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I went to the CrossFit Games and all I got was… this amazing sense of community

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By Kurt Schenck

“You guys must be headed to the Alliant Energy Center.”

Those were the first words that our Lyft drive said to us as we got into his car to head to the venue for the CrossFit Games for the first time. It was about noon on Friday, August 4, and we had just arrived in Madison, Wisconsin, that morning.

“Yeah, that’s right,” we replied. When we pressed our driver about how he knew where we were going, he said, “You all look like you could beat me up. I assume you’re CrossFitters.”

The CFH crew outside Alliant Energy Center

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the first instance of what would become a recurring theme for the weekend. Just about every time we got into a car or sat down for a meal, we heard some version of “Are you guys here for that CrossFit thing?” It didn’t take long to figure out why: Everyone recognized us as being in shape.

More of the crew inside Alliant Energy Center

As the weekend progressed and the athletes tackled event after event, I was struck by the sense of community all around us: There were the girls sitting behind us at Alliant Energy Center who offered to send us free batches of tape (they had gone to college with Games athlete Noah Olsen and started their own athletic tape company), or the trusting woman in front of us who literally handed us her phone so that we could look at a list of all the athletes’ PR snatch weights.

The competition floor inside Alliant Energy Center

And then there were the shows of community on the competition floor. The last athlete to finish was continually urged on by cheers that were just as loud as those for the heat winner. Cody Mooney, the athlete from our region who impressed Coach Alex at Regionals (read about it here), never failed to circle back and cheer on his fellow competitors after he finished an event.

Cody Mooney cheers on Garrett Fisher at the end of the Triple G Chipper

Stacie Tovar, an 8-time Games veteran who earlier this year announced her retirement from competition, moved half the crowd to tears when she left her shoes on the competition floor. And Josh Bridges, the undersized but scrappy veteran who’s been dominating the California region since 2011, received a moving standing ovation as he left the floor after his last event.

Games weekend also saw 2 proposals, including one that encapsulated how much CrossFit has come to mean to many of us. After finishing an event, 2nd-year Games athlete Jason Carroll took the mic from Games Director Dave Castro and addressed the crowd: “We’re all here because CrossFit has given us something. For me, it helped me find the love of my life.” He then dropped to one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, who had volunteered her weekend to work as part of the event setup crew.

The obstacle course and turf field outside Alliant Energy Center

I don’t care how corny it sounds. I left the Games riding a CrossFit high. It was incredibly inspiring to see how much we all care. Experiencing the pinnacle of our sport made me realize that we’re all here for so much more than just a great workout, and that binds us together just as much as any shared suffering during a WOD.

It would take another post, or many more, to dig into all the reasons we do CrossFit. But as my plane—full of CrossFitters, almost every last one of us—touched back down in Newark on Monday morning, I knew one thing: I’m absolutely going back next year.

Madison Airport at sunrise Monday morning