goal for the Games is to push the Fittest on Earth to be the best they can be and be pushed by the same athletes,” he says. “I will go into each event giving my all and learning from each experience to make me the best athlete I can become.”
He adds: “I will go into the Games with a competitor’s mindset. I will pour out everything I have in every event I am blessed to compete in and expect greatness. ‘Greatness’ to me may or may not be what the world thinks, but if I feel like I have truly focused on completing the task the best I can do, I know I can expect greatness.”
How can you begrudge a guy who sounds like that? Gamboa sounds nearly zen, but he was anything but as he struggled with Event 2 at Regionals.
“I really struggled with the Overhead Squat Event and it was all because of a lack of technique and mobility,” he says. “So coach (Aaron) Wesson and I have really been focused on improving both technique and mobility. Also, I happened to be staring at the bar too long when I should have been performing work. Coach Wesson has programmed many of my WODs to increase my work capacity and learn to avoid redlining.”
Gamboa emphasizes his gratitude to Wesson and his wife Abby who proved an invaluable support system at Regionals. He was able to focus strictly on the competition as both Wesson and Abby handled everything from meals to travel.
“I want Aaron and Abby to know that I am very grateful that God placed them in my life and I hope to give back to other people someday the way they gave to me,” Gamboa says.
As he prepares for his Games debut in Carson, Calif., Gamboa says that training is much more varied than it was before Regionals where the workouts were known and the movements practiced ad nauseam weeks in advance. He’s working on weaknesses and volume, training three days on and one day off, with two to three workouts each day.
When he’s not training, this self-proclaimed “boring” person is addicted to watching The Office on Netflix. He also helps coach classes at CrossFit Abilene, alongside Wesson. His favorite thing in the world is to indulge in a cheat meal. On off days, Gamboa finds pleasure in switching off the alarm and sleeping in.
The recent college graduate says that qualifying for the Games hasn’t changed his life very much at all. If anything, he says facetiously, it’s allowed him to postpone getting a “big boy job.” Having said that, he’s in awe of Games competitors who juggle CrossFit, a full-time job and family responsibilities.
“I want to give props to those athletes who qualify for the Games and also have a full-time job and families to support,” he says. “I have been blessed with a family, coach Wesson and his wife Abby, and friends who support me with full-time training. I’m very appreciative of the support I receive from my crew but I wanted to say that I admire all athletes especially those who do work full time and support families. I hope to be like them one day.”