For most of the weekend at the 2023 CrossFit Games, Roman Khrennikov seemed like a lock to win the Men’s Individual title. That is until he reportedly suffered a severe foot injury at the start of Sunday’s Finals. The athlete at the top of the leaderboard could not move like normal, all but ensuring someone else — in this case, Jeffrey Adler — would emerge victorious instead.
Despite his challenging circumstances, Khrennikov decided to keep competing. He wanted to finish what he started and set an example. He was rewarded summarily for that courageous decision by receiving the 2023 Spirit of the Games Award. Even while he didn’t win, it was quite a way for the 2023 third Fittest Man on Earth® to leave Madison, WI.
According to the CrossFit HQ website, the winner of the annual Spirit of the Games honor is an athlete whose character eclipses an entire field’s worth of people with incredible character. Per rhetorical questions from the CrossFit Director of Certification and Training, Nicole Carroll, it assesses who “inspires and motivates us to live life, even in the face of the most extreme challenges, with a little more grace, a little more kindness, a little more resilience.”
Such a description made Khrennikov the only logical choice in 2023. After sustaining his foot injury, Khrennikov likely knew he had no real shot at winning his first CrossFit Games title. He could’ve easily cut his losses and left the competition with the idea of preserving his long-term health. Instead, the American athlete decided to stick it out. Even while he was severely hampered and only really capable of doing most of the remaining Games movements on one leg, Khrennikov pushed through to the finish line.
Why? When it came down to it, he wanted to set an example for his son.
“I want to be a hero for my son and have him see me fight to the end,” Khrennikov said on the final day of competition.
Khrennikov’s decision set a standard for everyone watching, not just the people in his family. Sometimes, athletic excellence isn’t about just winning in the technical sense. It’s about giving one’s all, regardless of adversity. Because when athletes like Khrennikov leave everything on the line with nothing to gain, that can also be counted as a tremendous victory.
Featured image: @gowod_mobilityfirst on Instagram