Outside of the CrossFit Games, the OC Throwdown (most recently dubbed the 2014 OCT Comp) is regarded as one of the most competitive events of the year. The podium this year included past CrossFit Games competitors and champions.
In Southern California, the story is always about the women. With names like Lindsey Valenzuela, Sam Briggs, Julie Foucher, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, Lauren Fisher, Alessandra Pichelli, Jamie Hagiya, Talayna Fortunato, Gretchen Kittelberger, Rebecca Voigt, Kristen Clever and Amanda Allan, it might be easier to name the notable women who weren’t competing than those who were. However, the men’s field was no walk in the park, either. Notables like Wes Piatt, Adrian Conway, Jon Pera, Spencer Hendel, Ryan Fischer, Matt Baird, Guido Trinidad, Jeremy Kinnick and Garret Fisher joined defending champion Kenny Leverich for a weekend of competition that will never be forgotten for an entirely different reason.
The events had their quirks and own unique signature all weekend. The athletes were met with a surprise 10–to-one swim/burpee workout Friday night in San Clemente. Saturday was unique, with an opener that included various NFL Combine events. In fact, seeing athletes run the 40-yard dash with laser timers brought me back to Spring Training days. If the first two events of the day didn’t test enough will power, triple “Fran” sure did.
Athletes capped off Saturday evening with three back-to-back-to-back “Fran” efforts that began on the five minutes. The score? The lowest of the three — OUCH!
For some, the surprises like the run event with dual kettlebells for the first mile, a single kettlebell for the second and no kettlebells for the third mile kept things interesting. For others, the frustration bordered on annoyance. As the runners passed my company’s sponsor booth, it wasn’t uncommon to hear, “Ugh! This is stupid!” from some notable names in CrossFit.
Julian Serna took the men’s title from local champion Kenny Leverich, while Lindsey Valenzuela held onto her crown. Third-place finisher Sam Briggs claimed the entire arena’s attention, however, when she became the only athlete to finish the final workout, a chipper from hell that even included traversing a cargo net, before the time cap. Though it didn’t put her in first place, she stamped out any doubt that she remains an unstoppable force.
While the weekend’s performances were incredible, it’s difficult to pay much attention to them. I can’t image anyone reading this and learning of Kevin Ogar’s accident for the first time, but what happened on that day will be remembered for decades in the CrossFit community when it’s all said and done.
One missed lift combined with an alignment of the stars that we may never be able to understand or explain resulted in a catastrophic injury when Kevin’s barbell caromed off of some bumper plates behind him into his T12 vertebra, instantly severing his spine. The scene was shocking at minimum. With medical staff to his sides and an ambulance outside within minutes, Kevin was carried out of the OC Fairground’s “Hangar” with a silence and observance I’ve never seen. If I were to describe it, I’d begin with the passion and camaraderie that is a cornerstone in the CrossFit community.
No one knew anything. With nothing to go on, the community focused an effort of genuine concern at the event that is currently being multiplied a million-fold via social media. Understanding the intensity and passion of the CrossFit community, what I saw was an equal and opposite ambience of calm concern across the fairgrounds. I thought of the athletes and their parents. I thought of the spectators and the staff. Everyone was with Kevin. And what you’re seeing now is this CrossFit-sized passion bouncing across the globe in the form of compassion and love for a man whom most have not met.
The freak nature of that injury couldn’t be calculated in a million years and, ironically, neither could the level of genuine outpouring of love that we are seeing in this community. As I’ve said before, if this community has anything to do with it, the horror of this event will be met with an equal rally of support.
I’ve got to believe that Kevin will be a source of strength for everyone in the community. As hearts and minds keep focus on his progress and recovery, we’ll continue to learn more and more about each other and ourselves. Something tells me that the lesson in this includes a better understanding of just how beautifully powerful humanity really is.
— Logan Gelbrich