The CrossFit Games: A First-Hand Account

With the dust settling after the CrossFit Games, and athletes returning to their home countries, we were SO excited to hear from coach Helen about her experience!

Helen qualified for the CrossFit Games as part of Team AOD Fitness, after having placed in the top 5 teams in the virtual European Semi Final, The German Throwdown, in June. The team were invited to attend and compete in the CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisconsin, at the end of July.

With the Coronavirus pandemic still very much a prominent issue, the team had concerns over travel, and were worried how things would come together with regard visas, quarantining, and travel restrictions. To ensure they could train in the lead up to the games (because being confined to a hotel room for the two weeks leading up to the biggest athletic opportunity of their lives would’ve been far from ideal!), they decided to book flights to Dubai, for a two-week training camp before jetting off the the States.

In unimaginable heat, the team trained hard, practicing synchronised movements, swimming, running and other movements and workouts they predicted might feature in the events at the Games. The camp also gave them a chance to unwind and decompress from life back home, and bring their focus onto the week that lay ahead.

Talk us through what happened when you found out that you’d qualified for the CrossFit Games!

“There were tears, lots of happy tears! But then I spent the rest of the night pretty quiet and in a state of shock because I couldn’t quite believe it! Of course I managed to squeeze in a celebratory face time with Hudson (and Adele and Gaz) before it really set it!”

After finding out that you’d qualified, was there ever a point where you thought you might not be able to accept the invitation?

“I was nervous about asking for time off from work, but the five of us [the team of four, plus Adam – the coach] had made a promise to do everything possible to make it happen, no matter what! So I was confident we were all driven enough to make any sacrifices needed.”

There must have been a lot of hurdles (like visas, Covid tests etc) that you had to overcome to get to the States – what was the most nerve-wracking part of that process?

“The scariest hurdle to get through was our final one. We were sat in our hire car at the CrossFit Games car park. Each of the boys had to complete a Covid test before we were allowed to go to registration. The wait in the car seemed like the longest 15 minutes ever – knowing that if anyone’s notification flashed red our CrossFit Games journey was over… when we got the all clear we drove off beeping and shouting in celebration!”

So you made it to the Games! Were there any surprises when you got there?

“The whole experience was just crazy, you really are treated like a celebrity there. The first person I saw when I walked on site was Noah Olsen. No huge surprised but every aspect was even better than I could imagine, the warm up room was crazy!”

On the documentaries, they always make a big deal of Dave Castro springing surprise workouts on the athletes, and winding everyone up with teasers! Did you experience anything like that?

“We had lots of this!! You actually don’t find out many workouts until the day of, or right before you go out onto the floor. The biggest stand out was the final event on Friday (snatch and bike). Our team captain got taken 15 minutes before us – apparently they were held in a dark corridor for 45 minutes with no one telling them anything! The rest of us were then taken into another corridor and made to wait – no information, just told to bring anything we’d need for any situation possible! We were eventually released into a warm up room where Dave Castro appeared. He said we could warm up, then had a smug look on his face as he realised we still didn’t know the workout. Five minutes later our captain, Harry, appeared and briefed us on the workout. Pretty much as he finished his sentence we got the call ‘3 minutes until heat 1 go’ – this was us, 3 minutes to warm up for an event that was make or break for Team AOD making it through the first cuts!”

What was your favourite workout, and why?

“I think my favourite workouts were either the snatch/bike event, or the thrusters/wall walks (said no one ever…). Both events were held in the Coliseum where the atmosphere is crazy. I feel like we executed the snatch-bike event really well as a team, and the heavy thrusters are always going to be a favourite for me!” 

What was your proudest moment of the week?

“Proudest moment for myself has got to be the rope climb event. They’re not a typical strength and I’ve been working hard on these lately. I had never done a rope climb to 20ft before, and to add some pressure they were synchro! I feel I managed to push my limits and was very close to failure on my last few reps – I was so nervous going into this event!”

What lessons will you take away from the experience for next time (assuming you want to go again!)?

“100% we want to go again; we’ve come out of the weekend more driven than ever and can’t wait to start working for next season! We learnt a lot this year on new bits of equipment like the ‘big Bob’, and just continue to work together as much as possible so that we know each other’s limits in high stress situations!”

We heard that you were able to enjoy spectating at some of the individual events on the last days of competition! What did you get to watch, and what was that like?

“This was great fun! I’m glad we got to do this and get a real Games experience! Highlights were watching the max snatch event, and the battle between Pat Vellner and Justin Medeiros on the free standing HSPU event. I loved seeing such a close competition between the men’s side this year. Another huge highlight was watching UK team Motion (CrossFit Surbiton) take an event win on the peg boards – we spent a lot of time with these guys over the weekend, so was great to watch them crush an event!”

The team finished an incredible 29th, making it through the first cut of the teams, and with a huge 8th place finish in the first workout! They took to the field with the likes of Rich Froning and Team Mayhem, and dozens of other professional athletes. Not only did they perform incredibly well, but they were the youngest team at the Games, which tells us they have got SO much more to come! 

We are so, so very proud of Helen and the team, their dedication to their training, and the sheer determination that led them to realising their dream of competing at the CrossFit Games. We can’t wait to see what’s in store next season for them all, but one thing is for sure – this is just the beginning!

Adele Wayt & Helen Nutter

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