October 5, 2013
Chat With a Former Champ
By Nicole Evans

"CrossFit training seems to make people able to do more and more exponentially, so I can't even imagine what the future Games will look like or what the expectation will be for the competitors there."

Above and below: Tanya Wagner at the 2009 CrossFit Games

Tanya Wagner is an OG.

The 2009 CrossFit Games champ first appeared on the competitive scene at the 2008 Games where she took second to Caity Matter Henniger. The next year, she returned to Aromas, Calif., and won.

Over the last six years, she has witnessed the evolution of CrossFit and gained knowledge and experience few others have had the privilege to share.

Wagner is still heavily involved in CrossFit, acting as a commentator for the Games season. She also continues to compete, despite her decision to pull out of Regionals this year because she is expecting her second child in December.

I talked with Wagner about the ever-more challenging Games programming, past champ invites, the future of CrossFit and more.

What are your thoughts on the evolution of CrossFit?

I think the evolution of CrossFit training as a sport is amazing … There is a true definition of what fitness is and what it means to be healthy.

The Games have evolved so fast. I always knew they would be so much different than the first few years, but never could I imagine that would happen this quickly. Back in 2009, it would have been crazy for someone to take time off of work to train, but now, nobody would bat an eyelash at it. 

Would you say the CrossFit Games have become more challenging each year?

It's hard to say “more challenging” because the level of athlete becomes more skilled and stronger every year. While on paper the events and challenges seem much more difficult, it's hard to say … The 2008 Tanya doing the 2012 Regional would have said that was harder than the 2008 Games. But in 2008, that was the hardest thing I had ever done and hardest I had ever pushed myself. Now, the 2008 Games would be a warm-up to these athletes.

However, the creativity and surprise elements of the Games, I believe, test a more difficult skill set than they used to, and I think that will continue to be the case, and it has to be in order to find the fittest man and woman on earth.

Have the programmers of the Games ever gone too far? Is a 265-lb. deadlift or the Pendleton Event, for example, too much to ask of the athletes?

No. In my opinion, Dave Castro hasn't fallen off his rocker ... yet. The athletes all survived and most were capable of that capacity and skill. Some weren't, but I bet they got better, and if they were tested again in that element, they would be better.

How has your experience as a CrossFit athlete helped you as a commentator for the CrossFit Games season? 

I get the feeling that I'm competing every time I'm in the announcing booth. To me, it's the next closest thing to being out there. I don't think I would be able to express what I'm seeing and get into the athletes’ heads if I weren't a competitor myself and already been through grueling days of competition.

What are your thoughts on past champ invites to the Games?

I could go either way on this one. There are many factors that come into play with athletes being invited to the Games and I believe in most cases, it's a cool thing to do for the competition because of the caliber of athlete that has proven they can show up to the Games and be a threat.

It's awesome to see how an athlete changes from year to year, but I won the Games and probably have a different mindset than most because, what if that was me who was invited? 

What if you did receive an invite to the Games? Would you accept?

Yes, most likely. I'd accept as long as I was healthy and could be competitive with the playing field.

What do you see in the future for CrossFit?

I have no idea! More craziness, I'm sure, and incredible acts of skill and strength that will surprise us all. CrossFit training seems to make people able to do more and more exponentially, so I can't even imagine what the future Games will look like or what the expectation will be for the competitors there.

As for CrossFit training in the world, I know that it will continue to flip people's thinking upside down in terms of what they are capable of doing at their age, at their weight and at their level of ability. It will continue to make incredibly fit people — young and old — as well as give them confidence to go do things and live life in ways they would have otherwise been nervous or unsure of doing. 

So, will the former champ ever return to the competition scene?

Winning (in 2009) felt unreal and didn't truly sink in for a few months. I couldn't believe it … I have always wanted to come back after having kids and that is still a goal of mine.