Like all divisions of the CrossFit Games, team competition has evolved.
Gone are the days when a couple of specialists could lead a squad to event wins. Today, all team members must be well-rounded in all general physical skills. In other words: They must be fit.
Fewer teams know that better than the two who have qualified for eight consecutive CrossFit Games: CrossFit Fort Vancouver and CrossFit Invictus.
“There’s no hiding,” said Nuno Costa, who competed on CrossFit Invictus’ Games team from 2009 to 2015. This year he is a team alternate and a coach after competing as an individual at the California Regional in May.
“Everybody has to handstand walk. Everybody has to swim. Everybody has to do chest-to-bar pull-ups on Murph,” Costa said. “Everyone has to do everything now.”
He added of this year’s Invictus team: “There’s nothing really that they can’t do.”
Adam Neiffer, owner of CrossFit Fort Vancouver in Washington state who has competed on the team all eight years, echoed Costa’s sentiments.
“It’s about testing the fittest teams, not individuals.”
As an example, he pointed to CrossFit Mayhem Freedom, which includes four-time Games champion Rich Froning. Froning’s fitness does not carry his entire team, Neiffer noted.
“It’s about a lot more than him.”
Mayhem sat in first overall after six events.
Neiffer continued: “The level of expectation of what teams can do exceeds itself every year.”
These days teams often include regional individual competitors.
“The level of talent for all six team members (has risen),” said CJ Martin, owner of CrossFit Invictus in Southern California as he sat beneath a tent outside Athlete Village at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. “Originally you had one or maybe two standout athletes who could carry the other athletes.”
Each member of the team is now asked to perform “much” higher skills and handle heavier loading, Martin noted.
“They had to swim yesterday,” he said on Friday morning. “Even today’s workout with the rope climb … a lot of women are going to have to start legless.”
Climbing Worm—9-21-21-9 reps for time of Worm clean and jerks and rope ascents—included a rope roughly 5 feet above the crash mat, requiring athletes to complete their first several pulls legless before being able to wrap their feet.
Both Martin and Neiffer credited their affiliates’ cultures with the longevity of their Games teams.
“You gotta have a group of people at your gym that are in it for the right reasons,” Neiffer explained. “It’s not about the individual in the spotlight.”
Qualifying a team for the Games requires simple acts: hard work and selflessness. It’s about the good of the group—not self, Neiffer stressed.
“We have hung our hat on trusting one another.”
That’s an essential element when team training is a year-round endeavor.
“You have to trust each other, you have to rely on one another,” Costa noted. “You’re going to have a bad event, whether as an individual or as a team. … No matter what, it’s OK to ask for help.”
In terms of goals for this year’s Games, both teams were noncommittal.
“Our goal is to compete our asses off every single event. When we’ve done that, we’ve already won,” Neiffer said.
He added: “We’d love to be part of the top 10 (that goes to the final).”
Fort Vancouver won the Affiliate Cup in 2010 and placed second in 2011.
Martin shrugged when asked about his squad’s goals. Invictus stood atop the podium in 2014. The next year, it finished 13th overall.
“I don’t know,” he started. “I don’t care, frankly. In 2014, I didn’t feel any happier when we won than I did in 2015.”
He noted: “Our athletes compete because they love it.”