HOUSTON -- More than 100 athletes, a dozen of them limited by debilitating injuries, accidents, or illness, crowded into a CrossFit gym south of downtown Houston Saturday to build muscles and to tear down a few stereotypes at the same time.
CrossFit EADO hosted the second annual WOD for Wheels event pairing able-bodied and adaptive athletes side by side in CrossFit workouts. Organized by Angel Gonzalez and the co-owners of CrossFit ReDefined in Spring, a portion of the entry fees are dedicated to raising funds for adaptive athletic equipment.
"People giving no excuses," said Gonzalez, a wheelchair athlete himself. "And you know at the end of the day it's that we want to be on the same playing field and we want to raise the awareness for adaptive athletes."
Jessie Medina, a U.S. Marine veteran who lost his right leg and part of his left hand to a land mine in Afghanistan, did box jumps on one leg, and donned a prosthetic leg to haul weighted sled across the CrossFit floor.
Krystal Cantu, who lost her right arm in a rollover car crash one year ago near San Antonio, pulled the same sled and displayed what she called her "stubborn determination" in a heavy rope toss.
Sarah Evans, an Air Force veteran who lost her left leg to bone cancer, performed box jumps with the help of crutches but then aced a clean and jerk workout balancing only on her right leg.
Daniel Crane, who lost his right hand and forearm to a terrorist shotgun blast while serving with the Air Force in Guam, impressed an applauding crowd as he did the clean and jerk with only his one hand.
And Justin Daniel Scott, a quadriplegic left with only limited ability in his arms and hands, took part in his first CrossFit competition since the 21st birthday car crash that left him with a broken neck.
"It makes me feel like I can be just as good, just as fit," said Crane. "Just as physically fit as the next guy. As mentally strong as the next guy."
"I think we're all tough," said Krystal Cantu. "You just need to find it within yourself. It took something like this for me to find that strength within myself."
"If you want to stay stuck where you're at, you stay there," said Jessie Medina. "If you want to move forward you push yourself to do it."
"I just want them to see me as an athlete, because that's how I feel you know," said Justin Daniel Scott
"In my day to day life I think a lot of people feel sorry for me and want to coddle me and want to hold the door open for me. And that's great and I appreciate it," said Sarah Evans. "But even at work I work on the 3rd floor and I like to take the stairs. And I like being able to push my body to the limits again."
The adaptive athletes describe their fascination with CrossFit this way: when you have spent so much of your life recovering from a terrible accident, a terrorist attack, or a devastating disease, the rigor, the challenge, and the camaraderie of CrossFit make you feel alive.
"If you know who I am there's no need to feel sorry," said Canto. "If I felt sorry for myself I wouldn't be here."
"Look at me like a normal person. Because I am," added Crane. "I'm just like you, you're just like me. That's just who we are. I just happen to not have an arm," he said with a laugh.
"I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life," said Scott from his wheelchair. "I'm enjoying life and I'm having a good time."
"I feel fit. I feel healthy. I feel strong and enabled by it," added Evans.
Which is what the athletes say CrossFit is all about, no matter who you are and no matter what hurdles in life you are trying to overcome.