Photo from the CrossFit Games.
"What do you have for me, Mel?"
The 90-minute deadline was well beyond over, and heat 2 of the Men’s event was already underway. Typing away furiously on my laptop and avoiding eye-contact with our Regional Media Director (RMD), Jen, I only managed a meek response.
"10 more minutes…?"
"You have five," Jen laid down the final ruling, as she wrestled for time with HQ to pay for my indecisive writing.
In the musky Media room, there was an unusual silence accompanied with occasional slurps by Agust and his
motherfuckin’ strawberry juice. Lines upon lines of cliched narratives were chopped as I read through the report one last time, before sending it off to Jen.
Only eight paragraphs survived.
Attach document. Send.
Several revisions and 30 minutes later, the article was off to HQ. We were done with the first Asia Regional report of the year. I heaved a sigh of relief and returned to the stadium to let out my inner fan-girl, while watching some women throw up impressive weights.
The rest of the weekend would follow in similar fashion; between Dex, Akshay and I, we tag-teamed all six Regional reports and were running to sweaty competitors, grabbing quick quotes - all in a bid to string together coherent sentences that were both informative and narrative. We didn’t need many reminders that fans and friends of these athletes only have what we give them- an indirect consequence of being the first region to miss out on a live stream this season. We knew we had to deliver - in full-color, no less.
Perhaps that was why it was so nerve-wrecking to write that first report. Apart from the fact that it was nearly impossible to figure out who won the event (teams can skip movements now?!), we felt the need to include the entire experience within one mobile-responsive, infinite-scroll article, without using cliched expressions like ‘battle’ or ‘neck in neck’. The enormity of the responsibility gnawed at me for a solid 10 minutes before I could get any virtual ink on the document.
The challenge of writing at the Asia Regional lied within both the obscurity and the richness of the experience.
Being the little-known region that gets crap every single year for putting non-Asians on the podium, we’re also one of the most fluid regions. Newcomers are abundant every year, and they arrive with noteworthy pasts without much warning. For example, Zohar Lipkin, a newbie with an engine solid enough to land him in third by the end of day one, turned out to have only started his CrossFit journey three months prior. Or Phil Hesketh, an athlete from InnerFight in Dubai, who completely slipped our radar almost ended up placing first in the region.
And those that we do get to learn about beforehand often have stories so close to heart, it’s difficult not to root for them.
Getting that first sentence in was frankly paralyzing.
We don’t serve up mind-blowing statistics, but the richness in inspiration and humanity within the region is incomparable. Everyone was from somewhere else, or has dreams of making it elsewhere - and this was a pattern consistent regardless of whether you were competing, volunteering or spectating.
Unlike volunteers in different regions, the crew that turned up in Seoul was highly international - from the Media team alone, we comprised of up to seven different nationalities. Most of us paid our own way to lend a hand at making the weekend an experience worth remembering. The same could be said about the judges, the athletes’ control crew and the staff members.
Why pay for flights and accommodation, to spend 12-hour days at an event you’re not participating in? The limelight was on the athletes, and the tasks were hardly glorious - but everyone who turned up cared personally either for the sport, or for someone giving their all on the competition floor. By the time athletes took the floor, the atmosphere in the stadium was electric. There was no talk of glory or credit; just pure slivers of finesse through grit as a celebration of the sport that we love.
Personally, I turned up because I was curious. I didn’t expect to be immersed in the company of people who cared as deeply as I did, and to find such diversity in the same people.
It’s been a week since the Regional; the crowd has moved on to the next biggest attraction - unfortunately for us, it’s yet another CrossFit-bashing article, but regardless, I’m still reeling from the good vibes that happened last week in Seoul.
There is a strange yet wonderful high that follows the Asia Regional stress. Starting from the break of dawn where we huddled in the musky Media room, all the way to lights-off at the stadium, there was no room for boredom. The Media team began as separate individuals, all lending voices to regale stories on behalf of athletes that would eventually take center stage at KBS 88 Sports World. But under great leadership, we became a team - picking up slack for one another and unquestioningly filling in gaps wherever it was needed.
Looking back at our chat logs and multiple email conversations, I catch myself smiling at the inside jokes we share and missing the team sorely, only to realise that we’re really never that far apart - so until next year, Media Team. What an incredible treat it has been.
*All the above represent my views and opinions, and is in no way a representation of CrossFit HQ’s.