Centers of Excellence—Part 1

By Mike Warkentin

In Competition, CrossFit Games

September 13, 2009

PDF Article

Athletes from CrossFit Calgary and CrossFit Central did extremely well at the 2009 CrossFit Games. In Part 1 of this two-part series, Mike Warkentin talks to James (OPT) FitzGerald and Brett (AFT) Marshall about their training secrets.

James (OPT) FitzGerald won the 2007 CrossFit Games. His training partner, Brett (AFT) Marshall, was two points behind in second place. In 2008, OPT was 12th and AFT was 39th out of 196 athletes. Six other CrossFit Calgary competitors also made the trip to Aromas. At the 2009 CrossFit Games, CrossFit Calgary had four athletes in the Top 16, and their Affiliate Cup team—led by AFT—finished fourth overall.

Coincidence? Probably not.

According to OPT and AFT, the seeds of CrossFit Calgary’s success were sown in 2007, when a couple of Canadian training partners flew down to California to do a few workouts at a ranch in Aromas.

“Brett and I came back from the Games in ʼ07, and we were in love with CrossFit,” OPT recalls. “Well, I was in love with CrossFit over two years prior to those Games, and those Games were a chance for us to show everyone that we take this shit seriously, and we really love it as a sport. We basically bleed it pretty much, to the point where we’ve given up a lot of ourselves and our lives to create this so other people in our community can experience this.”

OPT continues: “When you walk into OPT and our facility, it’s a code that you have to expect to eat well and train hard. There’s no halfways about it, and I think that the expectation that Brett and I had coming back from ʼ07, we taught other people about that, about how special this sport is, and how really frickin’ hard it is, and what you’ve got to do to excel at it. I think we just surrounded ourselves with other people who really fed off that passion, and it just bleeds through when you see it in subsequent Games.”



10 Comments on “Centers of Excellence—Part 1”


wrote …

huyyyge fan of opt's blog

jj if your readingt his i think you need to get opt on for another episode


replied to comment from Duey Lai

I second that! I've listened to that episode more than a couple times, a wealth of knowledge, definitely someone I look up to


wrote …

Wow, what a nice shot in the arm for CrossFit Calgary and OPT. I'd just like to point out (to anyone interested) that Brett stepped in, literally, at the last minute to compete on the Affiliate Cup team. His brother had to withdraw from the team due to an illness so Brett agreed to be an alternate member, if needed. By the time the WODs were announced and he'd stepped off the plane in Cali, he was pretty much told he was needed to compete. Brett stepped up, again, and was a major reason for our success at the Games. This just shows me what an amazing athlete and person he is to be able to suck it up at the last minute and put off another incredible performance. Thank you, Brett!

PS. There has to be some video of his toes-to-bar; I thought he was going to put a dent in the bar the way he was bashing his feet against it!


wrote …

After watching the video of OPT explaining why he would not be competing at the 09 games and not seeing his name on list of last chance qualifiers, I was wondering how he got in...this article explains it. IMO, a personal invite from Coach kind of takes away from the legitimacy of the regional qualifying events. This must have led to the recent decision to permanently qualify the winners. Not to take anything away from the athletes, they obviously deserve to be there. I just think this adds to the "our favorites" mentality in our community.


Katrina Burton wrote …

Beautiful article!

Congratulations to both Brett and James for all their hard work in developing such an amazing community of fit athletes in Calgary (and surrounding areas). Plus all the hard work James' wife Leighanne puts in :) !!

It is always a special treat to be in Calgary and have the opportunity to hang out and train at your box and with your community. I can say that the experience you've provided myself and Chad has changed the way we attack our workouts, nutrition and life in general. So for that, THANK YOU!

For everyone else reading this, if you have the opportunity, you must get to CF Calgary and experience the magic first hand. Whether it's via one-on-one time with James or Brett or a drop in to one of their classes at CFC.

And Mike... I don't think Coach personally inviting James to participate took away any legitimacy of the qualifiers. Everyone from the Canada West Region knows that had James competed rather than running the event, A) he would have qualified anyways, and B) the event would not have ran as smoothly as it did. He is "a favorite" as you put it, for what he has done for the sport of CrossFit, and IMO deserved to be there.


wrote …

love the article-
You guys are doing great stuff up there in Calgary!

keep it up!


replied to comment from Mike Wright

I see your point, Mike, but I disagree.

Regional Qualifiers are the proving grounds where CrossFit selects its best athletes. These athletes must indeed earn their spots in the Games. Past Games champions proved themselves by winning a tremendously difficult contest, and I make the case that by doing that they too earned their spot.

CrossFit is not golf, and I have a hard time imagining a past champion who's not competitive entering the Games. I think we're a long way from having fat, old past winners posting 10-minute Fran times in Aromas. Both OPT, Jason Khalipa and Jolie Gentry finished in the Top 16 this year, so I'd suggest their inclusion was more than warranted.

Finally, I can't see how a personal invitation from Greg Glassman could take legitimacy away from anything. I think Coach Glassman is in a good position to decide who should participate in his event.


wrote …

Great article of course and I'm very thankful to be involved with OPT and CFC. All the athletes worked extremely hard and it has been a pleasure to watch them get better and better thanks to OPT and AFT's programming. Geoff mentioned Brett stepping up at the last minute to join the affiliate team. I was in Calgary when the games were on and myself and the CFC clients were glued to the computer for updates. As we heard what some of the wods were we knew that AFT would be called to action. That in itself goes to show what team spirit was present. The article also mentioned that AFT was 39th in 2008. What it didn't say was that in 2008 AFT went down as a spectator to cheer on the other CFC athletes. We at home were all shocked to see that he decided to compete the day of the games. One athlete not mentioned was Katy Josephs who at 16 was probably one of the youngest competitors there. I'm not positive of her exact placing but did an excellent job and topped many of the big names on the first run, deadlift and sandbag run.
To OPT,Mike,DJ,Lauren,Katy,Rob,Geoff,Brett,Michelle,Laura and Stacey - proud to know you.


wrote …

Can't wait for the article about CrossFit Central.


wrote …

It may be of interest to note that AFT did design the programs for Michelle Savard and Stacey Deering leading up to both the qualifier in Canada West and the CF Games.
Geoff Aucoin and me strictly followed the Big Dawgs programming up to the qualifier and then whole Affiliate Team met 1-2 times/week on Fridays and Sundays to mimic the CF Games workout schedule. The WODs for these days were designed by OPT and coincidentally, a few were very similar to the WODs that came up during the Games. Saturdays were off days and we (Geoff & me) cherry picked WODs from the Big Dawgs or CF main site on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Mondays were max effort strength days, Tuesdays were skill work days (work on what you suck at) and Wednesdays were work capacity days.
I would like to reiterate what Geoff stated. Brett Marshall really stepped up when we needed him. His brother, Taylor, unfortunately was very ill just 10 days prior to the Games and couldn't compete. That being said, the genetics in that family is insane. Taylor is also CF monster.
I'm also very interested to read about CrossFit Central.
Rob Corson

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