March 16, 2012
Tougher than Lawn Bowling: Mark Gomes
By Chris Cooper

Mark Gomes was setting up for a snatch session when he caught himself watching the CrossFit group across the gym. Again.

“They looked like they were having way more fun than I was,” says the former competitive Olympic Weightlifter. “They were climbing ropes, swinging stuff around. I was doing the same thing I'd done in 1971.”

 "I want more Masters to know that there's tougher stuff out there than lawn bowling. You don't have to limit yourself."

Back then he was a good competitive weightlifter. When he realized 30 years later he needed to get in shape, he went straight back to the sport he knew best.

Searching for a place with platforms and bumper plates, Gomes found CrossFit Oshawa on the Internet. The website listed a weightlifting club and he signed up, only to find that he was virtually the only member. He began teaching himself how to snatch, clean and squat all over  And he got more than he bargained for.

After a Masters Weightlifting event he found particularly frustrating, he started trying different CrossFit exercises. He soon realized he’d need coaching and cut a deal with Oshawa owner Kevin Bowles. He offered to coach Olympics lifts at the box in turn for Bowles coaching.

He's making progress. Enough progress that he’s hung up his competitive aspirations in weightlifting, and is pursuing the Masters 60-plus Division instead.

"I didn't compete at weightlifting for fun. It's not fun; it's competition,” Gomes explains. “CrossFit workouts are fun. In Olympic lifting, if one little thing goes wrong, it's months of preparation gone. In CrossFit, you can redeem yourself in another movement, or in the next round."

Gomes would love to see more Masters-age athletes pursue CrossFit. "Few people pick up Olympic weightlifting as a sport after the age of 30," he notes. "You can start CrossFit anytime."

Gomes says the sport of weightlifting can learn from CrossFit. "In the weightlifting world, there's this sense that 'CrossFit is stealing our stuff.' But really, CrossFit is bringing more people to weightlifting than the weightlifters are,” he says. “We shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. We should learn from that."

He adds that it's much harder to quit CrossFit. “It's more like rugby than golf – you all fight together and then at the end you're all friends. You never leave and want to punch someone.”

Gomes, with the help of his coach, has strategies to approaching the Open and training. "I try to do all of the workouts at CrossFit Oshawa as prescribed, because the Masters weights will be a bit lighter in the Open.”

Gomes is now on the sidelines of Olympic weightlifting. He volunteers as a referee, and as a coach, but he's headed into the center ring of the CrossFit Masters class. He'd like to inspire more people to do CrossFit. "I want more Masters to know that there's tougher stuff out there than lawn bowling. You don't have to limit yourself."