ABU DHABI // A group of athletes in the capital has become the first non-US team to make the podium of the CrossFit Games this week.
Team Yas, from CrossFit Yas on Yas Island, a mix of six Britons, Australians and New Zealanders, men and women, took third place in the competition, in which 40 teams made the final round.
The qualifiers took place over five weeks in February, with 324,307 participants registered in the teens, open and masters categories.
Winners of the regions then took part in eight regional competitions, the winners of which went on to the finals in the US.
Forbes magazine called CrossFit one of the fastest-growing sports in America and its growth in the UAE is comparable.
Over recent years, a wealth of CrossFit facilities has sprung up around the Emirates, concentrated in Dubai, where there are about 30 facilities.
The sport mixes a range of disciplines, from Olympic weightlifting to gymnastics.
The games, in their 10th year, comprised a number of challenges over five days, unknown to participants until the time of the competition. This year included challenges from peg-board climbing to handstand walks.
The team, Sabine Whitfield, 28, Elliot Simmonds, 22 and Anthony Monks, 27, from the UK; Jamie Greene, 25, from New Zealand, and Australians Natan Geva, 28, and Tammi Robinson, 23, did what no non-American team has done before.
They were supported at the event in California by gym members and Emiratis from around the UAE.
“They said we’d done the country proud, which is awesome because the UAE gave us a home, a job and the chance to make people’s lives better through fitness,” said Simmonds.
Greene, who has become an international name after finishing as first female in the world in the open category, the first stage of three, said she hopes to inspire other women.
“Having female coaches here definitely helps engage the local community,” said Greene. “Most of the women don’t come to CrossFit Yas to compete but there are the odd few who do. It’s good for them to see other women competing internationally.”
Despite the achievement, Simmonds, who has been in Abu Dhabi for two years, said it is through coaching rather than competition that he hopes he will inspire people the most.
“We all love what we do, competing is just a bonus. Most of our passion is coaching, we just happen to love competing at the same time,” he said.
Briton Phil Hesketh, a coach at InnerFight in Dubai, is so far the country’s most successful CrossFit athlete, last year making 29th place in the final 40 of the Games in the US. This year was the first time in the last five that he was unable to compete because of a broken hand.
He said the achievement of the Abu Dhabi team was significant.
“It is awesome to see that the US is no longer dominating the podiums at the games,” he said. “It will certainly help increase participation in the sport and bring good publicity to the UAE in the future.”
This year’s games courted controversy when it was announced that all winners would be given a Glock handgun. Glock was one of the event’s major sponsors.
Hesketh said the decision was inappropriate. “I’m not sure the general message that the Glock gave was one that is appropriate to CrossFit,” he said.
Simmonds, Team Yas captain, agreed. “If it was a competition in somewhere like Texas, it might make sense. The fact it’s a major event with people from all around the world, I thought it was stupid.”
Source: uae news