Smashing goals on the CrossFit world stage

Smashing goals on the CrossFit world stage Ryan McCarthy

4 November 2021

Collegian and physical education teacher Ryan McCarthy (Sargood 1993-1997) competed in the World CrossFit Games in the United States in July.

He was one of eight Kiwis to qualify but the only male Master from Australasia to take part in the prestigious event which attracts the very best competitors from around the world.

Ryan’s dedication to fitness makes him a regular in St Paul’s gymnasium as he puts countless training hours into CrossFit – as well as teaching and coaching the school’s second XV rugby team. CrossFit is a combination of gymnastics, weightlifting and aerobic conditioning and has become a global fitness phenomenon in recent years.

Ryan took up the sport after he moved down from Auckland, had given up club rugby, and was looking for a new fitness challenge. He had come from a teaching job at Macleans College where he had done Olympic weightlifting. In 2013, Ryan’s new colleague introduced him to the world of CrossFit and he was immediately hooked.

It was a long road to get to the World CrossFit Games champs, after narrowly missing qualification in 2019, and then qualifying for 2020, in the Masters 40-44 age bracket, but the event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year, out of 15,000 participants in the qualification process, only the top 20 athletes worldwide (00.01%) qualify for each category of the World CrossFit Games. It is a rigorous qualification process with applicants required to participate in nine qualification workouts, having to send through work outs and videos as proof of the workouts, which are then judged and verified.

He is extremely grateful to the school for giving him leave so he could attend; and also for the financial support from many people as his sport does not receive any public funding.

“Obviously, the whole trip was made possible by the many people who kindly donated to my Givealittle page. The response was overwhelming. The whole trip would not have been possible without the amazing financial support I received.”

The event itself is three days of intense competition in Madison, Wisconsin. “There are three workouts per day. You don’t know what the events are in advance, they tell you the night before.”

“I had a 7.5 km run, a 500m swim, plus other traditional CrossFit workouts involving gymnastics and weightlifting.” It was a fantastic, once-ina- lifetime experience.

“The people you meet and the camaraderie between competitors is awesome.” “I was the only Australasian Master Male athlete, there were two Canadians, two French, and the rest were Americans. I was probably quite unique as I was only one of three who did not own a CrossFit gym.”

He finished his division in the competition in 12th place.

Under Ryan’s leadership CrossFit, which builds mental toughness, strength, speed, power and aerobic fitness – has been introduced to the school’s sports programme. The goal is to enter a team in national competitions.

In terms of his own future, the bug is still alive, and Ryan would love to compete in the World Games again next year.

Forever the perfectionist, Ryan says “there are so many skills involved you never master it.”

He wants to encourage students to give it a go, to never give up on their goals and not to be scared to try new things.

*“Regardless of the outcome, give it a go. People will still be proud of you if you try.”

Travel restrictions and the requirement to do a stint in managed isolation on returning to New Zealand meant he was away for five weeks. A cancelled internal connection meant he had to reschedule flights and had a spontaneous trip to Disneyland as he waited for a rescheduled flight.

A natural athlete, Ryan did gymnastics competitively prior to St Paul’s and then took up athletics and rugby under the guidance of Paul Wilson and Gary Henley-Smith while a student at St Paul’s. He was part of the 4x100m school track relay team which still holds the national Secondary Schools athletics record of 42.53 obtained in 1997. He described a tough athletics training regime under Paul Wilson, still on staff at the school, which helped him develop discipline and good training habits.

*“That was where my training ethic was developed, we would run on Sundays here and train six days a week so that gave me a grounding in hard work.”

His sporting prowess was a solid foundation to study a Bachelor of Education at the University of Otago. He played 52 first-class games for North Otago and had one season with the Highlanders Super Rugby team.

Ryan grew up in Turangi and gave most sports a go including motocross, swimming, athletics, hunting, snow and water skiing.

Involved in all areas of school life, Ryan has been on the Collegians’ Association Committee for 10 years and has spent three years as Vice President. He is a former Head of House at Sargood while a student; and Sargood Housemaster from 2016-2018 and Deputy 2011-2015.

Ryan lives in Hamilton, with his wife Maree, also a PE teacher, and their children Taylor, 11, and Sam, 9.