For 24 years, Emily Bridgers has competed in a sport.
Her body no longer wants to keep pace.
“My training age is old,” she said. “The best of the best in this sport continue to evolve.”
So, between events Friday night at the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games, she announced her retirement to a packed venue.
With crutches in her armpits, Bridgers hobbled her way onto a corner of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin, to bid her farewell—one she had planned for almost exactly one year.
“I knew the second the Games were over last year this would be my last year,” the 31-year-old said in the basement of the Coliseum after taking her public bow.
She continued: “It’s just a shame I couldn’t end on a high note.”
During The Battleground event Friday morning, Bridgers injured her left ankle during a bad dismount off the 11.5-ft. rope wall on the obstacle-course run. After she climbed over the wall and made it to the opposite side, she hung from the horizontal metal pole at the top and let go. It’s the same tactic she executed last year on a similar course with one notable difference: This time, she was wearing a 14-lb. vest.
Her left foot landed on loosely packed sand and rolled unnaturally.
“I went down and the medic came over.”
At the time, she didn’t feel pain—adrenaline, she assumed.
“If we take you off the course, your CrossFit Games are over,” the medic told her.
At that point, Bridgers didn’t know if she had broken bones or torn ligaments. She did know it was unlikely she’d finish the event before the 12-minute time cap. She still had the rest of the obstacle-course run to complete, as well as 2 rope climbs and dragging 185-lb. Rescue Randy 132 ft. down the North Park field.
“I heard the 2-minute warning and took it as, ‘This is it.’”
X-rays did not reveal broken bones, so Bridgers is assuming she tore some ligaments near her ankle, which popped out of place twice shortly after the poor landing. In the meantime, she’s staying mobile via a walking fracture boot and crutches.
Including this year, Bridgers has competed in seven Regionals and five Games. Her best finish was sixth place in 2014, her rookie year at the Games.
She remembered that year fondly, saying that at the time she couldn’t comprehend athletes who said “I’m gonna try my best and have fun.”
“Then, after three years, I was like, ‘I’m gonna try my best and have fun,’” Bridgers said with her quintessentially wide smile.
For her part, she said she feels she’s reached her potential in some areas and sees the new generation of female Games athletes as “scary.”
“I don’t want to compete with that,” she said and laughed.
Plus, competing when she’s not doing well is no fun for her.
“I haven’t adapted well,” Bridgers said. “I never transitioned well from Regionals to the Games. Because I really did want to win.”
In addition to accelerating her retirement date, the injury also is likely to change her travel plans. She and husband and coach Ben Benson might cut their trip short by two days and leave on Monday, she said on Friday evening.
“I have an affiliate to focus on. I want to start a family.”
Training six hours a day, Bridgers noted, is a mentally and physically taxing routine that leaves little time for other activities.
“At some point, you have to let go of ‘My life is winning the Games.’”
She added: “I’m glad I had the opportunity to thank the fans.”