March 11, 2014
Newest Athlete Out of Iceland Sits in Top 15
By Facundo Etchecolatz

"Björgvin is a natural-born athlete and he will do great in whatever sport. He learns very fast and is always aware of good movements ..." ~Erik Lau Kelner

Photos by James Sefton

Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson is the newest member of a small group.

Iceland, the least populated country in Europe with just more than 300,000 people, has produced some of the finest CrossFit athletes in the world. Not only is it home to two-time CrossFit Games champion Annie Thorisdottir, but also to Games athletes Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir and Thuridur Erla Helgadottir, as well as regional athletes Hjördís Ósk Óskarsdóttir and Jakob Magnusson, and now, Gudmundsson.

Two weeks into the 2014 Open, the 21-year-old is among the top 15 individual men in Europe. He lives in Hverageroi, 45 km east of Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, and is dedicating himself fully to training and coaching at CrossFit Hengill.

He was introduced to CrossFit two years ago when his brother registered him for the 2012 Open.

“I remember that I didn’t have an option. He forced me to test it,” Gudmundsson said.

“Before that, I had heard of CrossFit only due to the fact that Annie Mist Thorisdottir was the world champion. (I) probably knew of it simply because she is Icelandic,” he said. “My first workout was 12.1, an AMRAP of seven minutes of burpees. The experience was awful, but something happened there that made me come back again and again and again.”

 In 2013, Gudmundsson finished eighth in the Open in Europe, earning him a chance to compete at the regional.

Prior to joining CrossFit Hengill, he trained at CrossFit Reykjavik, where he was surrounded by some of the sport’s top talent in Thorisdottir, Frederik Aegidius, Davidsdottir and Helgadottir.

“I was really lucky to get the chance to train and learn from all these incredible athletes,” Gudmundsson said. “I guess I was showing some serious progress from the beginning and I got a lot of help from them.”

“Of course I remember the first time that I met Thorisdottir. At first, it was something unreal. With time, it became more normal and I gladly became her training partner for some time.”

Traveling to train in Reykjavik entailed driving 120 km (75 miles) daily. Gudmundsson soon understood that he needed to adjust his lifestyle and set some priorities if he wanted to become an elite athlete.

“After I graduated from school, I decided not to go to university. Instead, I wanted to use all my time to see what my body and mind can do in competitive CrossFit,” he said.

The focus paid off as Gudmundsson finished ninth at the 2013 Europe Regional.

“I had no specific preparation for this competition. I just wanted to try it and do my best. You can’t do more than that,” he said.

During the competition, Gudmundsson finished fifth in two events, including the infamous 100s event (100 wall-ball shots, 100 chest-to-bar pull-ups, 100 one-legged squats and 100 dumbbell snatches).

“I had little experience in competing in the Sport of Fitness when I did the 2013 Europe Regional,” he said. “I remember that the 100s felt miserable. It was just the craziest workout I had ever done. I was happy with the result, though.”

“Last year’s regional taught me many things,” he continued. “How to set up my mind for competition, but also how extremely important it is to get enough calories for competition.”

Helgadottir said she admires Gudmundsson for his competitiveness and focus.

“I would say that his mindset plays a big role in his success. He keeps calm and works on his goal. He doesn’t let anything put him off track,” Helgadottir said.

Competing was not new for Gudmundsson. He trained and competed in gymnastics for nine years and in soccer for more than 14. He believes his background made some things easier for him in CrossFit.

“Throughout my career as a gymnast, I learned valuable things that translate well into any sport,” he said. “I was young and inexperienced, but had to compete with stronger and older athletes. There was a culture of training very hard and of being determined and fully committed to your goals. You learn to compete.”

“These disciplines gave me good awareness of my body and what I can do with it,” he said.

Despite Gudmundsson's solid background in gymnastics, he said the workouts he enjoys the most include Olympic weightlifting. His personals bests include a 265-lb. snatch, 309-lb. clean and jerk, 419-lb. back squat, 380-lb. front squat and 463-lb. deadlift.

Gudmundsson’s weightlifting coach, Erik Lau Kelner, describes Gudmundsson as “one of a kind.”

“Björgvin is a natural-born athlete and he will do great in whatever sport. He learns very fast and is always aware of good movements. This allows him to stay technical and efficient when he is exhausted during a workout,” Kelner said.

“Björgvin is amazingly good at figuring out what to train, how to train it and going hard, yet staying safe,” Kelner continued. “What I have primarily been doing for him is to convey knowledge about weightlifting, but I have done that for a lot of people and nobody has been able to take that in as quickly and get as much out of it as Björgvin has. Put in simpler terms, he has a very high athlete IQ.”

Since September 2012, Gudmundsson has been following The Training Plan, a personalized training program by Jami Tikkanen, coach of Thorisdottir.

“I train seven days a week. Two of them are active rest days and on regular days, I train up to three times a day, or three to five hours,” Gudmundsson said. “Jami’s program has given me all kinds of results, both physical and mental. I believe that in a short time, I have made pretty good progress.”

“On rest days, I cannot really rest,” he continued. “I usually go to soccer practice to get some (running) into the training. I also spend a lot of time on my mobility, integrating it into my daily routines. I also enjoying swimming, and in Iceland we are fortunate to have excellent swimming facilities.”

Gudmundsson is excited for his shot at regionals.

“I think that we will see something great at regionals,” he said. “Hopefully something that people are unfamiliar with, and that is what I am looking for. I love the unexpected.”

He is among Europe’s top-15 men in the Open after two weeks. In 14.1, he finished 44th with 390 reps. In 14.2 he is currently placed second with a total of 338 reps (unofficial).

“(Open Workout) 14.1 was OK, but not really my kind of workout. The weight on the snatch was too low and I needed to adjust my technique to move faster. I didn’t really like that,” he said. “(Open Workout) 14.2 was my jam. I did it the day it was announced. I got 338 reps and had fun all the way. For the rest of the workouts I'm feeling great. The goal is not necessarily to finish in top places in the Open because I'm mostly looking at regionals."