February 10, 2012
Exposed to Pain: Fortune Santos
By Shelby Levy
The 41-year-old mother of three was in 2nd place overall heading into the Event 4 at the 2011 South East Regional.
The 41-year-old mother of three was in 2nd place overall heading into the Event 4 at the 2011 South East Regional.


A Bad Tear
Fortune Santos knows pain. And we’re not talking typical soreness and fatigue. The 41-year-old mother of three was in 2nd place overall heading into the Event 4 at the 2011 South East Regional, but the fateful “100s” event (100 pull-ups, 100 kettlebell swings, 100 double-unders, 100 overhead squats) would forever leave its mark.
Only two minutes into the 100 pull-ups, her hands were torn deeply, but Santos chose to continue the workout.
“I continued through the WOD, but the pain was getting worse,” Santos says. “The 100 kettlebell swings where the pood had to be straight up in the air kept slipping out of my hands due to the wet blood. By the time I got to the 100 overhead squats, my hands could barely grasp the bar. In fact, I touched the bar and immediately took my hands off. ‘Have to do what I can,’ I said to myself. Twenty-two reps, and the clock says time.”
Dropping Out
Santos had to drop out of the competition, finishing 13th overall. It was three months before she could use her hands to do just about anything again. Despite the pain, she is intent on making it to the Games in 2012.
“I am in the best shape ever, having actually never stopped training,” she says. “In CrossFit, when one part of your body is broke, you need not worry, there is plenty of other stuff to work on.” 
Santos says she has spent the last four years training for the 2012 CrossFit Games, perpetuating a lifelong intense work ethic. She used to train 30 or more hours per week as a competitive gymnast. At the age of 18, Santos became interested in competitive bodybuilding and spent most of her adult life winning titles with the National Physique Committee. 
​Finding CrossFit
Adrianna Grassis, a close friend and owner of CrossFit Hardcore, who told her, “If you’re anybody in the industry, you will be teaching CrossFit”, introduced her to CrossFit.   
Santos took Grassis’ advice and opened CrossFit HardBodies in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in 2008. “By being an owner, I enjoy the freedom of having access to the weights, ropes, and whatever else I decide I want to train with that day and being able to be as mean and aggressive as I feel like with nobody to question why I’m doing what I’m doing,” she says.  
Competing in CrossFit
Santos accidentally discovered that she was competitive in CrossFit when she participated in a competition at CrossFit Evolution in 2009. There, 44 affiliate owners competed in a clean and jerk/rope climb workout. Santos had never lifted 95-pounds before, but ended up placing third overall, behind only two men.  
Not lacking confidence, Santos went to the South East Regional in 2010 assuming she would make it to the Games. “I’d never seen girls as aggressive as I am. Well, they exist in CrossFit, and they come out at Regionals,” she says. She ended up receiving a DNF on the third workout, missing her last two muscle-ups, an experience Santos described as “torture.”
Santos went back to her gym and intensified her training to go after a spot to the 2011 Games. Ten weeks prior to the Open, Santos was struck with an illness that left her with breathing difficulties. Thankful for being given an extra week to complete the first WOD in the Open so that she could continue to heal, she says the Open made her “better than ever,” and she came into the Regional ranked 8th.
Twice as Smart and Twice as Hard
Santos says she thinks her age makes her an underdog. “CrossFitting at 41 is the same as CrossFitting at any age except the fact that my ability to recover is not as great as my younger counterparts,” she says. “Being the underdog, I have to train twice as hard and twice as smart in order to keep up with the younger, faster competitors. I give it 110 percent and wherever it lands me, I am still happy with the result, even if the result isn’t what I was after.”
Santos’ pursuit of her goals has never waned and she’s hoping this is the year she makes it to the Games. “If God allows me to make it to the Games this year, my goal will be to end up in the top 12. Maybe just a dream, but everybody’s allowed to have one. I am pursuing mine.”