“Training together, devoting the time and putting in the work has allowed this team to evolve as one unit rather than plugging and playing the elite individuals of the team.” ~David Paradiso
Jessica Suver of Paradiso CrossFit Venice was in a porta-potty on June 21, when co-owner Martina Paradiso screamed to her, “We’re going to the Games!”
After SoCal’s Brick Nation was disqualified from the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games, fourth-placed Regional team finishers Paradiso CrossFit Venice were invited to compete in Carson, Calif.
Co-owner and head coach, David Paradiso spread the news immediately via mass text message. His wife Martina was in Utah, more specifically a porta-potty in Utah, for the Ragnar Relay with Suver when she received his text.
At first, the team consisting of Jesse Baz, Lauren Gravatt, James McCoy, Suver and Lara Erlank, thought it was a cruel joke and some even ignored the text. It was only a matter of time and phone calls until the team finally realized they were in fact going to the Games.
An unfortunate obstacle David Paradiso immediately faced was that one athlete, Joseph Dieguez, was injured at Regionals, and he needed to submit a full team roster before the end of the day. He called upon Steve Sudell Jr. to make the commitment and invited him to join the team.
“David called me while I was working with a patient … he never calls me so I figured (it was an) emergency,” Sudell says. “When he told me the news that not only did we make the Games, but I will now also be on the team, my heart was racing with excitement and nervousness!”
Sudell has stepped up to the challenge by cutting back on his hours at work as a physical therapist and clocking in more time with the team at Paradiso CrossFit, focusing on his Olympic lifts. To him, the sacrifice is worth it.
“It’s a complete dream come true,” he says.
Another team member, Erlank, is no stranger to second chances. Though she had been an active competitor in sports such as swimming, cross-country and soccer for most of her life, she partied just as hard as she worked. Her health began to deteriorate due to her dangerous lifestyle and weekly doctors visits became the norm. But they weren’t enough to keep her out of the ER, or to prevent her heart from completely stopping seven years ago.
“I finally began to understand my mortality,” she says.
And thus, she took up CrossFit and a new dedication to her health, which helped her place 28th regionally in this year’s Open.
Since the team placed fourth at the SoCal Regional, a few Paradiso CrossFit members took a week off of training and pursued other activities such as running relays, competing in triathlons and vacationing.
“We wouldn’t have done these things if we knew we were going to the Games,” Gravatt says.
McCoy, a paramedic, took this time off to take his firefighters’ exam — a mentally and physically exhausting process.
Paradiso CrossFit Venice didn’t take any firsts at Regionals, but never fell out of the top 12 in any event, remaining true to their mantra:
“Slow and steady wins the race,” David Paradiso repeats.
Remaining consistent throughout the competition was and still is their game plan, but now they are building up their speed and strength.
Typically, the team trains together five days a week for three to four hours and religiously follows the Outlaw Way. They attribute much of their success to their ability to trust the program and preventing one another from cherry picking through the plan.
The team has a strong foundation because it developed naturally, David Paradiso says. They don’t hold firebreather tryouts and there aren’t “athlete only” classes. The affiliate prides itself for not being a flashy, competitive box, but as a place where they provide a program for everybody.
“Training together, devoting the time and putting in the work has allowed this team to evolve as one unit rather than plugging and playing the elite individuals of the team,” David Paradiso says.
While half the team qualified as individuals, they chose to compete together because they didn’t want to disappoint the other members.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” says Baz, who finished 15th in the Open. “We knew that we had a better chance going in as a team.”
And so the team will get a second chance at Paradise, as some may call it, in a few weeks.