Tom Miazga Not Bitter He Won’t be in Madison, Urges Adaptive Athletes to “Be Patient” and “Keep Participating”
Tom Miazga’s parents knew something wasn’t quite right with their son when he was still a baby.
Miazga walked very late, and when he did walk he was a “furniture holder,” he explained. And when he did eventually start letting go of things, his gait just wasn’t right.
Shortly after that, when just a toddler, Miazga, now 31, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that stems from abnormal development or damage to the parts of the brain that control movement, balance and posture.
Doctors still don’t know why Miazga—the recent Seated with Hip Semifinals Champion—ended up with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, a condition that led him to have a handful of surgeries when he was a small child in an attempt to lengthen his muscles.
Today, cerebral palsy mostly affects Miazga’s lower body. He can walk, but slowly and erratically, he explained, so he generally sticks to a wheelchair because it’s generally faster for him to move about, and helps him “get to places on time,” explained Miazga, a Level 1 CrossFit coach at Adapt and Conquer CrossFit in Grafton, WI, and a full-time swim coach.
Being one of the few people in his hometown growing up in a wheelchair, Miazga’s life became a mission to prove himself.
“Growing up, I often had to prove to others that I was more than this wheelchair, and that I was able to do more things than it may look like I was able to (based) on first impressions,” he said. “And that just kind of innately built this pretty stubborn independence in my life…so I have always been able to push myself to find ways to get things done.”
This attitude led Miazga to become a world class swimmer who competed in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing before finding CrossFit and becoming the 2021 and 2022 Seated with Hip Open Champion, and most recently the Semifinals Champion.
A Half Glass Full Approach
Because he’s competing in the Seated with Hip division, Miazga won’t be competing in Madison, WI at the CrossFit Games this summer, as only the Neuromuscular, Upper Extremity and Lower Extremity adaptive divisions will be represented there.
And while nobody would blame Miazga for being irked that the online Semifinals was the end of the road for him this year, he’s choosing to focus on the progress that has been made in the sport, rather than what still needs to be done.
“Would I love to be there? Absolutely…I want to get myself onto the field or under the lights in the coliseum and experience that…But I absolutely get it, and I can’t be too upset because I have seen so much progress and growth in the adaptive community within the CrossFit world in the last two years,” he explained.
“I know it’s not everything we were looking for, but the fact that we did go from not having any positions in the Open, where I spent five years doing the Open just as a part of my community, and, you know, having to make up (adaptations) on my own…to actually having a leaderboard is really cool and is a great starting point. And to be able to add Semifinals this year means we’re making steps in the right progress,” he added.
Further, coming from a swimming background, where you needed specific disabilities in order to even be able to compete, he couldn’t be more excited about finding a sport that’s open to anybody with any disability or limitation.
“To see CrossFit open their arms to the general masses as quickly as they have is really cool,” he said.
And because he lives just a hop, skip and jump away from Madison, Miazga plans to do just what he did last season: “high tail it right over there” to watch the other adaptive athletes, he explained. And this year, he’s also doing color commentary for the adaptive divisions.
Keeping the Faith Alive his Time Will Come
Miazga won’t be in Madison this summer, but he’s hopeful it’ll happen for him soon.
“I have always been a hustle while you wait guy. You just gotta keep your nose to the grindstone and you gotta be patient,” Miazga said.
So that’s what he’ll do. He’ll keep training, keep improving, keep coaching and inspiring his community, and keep participating in the Open and Semifinals until he, hopefully, one day, gets the opportunity to compete in-person at the CrossFit Games. And he urges other adaptive athletes to do the same.
“The best thing we can do is just keep participating. That’s the biggest thing I have learned. Just keep doing the Open and keep doing Semifinals and provide your feedback in a way that helps people,” Miazga said.
“We’re not going to build Rome in one day here…It’ll be there. It’s just going to take a bit of patience. “