On the Sixth Anniversary: How CrossFit Saved Kevin Ogar’s Life and How He’s Given Back
On January 11, 2014, Kevin Ogar competed in a fitness competition (not sanctioned by CrossFit HQ) and went from completing an ordinary snatch — 235 pounds, lightweight compared to his one-rep max of 300 — to being paralyzed from the belly button down (T10 Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury).
Ogar was an emerging CrossFit competitor, a three-time CrossFit Regionals athlete who stood 6-foot-3 inches tall and weighed 210 pounds. An unsafe layout around his lifting platform resulted in a ricocheting barbell that bounced into his lower back, immediately severing his spine.
“I survived because of how fit I was due to CrossFit,” says Ogar. “I had an 85 percent chance of dying. They told me what got me through it was my red blood cell count was so high and so efficient that I could lose the blood during surgery, but my body was able to utilize the oxygen I had left more efficiently.”
After his surgery and 11 days in the Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, California, Ogar transferred to Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado — a rehabilitation hospital specializing in spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.
In just three weeks, with the blessing of his physical therapist, Ogar was back at the CrossFit box where he had previously trained. Just to move and start playing around with weights — very light weights at first.
Ogar’s wheels started to turn. Small lifts became bigger lifts. He began to connect with other wheelchair users and build community momentum.
Ogar opened his own CrossFit Affiliate, CrossFit Watchtower, and became a “red shirt” CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff member. CrossFit released a documentary on him in 2017 called Will of Steel.
Since then, Ogar has continued to exceed expectations, accomplish his goals and give back to his community:
- Ogar Represented Team USA at the World Para Powerlifting Championship.
- He coaches dozens of wheelchair users and adaptive athletes at his gym.
- He’s a seminar staff member of Adaptive Training Academy.
- Ogar is a head judge and coach for WheelWOD.
- He continues to work Level 1 CrossFit Seminars.
- He’s a board member of The Reveille Project [TRP] — a non-profit organization helping to restore veterans’ lives post active duty.
“I always felt my purpose in life was to help people, whether it be to coach or train them,” he said. “My injury has positively affected my ability to help others. I’ve been able to reach and help more people than I ever thought possible. I feel I was put in this wheelchair because I was supposed to help other people.”
What keeps Ogar motivated and inspired are the other wheelchair athletes he gets to work with, “What inspires me to go on is seeing the progress in my athletes as they achieve what they thought they could no longer do.”
Ogar has recently married the love of his life, Shannon Ogar, and continues to coach, teach, train and inspire others.
Logan Aldridge is co-founder, with Alec Zirkenbach, of the Adaptive Training Academy, an education-focused organization dedicated to providing adaptive fitness knowledge to trainers, coaches, therapists, and athletes. Adaptive Training Academy strives to make fitness training accessible and inclusive for everyone, regardless of disability, by providing real-world guidance that is practical and universally usable.