Meet Games Rookie Alex Gazan: The Newest Underdogs Athletics Star
Alex Gazan didn’t enter the Granite Games in Eagan, MN expecting to qualify for the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games.
“My expectations were to do well, and ultimately qualifying would be really cool, but if I wasn’t necessarily expecting to qualify,” said the 20-year-old Gazan, who started CrossFit when she was 16 and competed in her first CrossFit Open in 2018. At the time, she could barely overhead squat a barbell, let alone do any of the high skill movements.
Since then, Gazan, who has been training under coach Justin Cotler at Underdogs Athletics in Las Vegas, NV this season, has improved quickly and dramatically.
Heading into this year’s Semifinals, Gazan knew she was fitter than she was when she placed 16th at Semifinals last year, but she didn’t start to really believe she could qualify to the Games until she found herself in the top five halfway through the competition.
“After workout three, I was still in a qualifying spot and I was like, ’OK, I don’t want to fall out of a qualifying spot…so as the weekend progressed, my expectations to qualify progressed,” she said of how she started to believe in herself more and more after each workout.
And by the end of the weekend, there was Gazan: fourth overall and headed to her first CrossFit Games.
Becoming an Underdog
Gazan moved to Las Vegas, NV in 2020, but didn’t have the confidence that she would become an Underdogs Athletics athlete.
“I wasn’t confident enough to be like, ‘Hey, I want to train with you guys,’” said Gazan, who started coaching at a gym about 30 minutes away from where Underdogs coach Cotler was training Games veteran Kari Pearce at the time.
But when a coworker, who had a connection with Cotler, got Gazan an invite to train there for the day, she jumped on the opportunity and immediately took to Cotler and Pearce.
Eventually, Gazan found the courage to approach Cotler and ask him if he would coach her. He told her to talk to him again after the 2021 CrossFit Games.
She followed up in September 2021, Cotler agreed to take her on, and Gazan officially joined the Underdogs family for the 2022 season.
“It was really exciting…At that point I had been working out with the girls more, and that environment where you’re always getting pushed is indescribable. You get so much better…And I had been an athlete my whole life, so having a coach is something I really enjoy,” Gazan said of why she wanted to become a part of the Underdogs Athletics family.
Since training full-time with Cotler in the last 10 months, Gazan said she has improved basically every aspect of her game, from her technical abilities and her strength, to her ability to push herself more during a “nasty met con,” to her mindset and confidence, which has been the biggest challenge, she explained.
“That was the hardest part. How do you believe if you don’t? And for me the hardest part was I progressed relatively quickly, so it was hard for me to believe that my fitness was where the leaderboard said it was,” she said.
In fact, when she placed 12th in the Quarterfinals in North America this season, Gazan barely believed it.
“The year prior I placed 94th, so to see myself in 12th, I was like, ‘Was it a fluke? Am I really actually at that level,’” Gazan explained.
Judging by her recent Semifinals performance, it was anything but a fluke.
Looking to Madison and Beyond
Gazan admitted she has “no idea what to expect,” in Madison this summer, “but I assume it’ll be just like a Semifinals, but on steroids,” she said, laughing.
“I think my biggest goal is just to play my own game…and really just enjoy it. But obviously I also want to compete. I don’t think I could go there and be in the bottom five and be happy,” she added with a laugh.
Luckily for Gazan, she has a lot of high level athletes right there with her in Las Vegas to bounce ideas off. In fact, her next stop is to meet up with the now retired Pearce to pick her brain about what to expect and how to handle the nerves.
“Kari always does a really good job of sharing her knowledge and being there for us when we want to talk,” Gazan said of Pearce.
Ultimately, though, Gazan sees this summer as just the beginning of a career that’s just getting started, a career that has taken off even faster than she expected.
“A year ago, my goal was to one day make the Games. Even six months ago, my goal was to place in the top 10 at Semifinals. I just don’t know where my genetic potential is, so I guess we’ll ride the wave and see what happens.”