Twin CrossFit Teens Make a Comeback after Being Hospitalized

April 2, 2023 by
Image Credit: Ava Kitzi
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The 2021 CrossFit Games was the very peak of existence for 15-year-olds Rafael and Rodrigo Candeias. Between meeting the Panchik brothers and other notable athletes at check-in, getting their NOBULL gear, Rodrigo carrying the Portuguese flag at the Opening Ceremony, and Rafael’s third-place finish in the final event, it was a moment they both say they’ll remember forever. 

Rafael and Rodrigo left their first CrossFit Games with a sixth and tenth place finish under their belts, respectively, and were eager to start making their way towards the 16-17 division. However, while competing in the Online Qualifier for the 2022 Madrid Championship, both boys fell ill and were eventually hospitalized with mononucleosis. 

For a month, the twins were unable to even walk or perform normal daily tasks without feeling dizzy or weak. After that, it took an additional three months to get back to fighting condition, which Rafael says took a huge mental toll on them. 

  • Rafael: “It was really hard because we had the ability to do (CrossFit very well), and we started like we were new at CrossFit again.” 

When they were able to begin training at full throttle again, the boys invested everything into getting back to the CrossFit Games–training five hours a day, even. This is an integral part of their strategy, they say. While they may not be the most genetically talented athletes in the stacked field of 16-17 Boys, they can decide how much effort they put in. 

  • “We started training more because we are not the best but we know we can be the ones that work harder,” Rafael said.  

The Candeias twins’ performance is a full family effort. They’ve been coached by their father since the very beginning, which they say has been a huge motivator. Rodrigo said that while it can feel like a lot of pressure sometimes, they love having their father as a coach because they have such a deep connection and understand each other. 

  • “We always think he has big expectations for us, so we do better because he’s our dad and we don’t want to disappoint him,” Rodrigo said. “I think it’s a positive thing sometimes because we have a better relationship with him so we can get more confident.”

Of course, the boys have each other in training as well. They say that it can be annoying sometimes since they live together, are in the same class, and train together every single day, but it’s also a leg up on the competition that not many other teens get, training with someone else on a regular basis. 

  • “We think it helps us because we always compete with each other and that’s something that other teens that are training alone don’t have that competition with other teen athletes,” Rodrigo said. 

Rafael came in 9th place in the Open and Rodrigo finished in 38th place, so both boys took on the Age Group Quarterfinals last week. 

In their final year as teen competitors, they have their eyes on making it back to Madison, Wisconsin after making a full recovery from their illness.

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