Athlete Features | CrossFit Games

Thank You, CrossFit

October 31, 2021 by
Photo credit: Athlete's Eye Photography
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In November 2014, after finishing my college gymnastics career and working as a personal trainer in New York, I was asked to help coach gymnastics to CrossFit athletes.

I’d spent 18 years as a competitive gymnast, winning four Big Ten Championships on the University of Michigan varsity team. But this wasn’t the gymnastics I was used to: I had never really touched a pair of rings before, let alone ever tried stringing muscle-ups together.

Honestly, I’d thought my competitive career was pretty much over at this point. Little did I know, it was just about to take off.

Nine months later, after falling in love with CrossFit in the basement of an apartment building in New York, I found myself on the competition floor at the 2015 CrossFit Games.

“Kari, why didn’t you tell us it was this big of a deal?” asked my Dad when he arrived in California. He wasn’t even originally going to come, but he happened to have a layover in LA on his way back from China, so he flew my mom in, and they made their way to the StubHub Center to watch me compete.

“I didn’t know it was this big of a deal,” I shrugged.

Though I really had no idea what I was getting into when I arrived in Los Angeles that summer of 2015, I did know I felt at home.

After retiring from gymnastics, I dabbled with powerlifting. Nah, not for me. I tried a physique competition. Meh. Did some weightlifting. Nope, not quite my thing. But when I found CrossFit, I felt so at home. So comfortable. Comfortable in my own skin. Comfortable being muscular and strong, and proud to show off the body I work so hard for.

Murph was a pivotal moment for me during those first Games. I wasn’t a great runner and definitely not as mentally tough as I am today, and I remember doing the mile run and being tempted to walk or just stop altogether. At one point, I was like, ‘Maybe I can fake an injury so I can just stop.’

What carried me through the event were the thousands of screaming fans cheering me on, supporting me. And in that moment, on the one-mile run during Murph, I realized how important they would be to my newly forming CrossFit career.

Seven years later, I am even more appreciative of the fans in the worldwide CrossFit community.

People keep asking me why I’m not going for one more Games…The answer is that I just know the time is right. I’m ready. So ready. My heart is smiling. I’m ready to move on from competition and focus on my quickly growing brand—PowerAbs.

Sometimes, people will come up to me and say, ‘Sorry to bother you,’ and I’m like, ‘You’re not bothering me!’

The truth is, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I have done in the sport without the fan support, not just during competitions, but all year through the thousands of messages I receive. So the least I can do to show my appreciation is to respond to every single message that hits my inbox, something I have prioritized since Day 1.

Ironically enough, my most memorable, pinnacle career competition moment involved no fans at all: Winning the final event of the 2020 CrossFit Games—Atalanta—in the height of the pandemic and achieving my ultimate goal of reaching the podium.

I remember the moment vividly. I crossed the line and hugged my coach Justin (Cotler).

“Does that mean I made the podium?” I asked.

He nodded, and I immediately broke into tears. After four straight years of being in the top 10, I had done it. Finally. This is the moment I will remember most.

Since announcing my retirement last week, people keep asking me why I’m not going for one more Games. Why I’m retiring after not even getting the chance to compete last summer? Why I chose the Rogue Invitational to be my last competition?

The answer is that I just know the time is right. I’m ready. So ready. My heart is smiling. I’m ready to move on from competition and focus on my quickly growing brand—PowerAbs—and help others reach their fitness goals.

But I also love competing and wanted to compete one last time. I wanted to be around my competitors on the competition floor just one last time. To put myself out there one last time. To feel the adrenaline one last time. And more importantly, I wanted to be around the fans one last time. To wave to the crowd, to feel their support, and most of all, to thank everyone who has been involved in my incredible journey. Just one last time.

Photo Credit: Athlete’s Eye Photography

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