CrossFit opens new path to elite sport

Khan Porter is trying to be a better all-round athlete, hoping to represent Australia at the CrossFit Games.
Khan Porter is trying to be a better all-round athlete, hoping to represent Australia at the CrossFit Games. Amy Page

ANY kid who has picked up a football, swung a cricket bat or dived into a pool has dreamt of one day pulling on the green and gold for Australia.

But for nearly all of them, those dreams never become reality.

Growing up playing rugby union and making a splash as a surf lifesaver, Khan Porter's childhood was no different.

And like so many others, the now 25-year-old Sydneysider would not go on to be a Wallaby, and he never featured on the world stage as a surf lifesaver.

He has, however, proudly worn the green and gold as a member of Team Australia at the 2014 CrossFit Invitational - an event featuring six-person teams (three male, three female) from Australia, Canada, America and Europe.

For Khan, it was one of the brightest highlights of his CrossFit challenge, which also included an appearance at last year's CrossFit Games.

At first glance, it is hard to believe Khan's CrossFit journey began just like any other, but just like the thousands of CrossFit members worldwide, he came across the popular healthy lifestyle by chance.

"I grew up playing rugby union and surf lifesaving as a kid, so I've always been fit, competitive and around gyms," Khan said.

"I heard about CrossFit through some friends and decided to give it a go."

Unfortunate circumstances further cemented Khan's connection to CrossFit after he was made redundant from his job as a writer.

"I had some freelance work but I really needed a dependable income," Khan said.

"I was offered a job coaching at a gym, which gave me the opportunity to train a lot more, and from there, I really got into CrossFit."

That was mid-2012. In 2013 Khan was competing among Australia and New Zealand's elite for a place at the CrossFit Games - finishing 10th.

With a renewed focus, Khan went on to finish third at last year's Australia/New Zealand regionals, thus booking his spot to compete among the world's elite competitors at the 2014 CrossFit Games.

"2014 was tough. The regionals and games really exposed a few weaknesses in my game," Khan said.

"Not a lot separates the top 10 guys in the region, so it's really competitive, and at that level you can't afford to bomb out in a WOD (Workout of the Day). Guys like Rob Forte and Chad Mackay have been among Australia's most consistent for a while now, but there are a lot of guys out there who are really pushing to be among the best," Khan said.

With the memories of 2014 fresh in his mind, Khan turned his focus to becoming a more well-rounded athlete (one of the foundation principles of CrossFit) in the lead-up to the 2015 CrossFit Open, which began on Thursday.

"I'm focused on becoming a well-rounded, weakness-free athlete," Khan said.

"I prioritised my training to work on my weaknesses, because in competition you can only control your efforts, not those of the athletes you are competing against."

Despite his steely inner focus, Khan could be forgiven for being a bundle of stress during this year's CrossFit Open.

Not only is he a part-owner and coach at CrossFit Play in Sydney, but he and Australia and New Zealand's elite will this year face the unknown in competitors from Asia after changes to this year's regional qualification process.

But Khan won't be too stressed - through it all, the affable Aussie will compete with his trademark smile.

"I'm a naturally competitive bloke, but at the end of the day, if CrossFit stops being fun for me, I'll give it away," Khan said.

"CrossFit was a hobby for me, but now it's my sport - not many people get that opportunity."

Nothing epitomises this almost carefree approach more than Khan's recent appearance at Riverside Jam in Perth.

Competing in a number of intense WODs under a hot West Australian sun, Khan and several of his fellow competitors did what any true blue Aussie would do - they stripped down to their Speedos.

"It was a bit of fun, really," Khan said.

"It was a mate's business. He was there promoting his swimwear, so we decided to do our part to promote a local business and it was hot, really hot.

"Would I wear them at the Games? No. But it was all a bit of fun. I used to compete exclusively in Speedos, so it wasn't a big deal."

Fun is the name of the game when Khan competes, and it may just be the key that unlocks the door to his dream of representing Australia on the world stage.

The Open:

THE CrossFit Open identifies the top athletes in each region, who then compete for a place at the 2015 CrossFit Games.

This year heralds the addition of sections of Asia to the Australia/New Zealand region. The top 30 male and female athletes compete at a super regional event. Five male and five female athletes then earn the right to compete at the Games.

To qualify among the top 30, each athlete must complete all five CrossFit Open WODs - the WODs are released weekly.

A video accompanies the international release of the WOD. The video details movement, judging and scoring standards, and athletes have until the following Monday to perform the WOD and submit their scores via the internet.

Athletes who believe they will be in line to qualify for the regional competition are required to film their WODs.

This year also marks the introduction of an all-new scaled division. Athletes who opt to compete in this division will be given the option of scaling certain movement standards and weights, but will be ranked below their RX (as prescribed) counterparts.

There is also a separate team division, which features different WODs from the individual open.

Topics:  crossfit fitness sport

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