CrossFit Games

Roman Khrennikov On Reuniting With Wife and Newborn Son Days Before Games: “I have never been more motivated than I am now”

August 2, 2022 by
Photo credit: Justin Tamane/@tamanephotography
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If Roman Khrennikov ends up winning the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games, his story will be ripe for a Hollywood screenplay.

The 27-year-old finally received a visa this February to come to the United States after four years of failed attempts. Khrennikov’s agent Snorri Baron Jonsson credits Wisconsin couple Roza and Pat Gilles, who he said have taken a special interest in Khrennikov’s journey, with finally securing his papers and allowing the greatest CrossFit athlete never to compete in the US to finally realize his dream.

  • “They are gym owners in Madison and big fans of the sport of CrossFit,” said Jonsson. “Roza speaks Russian so she could speak with Roman and they soon became good friends. Roza had an idea on how to set things up so that Roman could finally be cleared to enter the United States and from there things were put in place that in the end ensured that he received a visa.”

Jonsson said the Giles have helped immensely and that Khrennikov wants them to get credit for their acts of kindness, which also include housing him since he landed stateside.

  • “He has lived with them, trained at their gym and pretty much just been a part of their family. He’s beyond grateful to them for what they have done for him,” added Jonsson.

Remind me: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign nation, has been almost universally condemned by the Western world and has resulted in unprecedented sanctions against the country from numerous nations. This has spilled over to private businesses and international companies who have announced they are closing stores, cutting ties and severing business relations with the country, which is led by president Vladimir Putin.

Jonsson explained everything got supercharged this February when war broke out.

  • “Roman had to make a split second decision to leave for the US as it was largely unknown whether travel would be blocked. He was not about to miss the chance of competing at the Games the fifth time in a row so he and his wife made the decision together that he would travel immediately to America. She was eight months pregnant at the time and she was going to have the baby and then they would try to get a visa for her.”

Khrennikov’s wife Anastasiya and him gave birth to a boy Lev (which means “Leo” in Russian) in April and then Khrennikov set about securing the two of them a visa to come to the US as well. Jonsson said this was an incredibly tense period of time for him while he was trying to prepare for the Games.  

  • “Then the weeks passed one by one until last week when his family finally received the necessary clearances to travel to the USA. They arrived in Madison on Thursday, just in time for the Games. At that time Roman had not seen his wife in five months and had never seen his four month old son.”

A video posted on social media shows the moment Khrennikov reunited with his wife in the airport, a touching which has been months in the making.

Roza said seeing her husband put her faith and trust in someone he had never met was an incredibly touching moment as well, and that Khrennikov has been exemplary in his actions since arriving, becoming part of the family.

  • “The way he trusted someone he never met is the most honorable thing to do. I am beyond impressed with Roman. He is a nice and kind person and will always be part of my family. We absolutely love him and are wishing him the best of luck. Team Roman for life”

Khrennikov spoke exclusively to the Morning Chalk Up through translation, detailing how he finally feels complete heading into the biggest competition of his life.

  • “I’m so happy that they are here. It’s been very tough to not have them with me. Me and my wife are used to doing everything together. We are very close and she has been such a big part of my athlete journey. Not having been able to see my son is just something that I cannot even describe. I have no words for that. Them being here with me now, that’s the final thing I needed before the Games. I have never been as motivated as I am now. I do this all for them.”
Photo courtesy of CrossFit LLC

Justin Bergh, the general manager of the CrossFit Games, presented Khrennikov with the award for his event win for the 2020 CrossFit Games stage one virtual event four (a 1,000-meter row which he finished in 2:48.9), in person during an emotional ceremony for all involved.  

  • “Roman has been turning in sensational performances over the last couple seasons, but has not been able to attend the Games in person. After his extraordinary performance in the 2020 virtual first stage we are delighted to finally be able to present him with the trophy he earned and welcome him to compete in person among his true peers…the fittest on Earth.”

One big thing: Jonsson said now that all the dramatics are over, the real fun can start, watching him compete in person against the best of the best.

  • “I’ve been working with Roman since the spring of 2019. He is an awesome guy and is as driven and dedicated as a human being can be. He’s had so much bad luck and he has had to go such a long and tangled road to be here so seeing him walking around the Alliant Energy Center with his wife and infant son is just the most wholesome thing I have ever seen. He’s happy, he is fit and he is ready.”

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