Mel Rodriguez hopes her third trip to the CrossFit Games is her best one yet.
Qualifying for the Games this past November was a relative breeze after what Rodriguez went through in 2017. That year, she performed well at a local competition and was invited to join a team in Buenos Aires — if she beat the other three women competing for the one open spot.
- Rodriguez: “I showed up ready to prove that I really wanted to be part of the team. I even quit my job to be there.”
Though Rodriguez was just 20 years old, she already had a long history of grit from her career as a gymnast.
- At 12-years-old, she fractured her elbow, which had to be re-set surgically.
- At 14, she tore her supraspinatus and her labrum.
- Nine months later, she returned to training, only to tear the bicep of the same arm. Still, she continued competing.
These injuries still haunt Rodriguez. Her elbow hurts during rope climbs, and when she’s fatigued, she loses feeling in two fingers. However, she’s learned to cope with the pain, which is one aspect of her mental strength. The other is how she handles stress.
- Rodriguez: “Gymnastics is a really precise sport, which teaches you how to overcome pressure. You train for months for a routine that’s a minute and a half long, so you have to trust in what you’ve done, the work you’ve put in. You have to trust in the process and in your coach.”
Ultimately, Rodriguez became the sixth and final member of BIGG FRIENDS, a decision that was made only a week before they flew to Regionals in San Antonio. It was her first time outside of the country.
After three events, the Argentines were in a position to qualify for the Games, but when they heard the next workout, their chances seemed to dim.
- The workout was six rounds of 30 worm push presses and one legless rope climb for each team member.
- Though Rodriguez had done rope climbs in gymnastics, she knew it was still a weakness of hers, especially under fatigue.
- To give her maximum rest time, Rodriguez was the last to tackle the movement.
The strategy paid off. BIGG FRIENDS qualified for the Games, where they finished 18th. However, two years later in 2019, Rodriguez returned to Madison as an individual, and she wasn’t so fortunate when legless rope climbs appeared in the first workout. She finished only two in 20 minutes and was cut after the first round.
Rodriguez says that, since then, she’s been confronting her weaknesses, and the results from the Open agree with her.
- On her best workout, 20.4, she ripped through the five heaviest clean and jerks (205 pounds) in 80 seconds and with no misses.
- Had she hit above the target on all of her wall balls for 20.5, the choose-your-own-adventure, she would’ve beaten Kara Saunders and Laura Horvath. She didn’t, though, and was penalized a minute.
- She finished in 28th overall, four spots ahead of Haley Adams, last year’s Games Rookie of the Year.
Despite this success, Rodriguez has a surprisingly modest goal for her trip to Madison: to survive the first cuts. That’s a common goal among the national champions, and one that might be prudent considering the differences between the Open and the Games.
On the one hand, the Open is more comfortable both physically and mentally.
Rodriguez: “In the Open, I have my entire team with me — my coaches, my friends, people who bring out the best in me every competition. Plus, you know that you always have the option to redo a workout.”
On the other, the Games has exactly the kind of pressure under which Rodriguez thrives.
“During competition, if you make a mistake, that’s it. You and your mistake are headed home.”
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