Blind CrossFitter Erica James Sets Goal to Make Games Appearance in 2024

March 22, 2023 by
Credit: Erica James (@blindfitgirl)
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Erica James currently sits in first place in the visually impaired division for the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Open. However, unlike the other top finishers in the Open her season is over. 

CrossFit will not have all adaptive divisions compete at the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games, but say they hope to invite all divisions come the 2024 season. James is eager to put her skills to the test after only recently joining the sport and a life-long love of fitness.

James, located in Greenville, South Carolina, was born with a rare cancer called retinoblastoma, which is cancer in the eyes and the retinas. Doctors discovered she had it when she was only six-months-old and while she’s been cancer free for many years she’s lost her vision from radiation treatment. 

  • “So I’ve progressively been losing vision throughout my whole life, but always really been into sports,” said James.
  • “As a young kid I was a gymnast all the way up into highschool. I was a competitive gymnast and made it all the way to level 10 in that sport and that definitely got me thinking CrossFit could be potential in the future.” 
  • James adds, she did the 2022 Open just to give it a try “and I ended up winning last year and was hooked after that.” 

Aside from her recent CrossFit accomplishments, James qualified for the Paralympic trials in track and field in 2021. She qualified for trials in the 100 meter, but sadly came up short.

  • “I got fourth place and missed by milliseconds to claim one of those top three spots that got to Tokyo. But it was an incredible experience,” said James, who is the owner of a fitness studio named The Booty Shop. 

Even though she didn’t make it she is happy about the attention parasports and adaptive athletes are getting. James is excited about the potential that adaptive CrossFit could be one day and is supportive of some of the changes CrossFit has made to classification

  • “I think that the goal for sport is to be fair, and so we need to make sure we have as much representation in our adaptive divisions as possible, while still making sure it’s an even playing field,” said James. 
  • “I think that there’s a lot of progress that can be made. We have a lot of room to grow when it comes to that. But I do think that CrossFit is on the right path for it.”
  • “They’ve come out and said they are looking towards paraathletics and parasport in general to kind of guide them in making it better. So I’m hoping that we see leaps and bounds as we move forward.” 

CrossFit HQ said in a release that as long as the adaptive division has enough participation for a competitive field in 2024 “we will be inviting all adaptive divisions to compete at the CrossFit Games Finals. “

For 2023” the top athletes from the Multi Extremity, Lower Extremity, and Upper Extremity divisions will qualify for the 2023 Games out of the Open. The remaining five divisions will crown their fittest based on the results of the Open,” according to CrossFit. 

James is hopeful that the sport adds more competitions for the blind and visually impaired athletes and that other adaptive athletes are represented at the Games. She plans to continue her training under Casey Acree, an adaptive athlete himself and Underdog Athletics coach.

“I really hope that we’re able to go to the Games and compete in person like some of the other adaptive athletes are because I think that representation is everything,” said James. “So that is something that I really hope to do.”

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