It's been a long time since I won a bunch of trophies and medals, Paralympic, World Champion, MVP, National Titles, etc. Those days seemed to be a ghost of a rush that I would never find again. Then in 2013, I found a piece that could maybe get me back to that space. I found Indestri, I found CrossFit, and I found fun. It clicked when I adapted my first CrossFit Open workout.
Right from the moment 13.1 was over, I dreamed of the CrossFit Games adding an adaptive wheelchair division. I wanted to compete against others who loved it as much as I did. I found a few competitions and some showcases, and more and more athletes using wheelchairs started to surface on social media in the world of CrossFit. The rush was back... but the platform was not there.
In 2014, I lead a charge with Angel Gonzalez & some others and we got some more exposure but it wasn't consistent. Where was the platform? Working Wounded Games and the staff at Rubicon were creating one. But as a wheelie I felt like I needed an identifying one, so during the end year of 2014 I created a website with programming for seated adaptive athletes with some video tutorials and daily (5 days a week) programming www.wheelwod.com. Using this platform, I was able to reach more seated athletes and then with a bit of luck and late nights, we held the first of its kind Wheelwod Open where a group of us adapted the weekly Open workouts that were being released on CrossFitGames.com. It went well, and it made me realize something... It made me face a fact - I had to do something that could possibly eliminate that rush had just resurfaced. I realized that maybe I needed to step back from the CrossFit competition dream (it's not like the 20 years of being on some of the world's biggest stages wasn't enough; I just saw that it was time for someone else to shine) and I needed to take charge. If doors wouldn't open, then I was gonna knock walls down and make our own doors.
In 2015, it was apparent to us that CrossFit was not going to add an adaptive seated division just yet. I made our own and did it with the help of great friends Angel, Steph, Kevin, G, Zack and Sleepy a.k.a. The Wheelchair Gang. It was about 30 athletes and a whole lot of fun. In 2016 through WheelWOD, I upped the level of online competing with a scaled and Rx division for men and women, included video movement standards, and the CrossFit Open was now ours to compete in (dubbed the WheelWOD Open.) It was epic! Over 75 people from 7 different countries signed up. It had some hiccups, but from there we adjusted and ran an online qualifier.\
I programmed the Wodapalooza adaptive division, then the seated battle at Rush Club Nation, and also joined an amazing group of coaches and minds in the Crossroads Adaptive Alliance to get to where we are today. The first of its kind WheelWOD Championships happened, live in person and out from the online world. Athletes qualified to come to Canada from all over. We had 4 countries represented with the best athletes of the previous online comps. I had been looking forward to this day, and giving these athletes a stage to shine on at the UG Series Beach WOD was all that mattered. I made it a free competition to make sure it was all inclusive, and this past weekend I found that rush again in a totally different position - When you see these athletes take stage and they show amazing feats of strength and fitness. When I sit in front and teach others what I have learned and share ideas so we can continue to grow opportunities. When I program and dream how this will play out and then see personal bests, new accomplishments and firsts for these athletes... I find that same rush I did when I dropped 20 points on the opposing team, or when before my injury, caught a touchdown over the top of a unsuspecting DB. Being a coach to the young men I teach basketball to, the athletes at my gym, and the WheelWOD Nation, I feel that same rush.
I know my new path and without all the experiences before it, I would have never found it. I needed to fail; I needed to step back and see the world from a new view. I loved watching the athletes this weekend fight for every rep, through sweat, sand, water, steel, barbells, pain, tears, smiles, and complete exhaustion which, in turn, led to real joy. I could see they were in an element where they felt included - they weren't people in wheelchairs - they were athletes in a competition. So when you watch the videos and see the pictures remember they may inspire you... And we are happy they do. To us, it is a competition. We are here to crush it as athletes and not as people with disabilities doing inspiring things. Adaptive athletes and the WheelWOD Nation are alive and here to dominate; leaving it all out there for a glimpse of glory and the risk of failure... pushing the limits of life. What a rush. The most important notes: I want to thank most importantly my wife who has not killed me when I'm up all night doing video work for comps and in the gym for hours a day trying new adaptations. As she always has, she stands by me when I fail and cheers me when I succeed. She's my rock and I am no where with out her. Todd Greening who gives all the support and dives into this with his whole heart, the volunteers and Indestri family. Thanks to my family for support, my friends for believing in this and the UG series ( Scott, Jen and Paul) for giving this a chance to shine. 3Fu3l, Strike Movement, Freestyle Connection, Clean Snatch Soap for continuous support and exposure of the adaptive. The athletes that travelled here and took a chance on this are the real spotlight! Diego, Angel, Andy, Bryan, Joe, Jed, Cindy, Vanessa, Arika, Mia and Tera. You guys went above and beyond took every challenge head on. So Proud! So... One love to all and when it rained this weekend. We got wet but we didn't quit. The future is bright! And in the north... Winter Is Coming. Stouty
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