Cole Sager, Noah Ohlsen, and Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson Head to the CrossFit Games for 10th Consecutive Year
The sport of CrossFit wouldn’t be what it is today without the trifecta that is Cole Sager, Noah Ohlsen, and Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson (in no particular order). These athletes have qualified for the CrossFit Games 10 years in a row, which is an impressive feat, seeing as the sport has only increased its level of difficulty and skill set immensely over the last decade.
The 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games will be a momentous occasion for these athletes who are approaching their early to mid 30s, which is a relatively older age, compared to many of the newcomers on the scene who are fresh out of their teens.
CrossFit in the last decade has changed in many aspects, but something remains constant, and that’s the relentless work put in by Sager, Ohlsen, and Gudmundsson. While they all began the sport for similar reasons, the reason they continue to push now, ten years later differs for each of them.
- Sager, a father and husband, retells the story of his son who was born three months premature and spent months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), “It was one of those scenarios that just put perspective and brought perspective to everything. It put competing in the place that it should be and brought a fullness to the picture of life.”
- He also shares the recent loss of his best friend Cody, who was actually the one to introduce him to the sport more than ten years ago now.
- When he passed, “It was almost like meeting the beginning again. And so there have been some really deep, heartfelt reasons that kind of came up in the season and in a hard way it’s been a gift for me and my CrossFit journey, obviously hard in life circumstances though,” said Sager.
- Ohlsen, 32, known as one of the most friendly and welcoming elite athletes in the sport, speaks to the pressure of coming out on the competition floor after training in a “safe, comfortable environment.”
- “The moment of high pressure and high stakes of the Games and the qualifiers and anything else that comes along with that they’re definitely tougher to deal with and I think some people that haven’t competed at that high of a level may not be able to fully grasp what it feels like to be a couple of days out from, quote unquote, the most important weekend of your life,” said Ohlsen.
While Sager and Ohlsen have been training and residing in the US, Gudmundsson, better known as BKG, has lived and trained out of Iceland for the majority of his career. The 30-year-old athlete has trained out of CrossFit Reykjavik, alongside another CrossFit icon Annie Thorisdottir and other notable Icelandic athletes.
BKG has worked with the same coach and same training program, The Training Plan, throughout his career but said he still gets excited to work on something new each season.
- “If I look back it still feels not like 10 years. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been doing this for this long,” said BKG.
- “People ask if I’m getting bored of this stuff. But I think, overall, I’ve been working with the same team, with the same coaches since the very first year in 2012 and it’s almost like we just come up with new things to work on for the upcoming year.”
- “I think that I’m a lot smarter than I was when I was 20. I think I can handle way, way more training now than when I was 20 believe it or not. And I just think in general, I’m much healthier.”
- Separately, Ohlsen said as the new younger class of athletes begins to usher in he’s seen the training really change over the years: “Over time not only has the training itself gotten a little bit smarter, and I think that allows it to be more sustainable rather than just crushing yourself with hard workouts all day, every day. I think we’re doing, potentially, a little bit less volume, although that’s arguable but just doing it in more appropriate ways.”
Not only has training changed, so have the expectations of the athletes and the commitment to training as a full-time job. Over the last ten years the sport has added new movements, new skills, and new expectations for athletes that have only gotten more difficult. Hence creating better and stronger elite athletes, raising the bar for many of those crossfitters who’ve been around for some time and have seen numerous iterations of the sport, which can be exciting and exhausting.
- “You have no idea how many times the question has crept into my mind like, ‘Does this need to be done? Can I keep going?’ not even from a longevity standpoint, but I don’t think that it’s talked about very often how much of a mental toll competing in an extremely high level takes on athletes,” said Sager, 32.
- “I think that honestly longevity starts with battling the mind and the chaos that ensues the mind more than the body. Once you can get past the mind then you can start to really leverage and beat the body because the body will respond in a positive way if you can keep the mind in check. But if you’ve lost control of the mind then there’s no way the body is going to be able to fight that.”
- Similarly, Ohlsen says he’s faced mental challenges throughout his career: “There have been moments where it’s weighed really heavy and it’s very uncomfortable. And I’ve said to myself, “I don’t know that I want to put myself through this feeling again, not just physically getting beat up for a week, but mentally and emotionally beating myself up and feeling like I’m not living up to my expectations.”
- BKG says he plans to continue competing, “as long as I’m having fun and I feel that I’m actually getting better, and I’m actually working on the things that I feel like I should be working on.”
With the Games only a few short weeks away Sager, Ohlsen, and BKG will do what they do best. Train. Ohlsen shared that he has plans to go team once this season is over. Chandler Smith, another well-known Games athlete, has also made the commitment to be on a team with him in 2024.
- “I’ve almost been waiting for the last handful of years to be able to go team,”said Ohlsen. “I’m excited to make that transition just because I think that will be really fun and fulfilling for me. And I wanted to do it at an appropriate time.”
But for Sager and BKG the verdict is still out on what their future in the sport looks like. Sager says, “I can’t really see much further than the year in front of me. And I wish I could.”
“But I will tell you this, these legs got a lot of juice left in them and that feels really good. So we’ll see. I’m excited to find out, honestly.”