Meet the Athletes Who Competed in the First-Ever Neuromuscular Division

July 29, 2021 by
Photo Credit: John Newby
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History was made on Thursday when 30 athletes wrapped up the first-ever Adaptive Division at the NOBULL CrossFit Games. Spanning six divisions, all of the competitors gave an impressive showing, making a clear statement that fitness is attainable for anyone, no matter what limitations may stand in the way. 

Of these 30 athletes, ten — five men and five women — participated in the neuromuscular division.

One key takeaway: CrossFitters have shown time and time again that the sport changes lives, whether that be through physical and mental health, battling back disease, or forming connections with the community. These athletes are no different, making the same — if not stronger — argument for the sport of fitness. 

Brett Horchar: At 21-years-old, Horchar was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. “21-years-old, I had to teach myself how to walk and use my hands again. 21-years-old and I have doctors telling me my body won’t let me do the workouts I’m used to. 21-years-old and I have to get treatments for the rest of my life to prevent myself from turning into a vegetable,” he wrote on Instagram.

  • Now 25, Horchar wrote that he’s “fighting every day for his life,” planning to be ready for whatever life throws at him. 
  • His drive to fight was clear this weekend. Horchar dominated the men’s neuromuscular field, with six first-place finishes throughout the three days of competition, claiming the top spot on the leaderboard at the end of the final day.  

George Simonds-Gooding: At 45, Simonds-Gooding was the oldest man in his division. But that didn’t slow him down — the British athlete finished the competition in second place.

  • Simmonds has Charcot Marie Tooth Disease, a progressive condition that causes degeneration of nerves and muscle atrophy in his lower limbs. 
  • He owns Park Side Gym in London and writes that he’s trying to stay “as active as possible” with his condition. 

JCruz Gudino: In 2019, Gudino was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, transverse myelitis. His lower body became paralyzed, and doctors gave him terrible odds of ever recovering. 

  • Fast forward to 2021, and Gudino has not only learned to walk again but competed and placed third in the CrossFit Games Adaptive division. 

Sylvania Harrod: “CrossFit allows me the opportunity to show the world what’s possible when you focus on the possible vs. what’s improbable,” writes Harrod, the 4th place finisher in his division, on his CrossFit Games profile. Harrod is a disabled veteran with Advanced Stage Neurological Lyme Disease. 

  • Harrod writes on Instagram that two years ago, receiving an invitation to the CrossFit Games would have seemed impossible, as he dealt with daily migraines and nausea, insomnia, night sweats, fatigue, and lost feeling in his left arm and leg.
  • “Crossfit has given me something I never imagined. It has given me a sense of strength, purpose, and excitement for every day,” he continues.

Mijail Pedrini: At just 13-years-old, Pendrini suffered a stroke. He recounts, to ESPN Deportes, that CrossFit has improved his life. The South American athlete finished 5th in his division, tying Harrod with 290 points. 

Shannon Ogar: Joking that she’s now called the “other Ogar,” by CrossFit. Ogar, wife to Kevin Ogar, has battled back from Bell’s palsy nerve damage, winning the Adaptive Standing division at Wodapalooza in 2020 and ranking third in the Open. 

  • Ogar, with two first-place finishes, edged out her competition to win the neuromuscular division. 
  • “I think this past two years, people are sick of the unprecedented. It’s been a lot of unprecedented, pandemic, and mandates, and all that stuff. This was certainly an unprecedented event, but I am so stoked to be a part of it. It is the silver lining of unprecedented,” Ogar said in an interview after the final event. 

Letchen Du Plessis: Du Plessis, who calls herself a “semi-bionic human,” was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Dystonia, a disease that causes involuntary muscle movements, in 2017. She says her life made a “180-degree turn,” that year, taking her from a top-level athlete to being bed-bound with limited function in her left leg. 

  • “CrossFit filled a very big hole that was left in my life,” she writes on social media.  
  • Du Plessis showed her strength this weekend, staying close to competition veteran Ogar, finishing just 15 points behind her, in second place. 

Alisha Davis: Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, affecting her speech and the left side of her body, Davis has taken the opportunity to “show people what you can do if you put your mind to it.”

  • Earning one first-place finish in event three, Davis finished out the CrossFit Games in third place. 

Ebby Isbill: In 2014, Isbill went from the “strongest she had ever been,” to using a cane to balance due to multiple sclerosis. 

  • Isbill, who finished in 4th place, says on her Games profile, “For me, it isn’t about being on top, it’s about celebrating the victories I’ve experienced the last seven years.”

Rebecca Shingledecker: The same day Shingledecker received her CrossFit L1 certification, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Brain surgery left her weak on the right side of her body, with no feeling in her right leg.

  • Shingledecker, who has since sustained two other brain injuries, relearned how to walk, and says her “professionals started CrossFit not only saved my life but is part of the reason I’m not still on a walker.”
  • The 45-year-old athlete finished fifth in the neuromuscular division, earning second-place finishes in events one and two. 

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