As they battled the Worm, CrossFit Idol team members barked at each other in Russian. Their judge, on bended knee, shouted out reps—and no reps—in English, his hand signals exaggerated. When the heat ended, judges talked to each other in everything from English and German to Italian and Finnish.
“I think it’s totally awesome,” said Adrian Bozman, a Head Judge at the Meridian Regional at La Caja Mágica in Madrid, Spain, as he stood in a judge’s lounge surrounded by people who hailed from all over the globe.
And it’s a sharp contrast from the California Regional in Del Mar, California, where athletes from a single state in the world’s third-largest country compete.
“Geographically (California) is the smallest Regional,” explained Bozman, a longtime member of CrossFit Inc.’s Seminar Staff. He also was a Head Judge at the California Regional the preceding weekend. “It has more of a family-reunion feel.”
The Meridian, meanwhile, has a festival atmosphere, he said.
“Everyone has to travel to get here,” Bozman noted.
Team and individual athletes represent 27 countries at this year’s Meridian Regional.
Walk anywhere inside La Caja Mágica and you’ll hear multiple languages being spoken—and chanted—and many different flags being waved.
“It’s really cool,” Games commentator Sean Woodland said. “There’s a lot of national pride.”
Even more so than the Pacific Regional, the Meridian Regional solidifies CrossFit as an international phenomenon, fellow commentator Bill Grundler said.
“When we look up on the Leaderboard and we see flags we’re not used to seeing … it’s really cool.”
Although she had great support in 2015 when she competed in the Atlantic Regional, Sam Briggs said the Meridian Regional is unparalleled.
“The atmosphere and the people here are like nothing else,” said the 2013 Games champion shortly after finishing Event 3. The Meridian Regional crowd erupted every time emcees said her name.
Plus, more of her friends are able to take the short 2.5-hour flight from London, England, to Madrid, than they are the much longer flight to the United States, Briggs noted.
“(A lot of them) can’t go to America, so this is their Games,” she explained.
Annie Thorisdottir, who is competing in her eighth Regional, said she considers the Meridian Regional CrossFit’s unofficial European championship.
“Which, I feel, makes it more special,” she said.
Behind the scenes, when it comes to communicating with athletes, the struggle is not in language—the vast majority speak English—but in cultural interpretation, said Jobst Olschewski, who is an athlete liaison at the Regional.
“It’s a fun challenge for me,” said Olschewski, a native of Germany who lives in South Africa and speaks French and Portuguese in addition to English and German.
Sometimes the best method of communication is simple hand signals, noted Olschewski, also a longtime member of Seminar Staff.
He added: “The spectrum is much bigger than other regions.”
Still, despite dozens of nationalities, athletes, spectators, volunteers and staff all have one shared culture: CrossFit.
“The Russian team hardly speaks English,” Woodland said, “but we still have something in common.”
Olschewski echoed that statement.
“The different cultures, as different as they are, (are able) to co-exist,” he said.
CrossFit, he added, is “that connection point.”
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