Games Pioneers Reminisce on 13 Years of Growth Since ‘07 Games
On Monday, CrossFit’s Director of the Sport Dave Castro announced that day 1 of 2020 Games finals would include the three events that made up the entire 2007 CrossFit Games “and then some.”
Next weekend, when you watch the five men and five women crush the scores of those who competed 13 years ago — by literally hundreds of pounds — it’s worth remembering what the 2007 pioneers went through when they showed up to a ranch “in the middle of nowhere,” with “no idea what we were getting into,” as Chris Spealler put it, who competed at the first Games in 2007.
The 2007 events:
1000 meter Row
then, 5 rounds:
7 Push jerks (135/95 lbs)
Trail Run (Approx. 5k)
Back squat – 1RM
Press – 1RM
Deadlift – 1RM
Remembering 2007: When Spealler, a nine-time Games icon, arrived at the ranch in the Aromas, CA in 2007, wearing his red Adidas soccer shorts and old school Saucony running shoes, he casually approached the registration table, told them his name and that he was there to compete. The community was so small and obscure back then, “there was no qualification process,” Spealler said. “Anyone who wanted to could just show up and compete.”
- Jacob Tsypkin was one of the 37 men who showed up; however, he didn’t feel “in good enough shape to tackle (all) of the events,” he said, but he wanted to do the CrossFit Total. So on Sunday, he threw his name in the hat for Event 3 only.
The vibe was anything but serious. With just $500 of prize money available for the winners, it felt more like “a really cool, almost BBQ vibe,” than a serious sporting event, said Spealler, who weighed just 129 pounds at the time. After the events, athletes crushed hot dogs and pounded beer, he remembered.
- “The atmosphere was like a large gathering of friends,” added Connor Martin, the son of CrossFit Kids Founders Jeff and Mikki Martin, who competed at those Games at the age of 15.
- The casual atmosphere extended to the competition floor, said Tsypkin, who remembers Dave Castro “pulling people out of the crowd to act as judges,” he said.
One big thing: In 2007, athletes only knew each other from their online nicknames, so those first Games were an opportunity to finally put faces to names.
- “Back then, the place everyone connected was at crossfit.com. We would talk back and forth and post scores. So the Games was really our first chance to connect with all these people we had been talking to online…When we met each other, it was like, ‘Oh, you’re AFT or OPT,’” said Spealler about meeting Brett Marshall (AFT) and James Fitzgerald (OPT) for the first time. Fitzgerald ended up winning the 2007 Games, while Marshall was second.
- “We competed virtually against each other on the main site comments section, but no one ever thought to get everyone together and see who was a keyboard CrossFitter and who was the real deal,” added Freddy Camacho, now 55, who competed in 2007 and three more times as a masters athlete.
Event 1: Event 1 was the most challenging for both Camacho and Martin.
- “I remember that (135 pounds) was close to my max shoulder to overhead at the time and I weighed 130 pounds soaking wet. I had to split jerk most of the reps and it felt like a max effort each time,” Martin said.
- “The volume of pull-ups was crazy. The push jerk weight at 135 pounds was considered heavy. The workout definitely kicked my ass. I couldn’t straighten my arms for a week,” Camacho said.
Event 2: In later years, the ranch became famous for its long, gruelling runs in the smouldering heat, but for Spealler in 2007, the 5 km run was the highlight of the weekend.
- “James Fitzgerald was up at the front for most of the run, but I caught up to him in the last quarter mile or so. Then I paced and kind of drafted off him and passed him at the end. It was an exciting finish,” said Spealler, who won the event and solidified his reputation in the community as being the top runner.
Event 3: Sunday’s final event, The CrossFit Total, was one of the “funniest memories of the weekend,” Spealler said.
- “At the time, (strength coach) Mark Rippetoe was running the strength seminars and he had a very specific way he wanted to run the CrossFit Total. He wanted to run it like a powerlifting competition. So he had us all weigh in in the morning, but nobody knew why we were weighing in because there were no weight classes,” Spealler laughed. “And then the top 10 athletes did the total inside, and the rest of the athletes were outside, so inside it was this official powerlifting environment, and outside we could hear people just having a full bro session,” he added.
- Martin was one of these bro session athletes. He deadlifted 315 pounds and he said he thinks around 100 pounds on the press. “I was 15 so I’m still pretty proud of those numbers,” Martin said, laughing.
The big picture: While looking back to 2007 helps us appreciate how far the sport of CrossFit has come, those who competed at the first Games say they wouldn’t trade the experience they had in 2007 for anything.
- “When anyone mentions the 2007 Games, it always makes me happy to realize how fortunate I was to be part of the beginning. Thirteen CrossFit Games later and I (am) still involved, competing and supporting,” Camacho said.
- The announcement of the 2007 events this year “makes me reminisce to that first year and the small, intimate atmosphere among friends. (With this year starting with the 2007 events), I think it’s cool that we get the unique opportunity to (look) back to a time when CrossFit was small, indoor soccer shoes and board shorts were cool, and 75 percent of the athletes drank beer immediately post workout,” Martin said. “It’ll be a fun walk down memory lane (next weekend) to see these athletes tackle this event, and know where it started.”
And for Spealler, after a “tremendously hard year” for the CrossFit community, this year’s Games — with a throwback to a simpler time in 2007 — is a chance to help mend some of the wounds of 2020.
- “I think the Games are a great opportunity to bring everyone back together in the most positive way,” he said.