March 29, 2018
Age of Empires
By Emily Beers
Oldest 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games champ wins 2018 Open for Women 60+ Division.
Oldest 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games champ wins 2018 Open for Women 60+ Division.

A couple months ago, 61-year-old reigning CrossFit Games champion Patty Failla wasn’t sure if she’d be able to compete in the Open. 

Now, she’s the champion of the Women 60+ Division. 

After her big win last summer, Failla found herself nursing some chronic shoulder and biceps injuries, which prevented her from training as hard as she would have liked, she explained.

“I’m a very ambitious person, and I want to get better and more efficient, so I didn’t give my body a rest after the Games last year like I should have, and I ended up with some nagging injuries because of it,” said Failla, who trains and coaches at CrossFit Fit Farm in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Even in January, I wasn’t sure I could do the Open this year. I was just going to play it by ear, but I felt good and decided I’d go for it,” she said. 

Battling injuries has given Failla greater perspective and appreciation for her health and fitness at 61, she explained.

“I just feel blessed and encouraged I can go out there and try to do my best and be thankful for every day I can move the way I do,” she said. 

Though Failla admitted she would love to get back on the podium this summer, being able to live a rich and fulfilling life at 61 is most important to her. It’s also the message she wants to send to other aging adults who think it’s too late to get fit.

“I work with a lot of people between the age of 55 and 75. They’re all incredibly active, and they participate in CrossFit and things like Spartan races. These gals are very strong women,” Failla said. “And I want other 50-, 60-, even 70-year-olds to see that we’re redefining the image of the senior citizen that we have in our heads—you know, the image of, ‘Oh, you’re a grandma now, so you have to be sedentary and you’re going to stay home and rock the baby.’”

The second part of Failla’s message is that gaining fitness as a 60-year-old is challenging but worth it.

“It’s not going to be easy by any means, and I do understand limitations of older athletes because I coach a lot of them, but if we start small and we get you using your body again, you can get there. … People need to know they can empower themselves to become more fit if that’s what they desire,” she said. 

Contrary to what many believe, you can even increase your strength in your 50s and 60s, Failla added. She went from a 150-lb. back squat at the age of 56 to a 220-lb. back squat at 61, and in her late 50s, she gained the strength to do bar and ring muscle-ups. 

“Being strong can help you so much as you age—just doing household tasks, yard work and gardening, and all the things I want to still be able to do. I want to stay in my home and care for myself and my husband and maybe grandkids at some point down the road. I want to be able to handle those tasks and not have to rely on (others) to help me with everything,” she said.

Failla isn’t a freak of nature when it comes to strength gains in her late 50s. Sciascia has a similar story. She’d never been to a gym before 55. When she started CrossFit, she couldn’t even rack a barbell correctly because “my mobility was rubbish,” she explained. 

“I couldn’t do a pull-up or a chest-to-bar pull-up or a handstand push-up. I couldn’t even get upside down,” she added. Today, she can do all of these things at 60.

Being part of the CrossFit community also keeps Failla and Sciascia emotionally and mentally younger, they said. 

“The fact that every day you line up next to people that are half your age, … we can all bond over the workout and appreciate how performance is affected by so much more than our physical limitations or age,” Sciascia said.

Failla said: “I definitely feel more connected with people of that younger population. I think it does wonders being around young people. It’s no different than my mother wanting to be around us kids. She always says, ‘I don’t want to be around all those old people.’ She’s 91.” 

Failla’s focus on health and fitness has rubbed off on her entire family, including her elderly mother, who—along with Failla’s 65- and 70-year-old sisters—traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, last summer to watch Failla compete.

“My sisters are out there playing with their grandkids in the park and running after them and teaching them to ride their bikes,” Failla said.

Failla’s competition goals remain lofty, but she said she expects being in the oldest age division means it becomes harder and harder to return to the Games each year. She also knows even when her CrossFit Games competition days are over, her CrossFit days will still continue, she said. 

Final Masters Divisions Results

Masters Women 35-39

  1. Samantha Briggs
  2. Rebecca Voigt
  3. Kirsten Pedri

Masters Men 35-39

  1. Justin King
  2. Alexandre Jolivet
  3. Josh Bridges

Masters Women 40-44

  1. Stephanie Roy
  2. Joey Kimdon
  3. Erin Carter

Masters Men 40-44

  1. Jeff Fotti
  2. Neal Maddox
  3. Shawn Ramirez

Masters Women 45-49

  1. Cheryl Brost
  2. Kathleen Mitchell
  3. Tonia Osborne

Masters Men 45-49

  1. Bill Grundler
  2. Steve Johnson
  3. James Grundler

Masters Women 50-54

  1. Marcha Van Glaanen Weijgel
  2. Trisha Beauperthuy
  3. Kim Holway

Masters Men 50-54

  1. Christian Biagi
  2. Cliff Musgrave
  3. Jeff Dempsey

Masters Women 55-59

  1. Sue Velott
  2. Hylie Thompson
  3. Colleen Fahey

Masters Men 55-59

  1. Stuart Swanson
  2. Brig Edwards
  3. Shannon Aiken

Masters Women 60+

  1. Patty Failla
  2. Pauline Sciascia
  3. Pia Gund

Masters Men 60+

  1. David Hippensteel
  2. Rodrigo Dominguez
  3. Matt Bell