Twenty-one-year-old Justin Medeiros was named Rookie of the Year in Stage 1 of the 2020 CrossFit Games when he became the only first-year qualifier — and the youngest man in the field — to make it into the top five and punch his ticket to Aromas.
In a recent Instagram post, CrossFit Director of Sport Dave Castro called Medeiros “the future of CrossFit,” saying, “Regardless of where (Medeiros) ends up this weekend, his very presence here represents the seismic shift that is occurring in the sport.”
“Who is Justin Medeiros???” This was the question everyone was asking after Stage 1 of the 2020 @crossfitgames, when @justin_medeiros34 🇺🇸 overcame a slow start to finish third, a comfortable 60 points above the cut line. As the only first year qualifier, he’s already been named Rookie of The Year. At this point, Justin is probably better known for his magnificent helmet of curly brown hair, which he has styled into a mullet. On a podcast last week, Dave was asked what he thinks is the ideal preparation for a successful career in competitive CrossFit. His answer? “CrossFit.” This, as it happens, perfectly describes Justin’s athletic background. The youngest man competing in Stage 2 started @crossfit when he was 12. By age 17, he was the 19th fittest teen in the world. Since making his adult debut in 2017, he’s never finished outside the top 500 in the world. Regardless of where he ends up this weekend, his very presence here this weekend represents the seismic shift that is occurring in the sport—the future of CrossFit has arrived. ✍🏽: @christinedca 📷: @flsportsguy
Medeiros Came to Play
During the opening event of the 2020 CrossFit Games Finals, the athlete from Vancouver, Washington, made a statement: He’s here to compete. Event 1, 2007 Reload, challenged the men to a quintessential CrossFit workout: a 1,500-m row followed by 5 rounds of 10 bar muscle-ups and 7 push jerks at a challenging weight of 235 lb.
In his first in-person Games event, Medeiros, donning his already famous curly mullet, held his own, keeping pace with reigning Fittest Man on Earth Mat Fraser. Although Fraser took the win — by just 7 seconds over Medeiros — Castro asserted that Medeiros’ performance might be more compelling than the champ’s.
“In his first Games event, this rookie hung with the reigning Fittest Man on Earth,” Castro wrote on Instagram.
One minute before the start of the men’s heat of Event 1, Dave makes a small announcement. “There’s not going to be any music, so don’t be expecting it.” When the clock beeps, the first event of the 2020 @crossfitgames commences in near silence. The only sounds are of rowers, traffic from the 101, and the occasional click of cameras. By round 2, @mathewfras 🇺🇸 seems to be in full command of this event. He’s cycling 235# so cleanly he appears to be lifting a lighter barbell. The pace and the load finally catch up with him in the last round, where he abruptly fails a rep. It’s a small opening for @justin_medeiros34 🇺🇸, who is only a few jerks behind, but Mat polishes off his final rep and crosses the finish line 7 seconds ahead. Mat’s win is notable, but Justin’s performance might be even more compelling. In his first Games event, this rookie hung with the reigning fittest man in Earth. ✍🏽: @christinedca 📷: @flsportsguy
And it wasn’t a fluke. Medeiros, who’s been doing CrossFit since the age of 12, would continue to prove he can hang with the best throughout the rest of the weekend.
He Can Run — on His Hands and His Feet
In Handstand Sprint, Medeiros was on Fraser’s heels the entire time, utilizing a unique strategy of kicking down every 5 yards or so over the 100-yard inverted walk. He finished less than 6 seconds behind Fraser, who took first.
In the treacherous Ranch Loop, Medeiros hung with Fraser for the entire first half of the event, sprinting to what they thought was the finish. And when Castro surprised the athletes by telling them they now had to turn around and run the course in reverse, Medeiros didn’t skip a beat. He kept going and eventually finished in second — again — behind Fraser in first.
@mathewfras 🇺🇸 is the first athlete to appear on top of the hill overlooking the finish line. A minute later, he becomes the first athlete to cross it. Before he even comes to a complete stop, he’s intercepted by Dave, who steers him to the right. Hard right. 180 degrees right. The hell? “Now turn around and run the whole course backwards,” Dave says. At first, Mat seems to think he’s joking. When it’s apparent that he’s not, he flips Dave off. A few seconds go by before Mat takes off again, visibly displeased. In the meantime, @justin_medeiros34 🇺🇸 jogs in and learns about the trail run twist. As Dave points him back in direction he just came, you can see the realization dawning on him: This is not the finish line. It’s the halfway point. This isn’t the first time Dave has done something like this. In 2014, he briefed the final event as “Grace,” then doubled the reps moments before the clock started. By electing to announce this year’s additional work halfway through the event, he has weaponized that idea. A less devious person might have executed the same surprise by simply waving the athletes on to an additional lap in the same direction. But Dave doesn’t do that. Dave makes the athletes turn around and run the course backwards. Why? Because—as anyone who has ever missed an exit on the interstate knows—there’s something deeply demoralizing about being forced to retrace your steps. Every landmark seems to taunt you. Time itself seems to slow down. What began as challenging physical test is now a an equally exhausting mental test. ✍🏽: @christinedca 📷: @flsportsguy
Medeiros entered the final day of competition in fourth place overall, tied in points with Noah Ohlsen in fifth. After a third-place finish in Swim ‘N’ Stuff, the first event of the day, he gained a 20-point lead over Ohlsen.
Can Medeiros hold on and claim a podium spot in his CrossFit Games debut? Tune in to find out.