Like Son, Like Father: The Vanmeerbeeks

March 9, 2012

Ben Liuzzi

"My dad has always been very supportive of anything I pursued in sports or my studies, and now I am supportive of anything he wishes to learn in CrossFit."



For 2010 CrossFit Games competitor Richard Vanmeerbeek, the Open is about more than his personal goals. It is about family. Vanmeerbeek’s father, Michel Vanmeerbeek, is also competing and proving to be every bit as strong of a competitor as his son. 

After turning out 109 burpees in 12.1, Michel managed 62 snatches in 12.2. His performances have been competitive and consistent, each performance separately earned 23rd place in the 50-54 Masters Men Division. Overall, he has settled into 7th place. If he can maintain a top 20 position through the next three weeks Michel will earn a berth to the CrossFit Games Masters Competition in Carson, Calif.

Richard is closer to the edge of Europe Regional qualification. After getting 126 burpees and 68 snatches, Richard is in 55th place in Europe.

Involvement in competitive sports runs in the family. “My grandfather is a 14-time national badminton champion, Air Force Colonel, and ex-vice president of the Olympic Committee. Both grandparents ran track. Then, there is my father who was a pro golfer and a pro soccer player at the same time at my age,” Richard explains. “Sports have been my father's job, so since I was little I was taught to understand the many subtle aspects of performance and coaching. There is a continuous transfer of knowledge from him to me and vice versa since I specialized in strength and conditioning.”

That transfer of knowledge now extends to CrossFit, but the roles have been reversed. Junior is now teaching senior. Michel often turns to his son for advice. 

“My dad has always been very supportive of anything I pursued in sports or my studies, and now I am supportive of anything he wishes to learn in CrossFit,” Richard says. “I am his son and his coach, and I hope I am his role model [in CrossFit competition].” 

After taking 43rd in the 2010 CrossFit Games, Richard is keen to return to the big stage for the competition and the community. “Being in that arena at the Home Depot Center is such an exceptional experience, it makes you want to do everything you can to be a part of it once again. I love this sport and that we are surrounded by incredible and humble athletes,” Richard says.

It’s one day, one workout, and one stage at a time for Richard. He is dealing with an ongoing knee issue and, consequently, he’s working to set realistic goals.

“I'd be glad to make it to Regionals just to be a part of it again,” Richard says. “It's going to be a massive event this year. I need to feel that to be motivated for next season.”

Underneath his personal motivation for success in the Open is his commitment to his father. “I want to join my father who is doing it for the first time, I want to be able to give him good tips for each workout.”

Despite such competitive genes, it seems the Vanmeerbeeks can control when and where to compete. The Open has been a “great thing,” Richard says. “There is no competition between us, the competition is with ourselves. We make sure that we perform the best we can, and that is good enough for us.”

When pushed, Richard admits that occasionally some rivalry creeps in, “We have friendly competitions when it comes to the deadlift, our specialty.”