South Korea’s Carlos Albaledejo has Sights on 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games
Carlos Albaledejo’s life after high school could have gone in a much different direction had it not been for sports and the people who helped give him a sense of purpose.
As a youngster, his parents’ divorce had hit hard. The son of a Puerto Rican father and South Korean mother, he grew up in a military installation in South Korea and was close to his dad.
He admitted to being unsure of himself as a youngster, lacking confidence and having minimal interest in school. He was also hanging around with the wrong crowd.
Then in high school, sports took on new meaning, thanks to guidance and inspiration from a handful of teachers and coaches.
“I was unsure,” said Albaladejo when asked what he was like before discovering sports. “I was always playing sports. But previously, we would pay to use (sports) services. Whereas when you are in high school, you are trying out to join a team. It’s a different sense of validation, where you’re paying to play than making it to play.
“Before high school I always felt like I was a troubled kid, I was always in trouble. I didn’t have much purpose, so I wasn’t interested in school, I wasn’t really sure. I still had a lot of time but I was kind of worried if I was able to actually finish high school.
“But having sports, and having coaches and teachers around me, kind of validated my talents, so to speak. It’s what really kept me going in school, kept me in school and really pushed me to really excel in school.
“I always really interested in sports but never sure I was good at it until I got into high school and tried out and made it onto the football team.”
Albaladejo credits Tony Alvarado, football coach and mentor; Christine Vega, strength and conditioning coach and mentor; and coach Brian Swenty with giving him the confidence and guidance that put him on a fitness and sporting path that he continues to walk to this day.
“I was introduced to training when I got into my eighth-grade summer, I can say freshman year. That’s when I was introduced to weightlifting. Our school had a strength and conditioning class that you can attend. So, I had two teachers, one being my football coach and one being my strength conditioning coach, who taught the class.
“And they had a significant impact and influence on my starting my journey into strength and conditioning.”
The 11-year CrossFit veteran has set his sights on qualifying for the CrossFit Games. He also turns 35 this season and will be eligible to compete as a Masters. He is hoping to fly the colors of South Korea, a country he has lived in for most of his life.
“I’ll be doing both team Quarterfinals, and if we qualify, Semifinals, and hopefully qualify for the CrossFit Games,” he said. “And simultaneously I’ll be taking part in the age group qualifiers for Quarterfinals and Semifinals and see how it goes.
“I’ve submitted a petition to compete out of South Korea. It doesn’t really matter this year because I’m going team and age group is done as a world total and not like region.
“But I did submit a petition just in case, so there is still a possibility that I do the individual quarter-finals just to kind of secure a ticket to something. So, right now I’m planning on doing two qualifiers, age groups and teams, but the third option is still open, just in case, representing the Korean flag, so to speak.”
Albaladejo was born in New Jersey and at three years old, moved to South Korea where his father was stationed in the U.S. military. He graduated from high school in 2007 and attended the University of South Florida before following in his dad’s footsteps and joining the U.S. military.
That led to a stint in Germany, where he was introduced to CrossFit. He has been competing since 2012 and in 2018, was ranked first in Asia in the men’s Open and was the top Korean performer.
He now runs CrossFit Marvel in Dongtan, South Korea, and is married with two boys, aged four and one.
Albaladejo is a popular figure among CrossFit circles, hailed as a humble and inspiring coach to his students. And it goes all the way back to his early years at high school when sport became an integral part of his life.
“Through strength and conditioning, I was able to, you know, like find myself, gain some self-confidence through working out,” he said. “I didn’t realize that I was … a sport that I was pretty good at relative to my peers, so this introduction to weight training, strength and conditioning and high school-varsity sport is really what inspired me to start this fitness journey and continue on.”
He started off as a soccer player before joining the school’s American football team because they needed a kicker.
“As the season went on, the coach had me try out different positions,” said Albaladejo. “I never started my freshman year on the football team but they were always very optimistic about me coming back the next year.
“And the year after, my sophomore year, was really when I started to burst out of my bubble.”
Albaladejo is hoping to continue his journey on and off the CrossFit arena. While his main goal is to qualify for the CrossFit Games, he is also hoping to raise greater awareness of the sport and fitness in Korea.
“I’m hoping to branch off into other things,” he said. “In the last three years during the pandemic we started with YouTube, so we want to grow that and spread the message and have a bigger influence on the fitness industry in Korea.
“We want to start running events so we can create these types of competitions to give people something to start working towards.
“And I plan to continue competing, maybe not as often but I’ll always do the Open. And then if things work out, I’ll continue on competing in Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and then hopefully one day to the Games.”