I had the great fortune to attend the Meridian Regionals for the 2016 Crossfit Games in Madrid this weekend. All I can say is wow! For those of you who may not know, out of the hundreds of thousands of athletes who enter the Crossfit Open each year, the top 40 men, women and teams in each region qualify for the Regional stage. From here they compete over 3 days and 7 events, with the top 5 in each group progressing to the final in Carson California each July.
This year’s Meridian event was held in Madrid’s Caja Mágica (Magic Box) and magic it certainly was. The atmosphere was positively electric as thousands of fans, cheered, shouted and screamed encouragement. Three long days of events were held, which as a fan I found exhausting, so I can’t begin to imagine how the competitors must have felt!
Through the 7 pre-announced workouts, the athletes were tested in a vast array of areas. From very heavy lifts, to technical gymnastics movements, they had nowhere to hide. The aim of the weekend is to provide a true test of fitness and to ensure the truly elite and well rounded athletes are the ones who will be soaking up the Californian sunshine this July. I couldn’t help but be truly awed and inspired by the display of super human fitness I was seeing. Plenty of beer was needed to salve my feelings of complete inadequacy!
One or two of the events presented a few of the athletes with huge stumbling blocks. There were tasks involved which some of the athletes simply could not perform. One example of this was in the chipper workout. The third exercise the athletes faced in the workout was the overhead squat. At 70kg for the women and 100kg for the men, it was significantly in excess of body weight for almost all of the athletes. Anyone who has attempted the overhead squat will understand just how difficult it is. It is often referred to as the King of the Squats and represents one of the most challenging lifts there is. For a number of the athletes, the weight on the bar was just too heavy. It became a bottle neck for them. They had to continue to try to perform their lifts, while the others in their heat moved on.
For me, watching how these athletes dealt with this particular challenge, was almost more impressive than anything else I witnessed. Some of them would have spent 10 minutes or more making attempt after attempt at the lifts. Watching their follow competitors moving on in the workout, while feeling thousands of eyes on them, and being aware that their Games chance was slipping away. Those minutes must have felt interminable. Each one of them that I saw experience this, did so with a grace and dignity, which I am not sure I would have mustered. It is often said that sport doesn’t build character, it merely reveals it. Well, these men and women certainly revealed a admirable side of theirs.
As I reflected on this over the course of the weekend, it struck me that this is a great metaphor for life. These athletes are at an elite level and yet, they can still be presented with things which cause them to struggle. Life is very much like this. For some of us this struggle could be with our weight. For others, it could be a battle with illness or depression. It could even be the challenge of finding a job, when it seems every door is being closed in your face. Whatever the obstacle, it is how we choose to deal with it, that will ultimately define us.
The ability to dust yourself off and keep going, even in the face of adversity, makes us fairly difficult to defeat. When you feel like you have tried everything, know that there is still something left to try. Be brave and face each challenge with your head held high, even if it has knocked you on your ass before. In his famous poem “If,” Rudyard Kipling asks “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat these two impostors just the same.” These two truly are opposite sides of the same coin. Having watched an amazing display of sporting ability this weekend, I urge us all to just keep picking up that bar. For the real tragedy would be to quit, never knowing how close we were to making that lift xxx