For Each and For All

February 6, 2014

Andrea Signor

“I’ll never be on ESPN. But in a small way, I’m part of it.”
~Mike White

Photo by David Paul Wood Jr.

Photo by Kelli Groskopf

Photo by Kelli Groskopf

Mike and Kristina White before CrossFit. 

Each month, Korina Velasco scrimps and saves to pay her tuition, rent, grocery bills and monthly membership to South Vegas CrossFit in Las Vegas.

“I make certain things not happen so I can do CrossFit,” said the college student and part-time waitress. 

This year, she’s stretching her finances a little more to participate in the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open. She knows the odds of placing high are low; she knows she has little chance of qualifying for Regionals; but that didn’t stop her from spending that precious 20 bucks to register.

And she’s not alone.

In 2013, more than 138,000 people signed up for the Open, but fewer than 100 made it to the individual competition. Why?

“The CrossFit Games are about more than just crowning a champion,” said Justin Bergh, General Manager of the CrossFit Games. “The Open level is a great, big measuring stick. Maybe it's you against yourself, your brother or every other guy your age in the world. But I think that's part of why people love competing at anything. You find out where you stack up.”

These “average-Joe” athletes compete for a myriad of reasons. Some want to test their limits to see if they can complete all five workouts, while others want to see where they stack up next to their friends or favorite athletes. And others have deeper reasons to take on the Open.

To prove something to myself

Vince Oliver did his first CrossFit workout while deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army. After suffering a traumatic brain injury, he struggled with his balance and delayed reaction time.

“I had to start training my body to cope with new problems associated with my injuries,” he wrote in an email. 

“I was scared, but I wouldn’t quit,” he added. “I couldn’t. CrossFit was everything.”

After being medically discharged, Oliver returned home to Arizona where he opened CrossFit Forbidden in 2010. This year, he’s helping lead his team in the Open.

“Ninety-nine percent of my clients are not thinking of winning the Games, but they all compete whether they know it or not,” he said. “The Open is just a (workout) in front of 100,000 people.”

To be a community

In Denver, Carla Aguilar and Kristi LaMonica head to CrossFit Deco at 5:30 a.m. to work out, lift and do yoga.

“The Open is a good opportunity to see where you are and where you can improve,” Aguilar said.

Although Aguilar and LaMonica said they have no specific goals for the Open, the two have been working specifically on pull-ups and double-unders.

“Depending on how serious training gets, I might go to two-a-days,” Aguilar said with a laugh.

Both athletes hope to see personal records and improvements from last year, but the top priority right now is getting fellow gym members to participate. 

“I’m trying to make sure everyone at my gym is signed up,” LaMonica said. “It feels nice to do this as a group, to challenge each other. … We do the workouts together all the time anyway, but … it’s the Open.”

To get off my ass

For years, CrossFit has brought people from the couch to the box.

In 2011, Mike White watched the CrossFit Games on ESPN. The overweight, new father watched as athletes snatched more than 200 lb.  

“It inspired me to get in shape,” he said. “We’d just had our daughter and I thought, ‘What am I going to be able to do with her?’”

When White and his wife, Kristina, joined South Vegas CrossFit in December 2012, owner Arvin Anderson evaluated the couple and gave them his sobering evaluation.

“He told us we had a long road ahead,” Kristina said. “My abilities were basically zero.”

The Whites didn’t compete in the 2013 Open, but they’ve both worked hard for the past year with the Open in mind. Together, the couple has lost more than 100 lb., so far.

And this year, they’re ready.

“I am not under any illusion that this will go beyond the Open,” Kristina said. “But I owe it to that overweight girl who never participated in any sports to do this.”

Mike added: “We’re not premier athletes. The Games are what got me hooked. I’ll never be on ESPN. But in a small way, I’m part of it.”