Simon Mantyla had his best season yet in 2019. After taking 20th worldwide in the Open and second in Sweden, Mantyla made his individual Games debut last week in Madison.
Legally half-blind, Mantyla tried every sport growing up until he found one that worked for him: CrossFit.
Mantyla always wanted to be an athlete, but being blind in his right eye made gauging distance and depth near impossible for sports like basketball, baseball, and any sport in which a small object could potentially come at him without him noticing.
“So then I just made a decision when I was 13, I can’t beat them by being more skilled. I have to beat them by being more physically superior. So I just started to lift weights, run, like every day, I wanted to be physically better…I just trained every day. I wanted to prove them wrong, but also prove it to myself that I’m not going to let this define me. I am going to decide what I do with my body and I always wanted to be an athlete,” Mantyla told the Morning Chalk Up in an interview.
And then, in 2012, a friend asked Mantyla if he wanted to try this new thing called CrossFit.
“I tried a couple workouts with him and I beat him in some barbell stuff, and he crushed me in double unders and toes to bar… I was like, oh this is fun. So I tried a local competition and I won it, without any training. And then I did this competition in all of Sweden, and when I came in 4th I thought, okay I can be kind of good at this if I try.”
So Simon tried, prioritizing CrossFit, and he excelled.
But it took several years of dealing with injury and illness for Mantyla to get to Madison and his Open placement illustrates that. In 2015, he was fittest in Sweden and 101st worldwide. In 2016, his worldwide placement fell to 282. “I managed to finish the Open with a decent result, I wasn’t really happy with it,” Mantyla told the Morning Chalk Up in an interview on the final day of the CrossFit Games.
In 2017, his worldwide placement dropped further, down to 91880th. That’s when Mantyla learned he had a stress fracture in his back, from the 2016 Open. “That’s when I got an MRI and they told me that’s when I needed to stop and recover,” Mantyla said. He recovered, and wound up winning the 2017 French Throwdown.
But life didn’t let up in 2018 for Mantyla. The 2018 Open came around and Mantyla found himself terribly ill from a severe strain of the flu.
“I had to go get my heart checked and everything, so just another year put on hold. I always felt like I belong at that level, but just too many obstacles I guess.”
Simon Mantyla placed 20th worldwide in the 2019 CrossFit Open, securing his spot in Madison. Mantyla was cut after placing 45th in the Ruck.
What’s next for Mantyla.
“Now that I have this experience, I kind of know what direction I want to take. I want to improve on my open placement, I want to be fittest in Sweden so I want to take that from Lucas this year. I want to do a bunch of Sanctionals, I haven’t decided which, but I’d like a handful of them. Since you qualify for so many sanctionals through the Open now, I might as well take advantage of that.”
But, Mantyla has a broader picture too.