#118: The Spirit Of The Crossfit Games – Bronze Medalist Roman Khrennikov (CrossFit Games 2023)

Friday September 22, 2023

Sometimes it doesn’t go according to the plan. Roman Khrennikov came to CrossFit Games 2023 with one goal in mind…to win at all costs. He led the field in nearly every event for three days opening a commanding lead. Until he scaled a log on the first event of the final day…

In this precursor episode from day two of the games, Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff sit down with Roman from the US Army Fitness Truck in Madison, WI to dive deep into his journey of drive, dedication, determination, resilience and pursuit of excellence. Roman shares how he overcame visa challenges to even compete in the games, forcing him to leave his wife and unborn son in Russia. He shares his decision to change coaches in the lead up to the games, his training mindset, his focus on competing in the moment instead of comparing himself to the past, and how dancing helped him become a better athlete. Roman also explains his thoughts on injury and how to deal with the adversity of not achieving your goals.  

Roman earned the bronze medal and is the recipient of the coveted Spirit of the Games award after a historic performance demonstrating his mindset to compete to win no matter the challenge; which for Roman in these games included competing in the final two events with a broken foot and torn ligament. He’s a true champion on and off the competition floor inspiring others through his incredible story of triumph and perseverance in the world of elite fitness.

Read the full episode transcription here and learn more on The Jedburgh Podcast Website. Subscribe to us and follow @jedburghpodcast on all social media. Watch the full video version on YouTube.

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The Spirit Of The Crossfit Games – Bronze Medalist Roman Khrennikov (CrossFit Games 2023)

Welcome to The Jedburgh Podcast. Roman and Rosa, thanks so much for taking a few minutes out of your time. It’s day two, officially, of CrossFit Games 2023, but the elite individual competition will begin and we’re a few minutes away from the opening ceremonies. I appreciate you taking a few minutes now with Jesse and I.

CrossFit Games 2023 Bronze Medalist and Spirit of the Games Winner Roman Khrennikov on The Jedburgh Podcast with Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff.Before we kick you off into the main event, the next couple of days are going to be some of the most grueling fitness competitions in the history of the world. In 2022, you took second in the games. This is your fifth Games appearance. You placed fourth in the semis coming in here this 2023. As you came into the venue and looked around, the whole crowd grabbed you for about twenty pictures before you came up to sit down with us. What’s your mindset?

It’s shocking to him that people know him and they recognize him. It’s incredible for him. He cannot still get used to the fact that people know him and he motivates so many people. They grabbed him and took photos with him. He also feels like he didn’t earn it. All these years, even in 2022, when he came to the United States, how welcoming the community was. It has been and they always take pictures with him and they tell him motivational stuff. They said they are very much motivated by him. It’s very shocking to him and he still getting used to it. It’s cool. Thank you, everyone.

I would love to hear your story on how you got started in athletics.

He was a very active child. He always liked to do different things. He always did a little sport outside of his house like we have a little pull-up bar outside. It’s like a play garden and monkey bars and stuff. He does a bunch of stuff there and he likes swimming. He liked to go rowing. In the wintertime, they’ll go skiing. He always tried all different things, but he never could pick one that he liked. Next to his work is the CrossFit Affiliate Open. He read about it and he liked that CrossFit is all of the accumulation of a whole bunch of different sports. That hooked him and then he went to the gym and he liked it. That’s how he came to CrossFit.

I heard a story that you were a dancer before you got into athletics.

Starting at the age of ten, he danced. There was only one thing consistent throughout his life. He was great at break dancing. He could do muscle memory. Big muscle is probably going to be on the way right now, but he has it if there’s an event.CrossFit Games 2023 Bronze Medalist and Spirit of the Games Winner Roman Khrennikov on The Jedburgh Podcast with Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff.

Did you say break dancing?


That’s why I asked because many athletes progress in their careers. Jesse was a collegiate pole vaulter. She talks a lot about how that helps her as a Ninja Warrior. We see professional football players and running backs. We’ll talk a lot about how they were dancers or they practice dance because it helps them with their footwork. I have to imagine that having some of that as a background helps you in things the gymnastics of it.

He believed that dancing did help him in CrossFit because dancing is such a thing that when you’re looking at things, you have to memorize and then execute. It’s the same thing with the CrossFit. He had to watch a lot of stuff and try to mimic and repeat. Dancing did help him in most of the exercises.

[bctt tweet=”Dancing is helpful in training for CrossFit. Both activities require you to memorize, execute, mimic, and repeat.” username=”talentwargroup”]

The road to the US has been a tough one. You went through a series of 3 or 4 visa denials over the last couple of years. It was compounded certainly by COVID-19 and then the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which made it a lot more difficult. Rosa, you saw Roman’s story and what he was going through. Even though qualifying for the games and being denied the opportunity to participate in the games, what did you see in his story and his family that drove you to get involved and help him and his family to come to the US?

Back in 2017 when CrossFit Games came to Madison, Wisconsin, we came to an event with my husband and we absolutely loved it. It’s everything you ever want more, and fitness enthusiasts love it. In 2018, the guy from Russia won the regionals. It’s a big news to me. I’m from Uzbekistan. For me, I was proud, and then when he got his visa denied, it was a bummer. I don’t know if you guys ever went through a visa process. It sucks.CrossFit Games 2023 Bronze Medalist and Spirit of the Games Winner Roman Khrennikov on The Jedburgh Podcast with Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff.

I didn’t tell you before we started. I worked for a Russian oligarch in LA, and my visa was revoked.

Unfortunately, he’s not an oligarch. He’s quite the opposite. We started doing a little bit of a classic here and there. I have to drop the name, Greg Hammond, from Concept2. That guy inspired my husband to inspire me to do CrossFit, so I did CrossFit. That was a national championship for Pakistan. I got a lot of visas. I did modeling. For ten years, I traveled around the world and I got visas. I know how the process is. It’s always been a working visa. Athletes apply for tourist visas and I know why they get denied. Sometimes, the consul feels like they don’t want to give it. It’s nothing personal. It’s a choice of a consul not to give you a visa. Have you ever been to the CrossFit Open?

No. We haven’t competed in CrossFit.

Try it. When you go through the grueling process of all of the competition workouts, you have an appreciation of like, “This athlete did such a great job and they qualified,” and something like that can take it away in a second. I heard the story over and over about Roman so I decided to reach out and say, “I feel so bad, and I know how this process goes of how to get the visa.” I was standing behind the scenes. I never met him or anybody, and I thought to myself, “Somebody will take care of it,” and then I was like, “Why am I waiting?” I decided to reach out. I reached out, we talked, and became friends. I’m so grateful. I did that. I recommend to everybody to be kind and help others. It makes my soul happy. It’s like Madison too. We’re a very good community of fitness here. It’s really awesome.CrossFit Games 2023 Bronze Medalist and Spirit of the Games Winner Roman Khrennikov on The Jedburgh Podcast with Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff.

I live in New York so I’ll tell you that everybody is way nicer here in Madison, Wisconsin. This was a difficult decision for you, Roman. Your visa finally gets through. It came and it was accepted, but you had to leave your wife. She was eight months pregnant with your unborn son. Talk about that decision.

The decision was not just his. It was a mutual decision of the family. They gathered together and talked about it. His wife is very supportive. She’s amazing. They made a decision that he had to come to Madison and prepare for the games. It was very tough to sit in the car, get in the taxi, drive to the airport, hop on the airplane, and not turn around. The toughest movement he has ever done is to walk away, but the decision was made so he came here. It’s very sad, but it was a long time ago. It’s a history now. They are all back here together with the wife, the son, and a dog. Everything is super cool and they’re excited.


How long do you have to be away?

He came in March 2022 and they joined him at the end of July 2022. His son was born. In March 2022, he arrived here and has never left. He’s been here since then.

CrossFit Games 2023 Bronze Medalist and Spirit of the Games Winner Roman Khrennikov on The Jedburgh Podcast with Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff.He’s an American. That’s for multiple rounds of competition and training. Is the training better here?

Working out and preparing for the competition here is much better for him because now, he’s focusing on the competition here in the US like Rogue Invitational, Wodapalooza, and Crossfit Games. Flying here from Europe, the jet lag and acclimating is a lot. It is much better for him to train here in America.

Is there a coach and a team that you’re working with here?

He’s living in Cookeville and he is with CrossFit Mayhem. It’s an awesome gym and a great team. His coach is Facundo. He works with Rich Froning and Jake as well. He loves and enjoys it. It’s been a blast.

Can you talk a bit about your training mindset? To operate at an elite level in any sport or anything that we do even if it’s not sports, a business, or whatever, our path has in front of us. We talk about be-all-you-can-be. The Army has gone back to that motto or that slogan of becoming our best. How do we look at ourselves and think, “I don’t have to be the best in everything, but how do I become the best that I can be?” That takes a mental, physical, and emotional challenge that we have to overcome. How do you approach your training each day when you look at the physical, mental, and emotional components of being an athlete at this level?

It is very simple. You wake up in the morning, put all 100% in, come home, and eat. You put your 100% in for eating and recovery. You go back to the gym, put your 100% in, and you know in your mind that if you do that, you stay true to yourself, you don’t lie and cheat, and you go all out and all in every single time with workout, recovery, and everything, during the competition, you’re 100% sure of yourself. Now, he feels like he’s prepared. He never cheated. He did the best he could. He stayed true to himself and worked hard.CrossFit Games 2023 Bronze Medalist and Spirit of the Games Winner Roman Khrennikov on The Jedburgh Podcast with Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff.

For him, he’s ready and prepared. He’s not nervous. This is why because every single day, he works hard. That’s what his motto is. Don’t cheat in yourself, work hard, put 100% in. It’s sports. Things could go wrong, but that’s okay. It happens. Sometimes, you can win. Sometimes, you can lose. Sometimes, you can get injured. It’s a part of the sport. Some athletes do well. Some people get injured and that’s a bummer, but it’s a part of the process as well. There’s ups and downs.

How do you know when to take a rest day or when to back off so that you can avoid injury?CrossFit Games 2023 Bronze Medalist and Spirit of the Games Winner Roman Khrennikov on The Jedburgh Podcast with Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff.

The rest is on schedule. Sundays, it’s a 100% do-nothing day. He lays down, eats a lot, and spends time with his family and families nearby or watching movies and stuff like that. No sport. No activities. Sometimes, you have to listen to your body. With more experience in the field of working out, you are listening. If you feel like you’re about to get sick or your immune system is down, you know what you have to do.

You have to take a step back, then in the future, take three steps forward. You have to rest and take care of yourself. The older you get, you start feeling that a lot more. Be intuitive with your body with progress. You know what to do to get better. When you’re young, you’re like, “I can do everything. I’m invincible.” The older you get and you are listening to a body, now you know. Since he’s a professional athlete, he does it best.

The next couple of days are going to be pretty grueling. We talked at the start about your mindset coming into the 2023 event after having a great second-place finish in 2022. Now you have to close that last 1%. Jesse and I have talked a lot about it. You can go from 50th, 40th, 30th, to 10th and that’s going to be very difficult, but trying to go from 10th to 5th or 5th to 1st is often much harder. How do you now approach the next couple of days? What’s your mindset and what are you focused on?

CrossFit Games 2023 Bronze Medalist and Spirit of the Games Winner Roman Khrennikov on The Jedburgh Podcast with Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff.

His mindset has always been the same. When he goes to competitions, he’s going to win. Whatever place he plays after the first, it doesn’t matter. It can be 2nd, 4th, or 13th in the semi-final like you’re saying, it doesn’t matter. He goes to a competition with the same mindset. He wants to win. He’s done a lot of work since 2022. He tries not to think about 2022 either because it’s been a year. He’s done so much work. His body has changed. The way he feels has changed. He’s stronger and fitter than he’s ever been. He thinks about this competition as of now. He doesn’t compare himself to himself from the past. He doesn’t like to think about 2022 because it gives him a little bit more stress unnecessary in the way.

Therefore, he looks ahead of himself. He’s ready to work out and he’s looking forward to it. He wants to win and always will. It’s like CrossFit 2. The way CrossFit is built is it’s not the same workouts. They’re doing absolutely something brand new with different athletes, weather, and people. Everything always changes so you never know. That’s what’s cool about CrossFit. If they did the same workouts from the last year and everything was the same sports like basketball, football, or whatever, then we compare, but it would be boring.

[bctt tweet=”CrossFit is not composed of the same workouts. Everything always changes and you never know what to expect.” username=”talentwargroup”]

What are you most looking forward to? At the end of the day, we got to have fun.

He is most excited to show how hard he has worked and show himself the best. He wants to check out if his plan worked and his hard work paid off.CrossFit Games 2023 Bronze Medalist and Spirit of the Games Winner Roman Khrennikov on The Jedburgh Podcast with Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff.

I think it is. We got to get you on in the opening ceremony. I appreciate you coming and sitting down with us. Everybody comes here to build this community. This is a truly welcoming community. It’s about coming here and being the best that you can be. When we’re on the Army truck, and we’re talking about the best that you can be. You’ve been an inspiration to so many. Many look up to you, not only in this sport but many back in Russia and here in the US as what true leadership in the sport looks like. I wish you luck and we’ll be rooting for you.

Thank you so much.

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