The CrossFit Games are the proving grounds for elite fitness, and when the last barbell hits the ground and a champion is crowned, the analysis begins.
In 2007, James (OPT) FitzGerald used passion and superb overall conditioning to win the inaugural edition of the CrossFit Games. A year later, Jason Khalipa used incredible strength and power to come out of nowhere to emerge victorious. In 2009, Mikko Salo arrived in Aromas and used a balance of strength, endurance and perseverance to claim the title.
After the Games, Sevan Matossian traveled to Salo’s hometown of Pori, Finland, to give the CrossFit community a closer look at the World’s Fittest Man. What he discovered was sisu.
Intrinsic to Finland and its people, sisu is a form of stoic courage and unwavering perseverance in the face of long odds and hard challenges. It’s the kind of thing that allows a person to quietly set his will to complete just one more rep before setting down the barbell. It’s what helps a man climb a hill when his body wants to refuse. It’s the intangible quality that helps an elite athlete complete eight unknown events and emerge as the world’s fittest.
Sisu is perhaps best defined by Salo himself after he’s asked why he doesn’t lie down after a completing a chest-to-bar Fran in a time that would have placed him first in the event at the 2008 CrossFit Games.
“I once read an article about it: when animals surrender they go lying on their back,” Salo explains. “From then on I decided I would never go lying on my back. It’s a sign of weakness and surrendering. I’m never lying on my back.”
That’s sisu, and it defines Mikko Salo.
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