Along with the announcement of the 2021 CrossFit Open season schedule was the confirmation of adaptive classes. Although their inclusion at the CrossFit Games may not be at the CrossFit Games level until 2022 — due to logistical and programming hurdles, according to Adaptive Training Academy (ATA) Director of Training Logan Aldridge — that doesn’t mean there aren’t major players in the sport to keep eyes on.
We’ve highlighted seven adaptive CrossFit athletes that should become household names in the sport as we head into the 2021 CrossFit Open season, which kicks off in March. They are:
- Jedidiah Snelson
- Kym Dekeyrel
- Mikey Witous
- Ole Antonsen
- Anne-Laure Coutenceau
- Derek Weida
- Marcus Hayward
For reference, there are currently nine eligibility classifications that dictate which of 16 divisions an adaptive athlete can compete in based on their impairment according to the 2021 CrossFit Games rulebook. They are:
- Impaired Passive Range of Movement
- Impaired Muscle Power
- Limb Deficiency
- Leg Length Difference
- Vision Impairment
- Short Stature
The turnout for the 2021 Open could inform the future of the Adaptive division at the CrossFit Games. As Aldridge previously told BarBend, “If we have 500 upper extremity athletes participate in the Open, that’s plenty of a population to develop a Games roster.”
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[Related: 10 Athletes to Watch in the 2021 CrossFit Open]
Snelson is a former professional motocross athlete — a sport he first participated in at the age of 16 — and currently trains at CrossFit Fireside in Meridian, ID. In January 2014, he suffered a racing accident during an otherwise normal day on the motocross track that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Following his three-month rehab and recovery from his injury, Snelson gradually built his strength back up and found WheelWOD — an adaptive fitness organization — and got hooked on CrossFit®. Despite his need for a wheelchair, Snelson can perform barbell lifts such as cleans and snatches, pull-ups, muscle-ups, and battle ropes.
He has since competed in elite adaptive CrossFit competition including two appearances at the WheelWOD Games and Wodapalooza. He finished in fourth place at the 2017 Wodapalooza competition and earned a spot on the podium at the same event in 2018 with a third-place finish.
[Related: 10 Adaptive Strength Sports Athletes You Should Know in 2021]
In 2020, at 38 years of age, Dekeyrel was the first-ever fully blind athlete to compete at Wodapalooza. Diagnosed with the retinitis pigmentosa (RP) — a genetic disorder that causes a progressive loss of vision over time — at age five, Dekeyrel lost her central vision first, leaving her with only obscured peripheral vision during her teenage years. She lost her sight entirely towards the end of her college career (she studied dance and kinesiology).
Before discovering CrossFit®, she was diagnosed with lupus symptomatic of rheumatoid arthritis and suffered for three years before a significant and strict change in her diet allowed her to regain her strength in a span of six months. No longer able to dance, her husband brought her to a CrossFit box to try it out.
That first workout consisted of dumbbell thrusters, dumbbell bench presses, and rope climbs — which she acquired a particular affinity for. Dekeyrel has said previously that she is training to return to top-level competition in 2021.
[Related: USAPL Announces Adaptive, MX, Para Bench, and Raw with Wraps Categories]
The four-foot-five-inch tall Witous is a former wrestler-turned-CrossFit athlete self-deemed “The Fittest Dwarf on Earth.” Prior to CrossFit®, Witous was slated to wrestle at Purdue University but an MRI revealed he had spinal stenosis — the narrowing of the spaces within one’s spine. This diagnosis meant that wrestling threatened the potential of paralyzing him — a difficult pill to swallow given he trained wrestling daily up until that point.
With his discovery of CrossFit®, he found a replacement for that sense of competition that he longed for. He recognized from his first WOD that the sport of functional fitness was going to be what filled the void that wrestling left behind. He made his CrossFit® Open debut in 2016 and competed every year since. He has competed at Wodapalooza twice in the Adaptive Standing division and earned a runner-up finish in 2020.
[Realated: Adaptive Athlete Joe Micco’s Message: Don’t Just Accept Your Prognosis]
The 30-year-old Norwegian had part of his lower right leg amputated in 2015 following an accident at an aluminum plant where he worked. His foot got covered in liquid aluminum, which has a melting point of 660 degrees celsius. An avid soccer player before the accident, he was eager to get back to training once he received his prosthesis. Four days after his amputation, he was back in the gym.
Four years after his accident, he earned gold at the WheelWOD Games in 2019 in the Lower Impaired division. He competed in the CrossFit® Open in 2018 and 2019. He trains at CrossFit 46, an affiliate in Kristiansand, Norway.
[Related: Vaughan DeBarr’s Message to Adaptive Athletes: “Fight the fight. One step at a time.”]
Coutenceau is a 33-year-old French CrossFitter who was born without part of her left arm (from the elbow down). She performed her first WOD in 2016 at the affiliate in Saint-Nazaire, France on the recommendation of a friend. She has since become a member at CrossFit Honey Baby in Vezin-le-Coquet.
She earned a fourth-place finish in the Adaptive Standing division at Wodapalooza in 2020. In preparation for that event, she successfully hit her first-ever bar muscle-up. Check out the video of it below courtesy of The Wodapalooza Fitness-Festival‘s Facebook page:
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Derek Weida is a 35-year-old US Army veteran from the 82nd Airborne Division. His military career was cut short in 2008 when he was shot in the right knee while conducting a raid on his third combat tour to Iraq. The bullet went through one side of his knee to the other while working as the point man on his assault team. After 18 months consisting of multiple surgeries and physical rehabilitation, his doctors agreed with him that his leg needed to be amputated from the knee down.
A few years after his amputation, he began competing in the obstacle course races. He has since taken up CrossFit® training with the aspirations of competing against able-bodied athletes. Additionally, he is the founder of The Next Objective, a nonprofit organization that helps ex-servicepeople rehabilitate back into society after active military duty with a focus on fitness and community.
[Related: How Strength Training Is Helping This Adaptive Athlete Prepare for the Ironman® World Championship]
In Khakrez, Afghanistan on July 29, 2010, Marcus Hayward was pinned under his all-terrain vehicle that drove over a pressure-plate improvised explosive device (IED). He was pulled out from under the vehicle and was forced into a medically-induced coma to receive treatment. He awoke two days later in Landstuhl, Germany with an amputated left leg. In addition to the loss of his leg, the blast damaged his left eye and caused a traumatic brain injury. The required surgeries put two plates in his face, a plate in the first metacarpal of his left hand, a retina reattachment, an artificial lens placement, and a cadaver cornea transplant.
He first got back into training with more stationary movements like the bench press. Eventually, he built his strength back up enough to break into functional fitness. Nowadays he trains at Crazytrain CrossFit in West Palm Beach, FL. His first competitive experience was the 2014 Working Wounded Games at CrossFit Rubicon in Vienna, VA (which has since permanently closed).
He has three appearances at Wodapalooza including competing in 2015 — the year the Adaptive Athlete divisions were introduced. His other Wodapalooza appearances were in 2016 and 2018 against able-bodied athletes. In 2016, he competed in the Intermediate Team division. In 2018, he competed in the Scaled Team division. He competed in the CrossFit® Open in 2015 and 2016 and plans to compete in it again in 2021.
Feature image from Jedidiah Snelson’s Instagram page: @jedidiahsnelson