“I don’t think I got taken very seriously last year because I was so new … this year, my goal is top five at the Games at the minimum, and I’m really aiming for a podium spot.”
In 2012, Kenneth Leverich burst into the CrossFit scene and placed third in the world in the Open, and second at the SoCal Regional, securing a spot to the Games. Just two weeks before the Games, Leverich injured his hamstring while working out with friends at his home affiliate, Orange Coast CrossFit.
“My friends were setting up to do King Kong, and I thought, ‘I’ve never done that WOD — awesome!’ They had already warmed up, and were setting up their weights for it,” he says. “I decided to do a couple of deadlifts and thought I’d be good to go because I didn’t want them to have to wait for me to warm up … The second round, I went to pick up the deadlift and heard a pop.”
For the two weeks leading up to the Games, Leverich rested. He was nervous about performing certain movements, but ended up doing well in events like the Ball Toss and the Medball-Clean/Handstand Push-up, and was in fifth place overall upon their completion.
But on the Sprint event, Leverich re-pulled his hamstring. Despite the nagging pain, he moved forward with the Clean Ladder. While attempting 305 lb., Leverich tore his already injured hamstring.
Still, Leverich decided to stay.
“All of the specialists were saying, ‘You shouldn’t be competing.’ I was in a lot of pain, and could barely walk on my leg,” he remembers. “I had spent a whole year of dedicated training to be here, and I knew that so many other athletes from our region and around the world would have loved to be in my spot. I didn’t want to give that up and waste it, so I just pushed through it.”
With the help of massage therapists and Active Release Therapy (ART), Leverich was able to make it through the weekend. Despite his injury, he placed 17th.
After the Games, Leverich was unable to train for five months and couldn’t walk for the first two months. Last November, Leverich was able to start working out again starting with upper body, and slowly incorporating rowing and eventually short-distance running.
When Leverich competed in the OC Throwdown in January, he went in wanting to gauge where he was in his recovery. He never expected to take first place, beating out other top athletes like Neal Maddox. The following weekend, he traveled to Miami to compete in Wodapalooza, and despite being ill with the flu, he managed to place third.
Leverich says he’s learned that listening to his body is the key to long-term success.
“Volume, volume, volume and going heavier, harder, longer only set my body up for injury,” he says.
Now, he has learned to rest, always stretch post-workout and never take another warm-up for granted. Recovery has also taught Leverich to pace himself, enjoy competition, not worry about placement and relax.
“Competing is all about being smart and tactical,” he says. “I know my capabilities, and now I know to stick with a plan.”
Going into the Open with a new mindset and a healed body, Leverich is excited for what’s to come over the next few months.
“I think this year (the Open) is going to give me a chance to prove my athleticism and legitimacy in the sport. I don’t think I got taken very seriously last year because I was so new … this year, my goal is top five at the Games at the minimum, and I’m really aiming for a podium spot.”