The CrossFit Ethos Through the Ages

January 26, 2023

Kelley Laxton

The CrossFit ethos is on display during each stage of the CrossFit Games season. Here are some of the most memorable stories from Games history.

"If you want to know what defines the CrossFit brand, turn to our ethos. And if you want to know what defines our ethos, turn to the methodology." — Nicole Carroll 

Just as Nicole Carroll stated in "The CrossFit Ethos," the CrossFit methodology naturally develops values that characterize the CrossFit community, such as ethics and discipline, resilience and grit, and humility.

We see these values in affiliates around the world. We also see them in athletes who compete during the CrossFit Games season — no matter the stage of competition. 

Throughout 15 years of the CrossFit Games, athletes have exemplified the tenacity it takes to test their fitness, learn from the experience, and improve. They have shown the true meaning of perseverance and discipline, whether as a busy mother finding time to compete in the Open or a CrossFit Games athlete vying for the title of Fittest on Earth. The athletes face failure often, and their weaknesses are shown on a leaderboard and even on live TV for all to see. Then, they go back to the drawing board, motivated to train even harder and return the following year with a vengeance. 

The CrossFit ethos is on display during each stage of the Games season. Here are some of the most memorable stories from CrossFit Games history. 

The First Blind CrossFit Games Athlete 

Kevin Maijer

“I was hitting one PR after another. I was learning how to do bar muscle-ups. I was super motivated,” Kevin Maijer said in a YouTube video in 2020. “My ultimate goal was to compete in CrossFit. Not at the highest level. I'm not even close to that.”

This video was filmed just months after Maijer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), causing him to go blind. He was listing off everything he had lost since his vision suddenly disappeared. 

But in 2022, Maijer not only qualified for the highest level of CrossFit competition but also became the first blind CrossFit Games athlete.


Always Open

Always Open

Jennifer Abel is probably busier than you.

Abel, 31, works the graveyard shift as a 911 public-safety dispatcher for the California Highway Patrol. She has two kids, ages 9 and 11, and her husband works out of town during the week.

Even with this busy and unconventional schedule, Abel finds time to fit in an Open workout every week for five weeks.

She looks at it like this: The Open workouts are announced at 5 p.m. Pacific Time (PT), and scores are due by 5 p.m. PT on Monday. That's 96 hours.

"You can find at least 20 minutes in those 96 hours to do one workout,” she said.

Brandon Gadoci, 38, has kids aged 9 and 8 and travels every week for work. Gadoci often uses odd spaces and equipment to train when he’s on the road, but he’s done the Open six out of the seven years. He has a very specific strategy for fitting Open workouts into his busy life.

“Do the workout once, and do it where it doesn’t get in the way of doing things with your family or it doesn’t affect your mindset for a whole week, because as important as it is for you to do well, your 8- and your 9-year-old (kids) don’t really care,” Gadoci said.

It’s easy to let the crush of everyday life get in the way of the Open, but as Abel and Gadoci know, where there’s a will, there’s a way.


Rebecca Fuselier Climbs Up the Capitol

The stairs are looming.

Rebecca Fuselier stands at the base of the capitol building looking up at the punishing path ahead of her, the 150-lb Husafell sitting at her feet. The time of tribulation was just beginning.

At the base of each landing, Fuselier bends down into a squat, resting her head in her hands. She raises her eyes to look up at the mountain still to climb before standing back up to conquer another flight.

No other competitors are chasing her down. No time cap to dismiss her suffering. It seems as though Fuselier has no force to push her forward besides her own grit and determination.

But she's not alone.

Pausing on the platform, rubbing her hands together as if in prayer, she turns her head to see hundreds of fans rallying at the rear.

Fuselier hoists the bag up with her admirers following close behind, climbing the final hill until she reaches the peak.

Welcome to CrossFit.


73-Year-Old Does the CrossFit Games Open

Nancy Hoshaw survived a heart attack at 48 and breast cancer at 60. At 73, she's entering the CrossFit Games Open, which kicked off Feb. 25. While some compete to be named Fittest on Earth, Hoshaw is competing with time and age—and she's winning.

After seeing decrepit women on a trip to Israel, Hoshaw decided a slow slide into a retirement home wasn't for her.

"My goal is to stay healthy and independent. I cherish my independence,” she says.

Her coach at CrossFit Bay Area in Webster, Texas, is two-time CrossFit Games athlete Jordan Cook. Cook describes CrossFit as a lifestyle, noting how the community keeps people active and energized while they preserve and improve function.

"The whole point of … functional fitness is not just to get better at fitness but to help us in our everyday life,” Cook explains.

While Hoshaw was dead set against doing the Open last year, she's all in for 2016. When Cook shared an Instagram video of Hoshaw preparing for the five-week competition about a month ago, she inspired people around the world and found more motivation herself.

"I feel like I can encourage other people, but at the same time I'm encouraged myself,” she says. 'It's amazing the doors that you can open if you just … give it a try.”


Annie Thorisdottir's Shocking 200-lb Snatch

"This moment is one of the many incredible highlights of my year so far, and even my professional career as a whole.

"I love it, not just because I got a postpartum one-rep-max PR, but because of what happened and the lesson I learnt.

"As you probably know, I failed the first rep.

"It would have been so easy to fail the next lift, by letting doubt and fear take over or by being afraid to try again.

"It's a choice. You either let it get to you, or you get back up, give it your all and go again. We all know what happened next.

"That next lift was the culmination of all the training I've done not just in the gym, but on my mindset too so that when those moments do happen, whether it's the CrossFit games or whether it's in everyday life, I can get back up, learn from my failures, try again and WIN!"


The Open While Pregnant: Megan Ellis

Megan Ellis

At first, (Megan Ellis) wasn't sure how to deal with her Regional experience.

"I literally had to teach myself how to make what I could only see as failure, work for me,” she says.

Then she remembered the Open. The weekly workouts were something she enjoyed. She decided she'd sign up for the Open again in 2013.

Soon after, she learned she was pregnant with twins.

Throughout the offseason, she has been training with a growing 'weight vest' and a couple weeks ago, she met her promise by signing up for the Open — at 26 weeks pregnant.  

"For me, there wasn't even a second thought to whether I would still register and compete,” she says. “I can't express enough how awesome it feels to be in the Open atmosphere. To submit your scores and see where you are in the world. It's just amazing and I don't want to not have those moments just because I won't be at the level I was last year.”

The body awareness she has learned through CrossFit training is one tool she'll use when gauging how hard she can push in each Open Workout.


Froning vs. Froning: Revenge of the Rope Climbs

Sometimes failure is just the beginning.


Fear Nothing: Deborah Cordner Carson at the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games

Deborah Cordner

At the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games, an overwhelming fear of the open water kept Deborah Cordner Carson from completing the 210-meter ocean swim.

Determined to keep that moment from defining her in the minds of the CrossFit community, she stood anxiously on the beach at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games. Several times, she talked herself out of entering the ocean. With the promise that she would be accompanied by a paddle boarder for the entire swim, she took the plunge into the unfamiliar waters and completed the swim portion of the event, earning her the admiration of her fellow athletes, the Spirit of the Games award and 13th place overall.

Never leaving her side during that choppy ocean swim was paddle boarder, Tyson Poppler. A bond was formed between the CrossFit St. Paul athlete and Poppler, who operates a standing paddleboard company on the California coastline. In preparation for her return to the CrossFit Games, she is taking a trip to California to meet with Poppler and to demolish whatever is left of the fear she faced last July."


The Diabetic Teens Competing at CrossFit's Highest Level

Diabetic Teens Competing at the Highest Level of CF

CrossFit Games athletes choose to quantify many aspects of their lives to excel in the sport. From the amount of protein they consume to their average strain-to-recovery ratio, making it to the top is all about numbers. 

But for 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games teen athletes Delaney Wade and Michel Jean, quantifying their life is essential to their health.

Both athletes were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as teenagers, forcing them to mature quickly and begin measuring blood-sugar levels and closely monitoring their diet — not just for success in the gym, but for their very well-being. 

Although physical activity increases the effectiveness of insulin, muscles use glucose, which lowers blood-sugar levels, throwing another wrench into the already formidable environment of competition. But that hasn't kept these two elite athletes from succeeding in one of the most strenuous tests of fitness in the world.


From 300 Pounds to 30 Muscle-Ups for Time

300 lb to 30 muscle-ups for time

The night before the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games began, Jared Enderton posted to Instagram.

“If I can do it, so can you.”

Above were side-by-side photos of the 29-year-old Games rookie. One featured a grinning, flexing Games athlete in uniform; the other, an impassive young man with a belly.

“Ten years ago I weighed 300 lb., and tomorrow I’ll be one of 40 men competing for the title of Fittest on Earth at the CrossFit Games,” he wrote.