In Athletes, Complete 2009 Games, Videos

January 01, 2010

Video Article

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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97 Comments on “Sisu—The Mikko Salo Documentary”


Adam Kayce wrote …

Mikko is an amazing champion and role model. And part of what makes him a great role model is that he'd never admit to being one.

Since the last preview, when he mentioned the "no lying on one's back" thing, I haven't gone there either. It takes the fight in every WOD to a new level, and makes the workout last a few moments longer... which is where a lot of the fortitude is built, imo. Thanks for that.


wrote …

Yay! I've been dying to see this. I agree with the last reviewer... that "lying on the back" thing got to me.

I love the high quality vids, but I hate the extra wait!


wrote …

I'm never going to lie on my back again! mäkin oon suomalainen, hyvä suomi!


wrote …

I can't think of a better way to start a new year than to wake up and watch this video. I not only feel like training harder, I want to be a better person. I'm going to call my Dad!


wrote …

What a great video. . . .I am upgrading my fitness and MIKKO single mindness of purpose has inspired this 80 year old to do more with intensity.


wrote …

Great Job on the video!!
As mentioned, it's also a great start to the New Year.
Very inspirational! Love watching stuff about this great guy.


wrote …

wow resting heart rate of 31! :OO


wrote …

Great great video. Thank you.


Kevin Wood wrote …

Thank you so much for creating this video! Mikko is truly inspiring and a very positive role model.

Since watching the preview from a while back, I also haven't laid on the floor after a wod. Taking your training to the next level is all about mental toughness and that is a great way to build it.

Keep up the great work Mikko!


wrote …

Great Job Sevan,

Love the way you told the story and covered a lot of ground to give a fantastic perspective of our current champion.

The great thing about Mikko and an example for us all is his humility; let the results speak for themselves. Coach G would say "this is DATA that makes sense". You are an inspiration to us all Mikko.

Happy New Year all.


wrote …

Very well done, perfect way to start the New Year. I like when Mikko's Dad says "You coming to help or not?"


wrote …

Mikko, you are truly an inspiration, not only in your athleticism and your determination but, perhaps even more so, in your humility. I wish you and your family a Happy New Year.


wrote …

What was the article they were reading at the end and is there a copy in English?


wrote …

Any word on how those times would have stood up in the 2008 games?


wrote …

Great job with the documentary, I enjoyed every bit of it. I wish I had a poster of Mikko to put on my wall, he is a huge inspiration, as an earlier comment said, not only through his athleticism but through his mentality.

Great stuff.


wrote …

"I don't consider myself very good at short metcons"- LOL.

What does that make the rest of us mere mortals then?

Sick stuff. So amazing. What a champion.


wrote …

Mikko is an absolute crossfit champ! I love his mentality and way of life. A true inspiration to all of us.

I was just checking the times from 2008 and here is something for comparison: (Fran, DL/Burpees, Grace)
Mikko: 2.49 , 2,34 , 2,38 = 8.01
Kalipa: 3.56 , 2.37 , 2.46 = 9.19
Everett: 3.29 , 2.55 , 4.17 = 10.41

And Mikko did a 5k row in the morning plus helped his dad moving furnitures for 2 hours :-)


replied to comment from Anders Petersen

Just to add to the 2008 numbers... basically the only event Mikko didn't do was the run... but I don't think any rational person would argue against him easily placing in the top 5 on the run. Essentially he'd probably have crushed the 2008 Games.

After seeing this, I honestly question whether anyone can beat Mikko at Crossfit. He is a beast.


wrote …

Excellent video and a super inspirational champ.


wrote …

Is this guy human? Great video, if u don't get inspired off of this, there's something wrong with you.


wrote …

I really don't believe he's human. I want to see some DNA results.


wrote …

That was an awesome video. Mikko is just a cool dude. Congrats again, Mikko. You deserve nothing but success.

I am not impressed with great athletes. The world is full of them. I am however, quite impressed with great athletes that are also great people and humble. CrossFit is full of these types of great & humble athletes. Mikko is one of the best examples I have ever seen.


wrote …

Sevan, that was fantastic. Thanks to you and Carey for all your hard work on this and on the Games videos--they were epic--and to Mikko for letting us into his world a little.


wrote …



Jesse Gray wrote …

I am simultaneously overcome with feelings of inspiration and depression. The work ethic of Mikko is inspiring and the fact that normal humans are just not capable of doing that much work day after day is depressing. I feel like a kid training to be like Superman, only to find out that I wasn't born on Krypton... Amazing, great video.


wrote …

Thank you for the inspiration.


wrote …

This was absolutely amazing ! Well made, really enjoyed watching it. I could happily watch a doco like this for every top crossfitter.


wrote …

Thanks to everyone making videos, writing articles, and running the behind the scenes of the CFJ. This journal has been of great benefit to me in my progression as a CF athlete, and in the opening of our affiliate this year. Keep it up, you're doing us all a great service!!!!! Very well done Sevan.


Mauricio Leal wrote …

Great video. He's really raising the bar for the elite and is a great example of CF's finest. Totally open and sharing his exact training methods freely; how many other highly competitive sports do that? One of the great things about almost all CF workouts is there is almost no way to cheat. Mikko demonstrates, perhaps to a lot of aspiring firebreathers' dismay, that on a macro scale there is also no way to cheat your way to elite fitness. It is obvious from the way he trains how he has gotten to where he is, and his explicit outline of what it takes will scare away the meek and leave only those who truly see elite fitness as a way of life. If he can stay injury free and improve on his few weaknesses, the competition next year is gonna have a hard time stealing his crown unless some more previously unknown super athletes come out of the woodwork. What a great athlete and role model.


wrote …

Wow, absolutely incredible, a role model on so many different levels. Not only would he have easily won the 08 games overall, he would have placed first in each individual event as well. Also, am I crazy or did he say he played soccer in the premier league?


wrote …

I love Mikko as a person and an athlete, absolutely outstanding.

I will however state that the only way to WIN any games is to show up and do it. Mikko might well have won the games in 08 but let's not forget that pressure and circumstance have a big effect on how one performs in WODs. There are tons of people out there who might have better times than the top 16 at the 09 games but to say that they could do it ON THE DAY without prior knowledge of the WODs is a bit of a stretch.

Saying that Mikko would have "crushed" the games in 08 is a discredit to who was there and actually competed. That's like saying Lance Armstrong would have won all of the Tours that he missed when he went into retirement... it's possible, but it just didn't happen.

Mikko is an amazing champion and I think he would support this point of view, and would never say "If I had been there, I would have won"

Just my thoughts...


wrote …

So Good


wrote …

Wow, his training volume is just unreal. This guy is just the definition of beast; anyone who takes his crown is going to be from outer space. I hope people realize it takes a certain species of person to be able to handle the workload he takes on. His lifestyle seems to be completely modeled around his training, which is what it's going to take to be the tops these days.

And Cam is right; Mikko could have done all of the '08 WODs in one day but it doesn't mean a hill of beans when it's not done under the same conditions. That weekend was a pressure cooker of people and workouts, you couldn't recreate that type of environment if you tried your whole life.

That being said, watching him bust out that heavy Grace for his third WOD of the day was amazing. BEAST.


Jesse Gray wrote …

Those who say Mikko's times don't really compare to the 08' competitor's times are right but just saying theoretically, if there was some sort of time machine that could take him back and put him in there, I wouldn't bet against him!


wrote …

Awesome. Great guy, humble, hard working, passionate about becoming better, I think there are too many superlatives to adequately describe Miko Salo.

Maybe this sums him up on all fronts.... Outstanding.

Sevan, really enjoyed the fruits of your labour - keep it up!


wrote …

funny comments from Mikko's Doctor after reading his heart rate at 31 BPM. "you are a very sick, you are going to die soon". hahaha priceless


wrote …

In a word, inspirational.


Dane Thomas wrote …

I believe that this is the soccer league that he mentioned:

Regarding his performance as compared to Jason and Josh in the 2008 games, it would not surprise me if those two were also capable of achieving better times today for those three events. That having been said, I suspect that they might do a better job of tapering prior to the effort, and they would probably agree that moving heavy furniture for 2 hours between event 2 and 3 would be sub-optimal. They might also choose not to go for a 32 minute run the following morning.

This video should be required viewing for kids hoping to become professional athletes.


wrote …

As a teen and cross-country skier, I as always amazed by the account of Eero Mäntyranta, a Finnish skier who dominated the 1964 Olympic Games, who had a rare hereditary genetic condition that allowed him 50% more oxygen carrying capacity in his blood. He could push much harder than others without getting tired.

Honestly watching Mikko, I don't think I'm made of the same stuff he is, no matter how hard I trained, much like Eero gave me the same feeling when I was young.


wrote …

Wow, just wow!

Not only does Mikko time and time again prove what an amazing athlete he is, he constantly proves what a gentleman he is also. I think we can all learn something from Mikko and thanks so much to CrossFit for putting this video together I loved it. As one of the previous posters said, this is a hell of a way to kick off the new year, truly inspirational and yeah I'm gonna go give my dad a ring as well! :)


Nigel Gordijk wrote …

Someone previously said it best. One of the reasons Mr. Salo is a role model is because he'd never admit to being one. Amoung many other reasons.

A few things he said stood out, like not laying on your back, it makes sense you finished the workout and shouldn't lay on your back like the workout beat you. And quitting is not an option, no matter what.

Great job Mikko Salo, I look forward to viewing the next years games.


wrote …


You did an amazing job here. What a wonderful look into the life of an exceptional human being. Mikko's a very gifted athlete with some amazing mental strength. While Khalipa was a great champ, he still appeared human. Mikko does not.

What, no footage of Carey falling off the docks?



wrote …

The crazy thing to me, like I think Pat Barber said after Mikko did his awesome Fran performance in Ireland, was how poor Mikko's form was on the pullups. And he STILL beat the top CTB Fran times from the '08 Games. It's intense to me that Mikko's workouts can and will get significantly faster.

Congrats Mikko, no one deserved to win more than you did.


wrote …

Great job Sevan. This guy is freaking unbelievable. If they put a water event into this year's games you know Mikko will be ready.


wrote …

Sevan, you do some distsy stuff, but you are a damn good film maker.
Great job.

Thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful insight into the make-up of a remarkable man.


wrote …

That was a brilliant window into the life of a quite champion - You can see that he is a product of his environment: rugged, no frills and a calm work ethic that is an inspiration.

He is a rare athelete in a discipline made for him - I cannot wait to see the games next year!


wrote …



wrote …

I wouldn't sell Jason Khalipa short. Jason's relative performance for events 2-8 in the 2009 games was 92.16%. Mikko's relative performance for events 2-8 was 88.40%. If the 2009 games were scored by relative performance (like the decathlon) Khalipa would have been in second place behind Mikko with an average score (events 1-8) of 89.27% compared to Mikko's 89.84%. Mikko is a beast but Khalipa is certainly right up there with him. The 2010 games will be epic I think. A healthy trained and peaked OPT, Jason Khalipa, Mikko Salo, and who knows who else will show up?


replied to comment from Mike Erickson

Nobody is selling Jason Khalipa, he is a real beast as well, along with the other top competitors in 09. This year's Game will just be very exciting to witness as all of them are definitely pushing their limits now.

It's useless to start "if's", because in that case, IF Mikko had locked out the final bar in the deadlift event (he was so close!), there simply wouldn't have been any competition in the points...


wrote …

Absolutely amazing story Sevan, what a solid human being!
Watching it has just reminded me to harden the f..k up, I have gone a bit soft living in the US


replied to comment from Mike Erickson

Mikko is exceptional. There is no question. But the beauty of CrossFit as sport is it depends on what comes out of the hopper. If an athlete is competent across broad time and modal domains, he/she has as good a chance as anyone. There are at least a couple of guys in my box, Guerrilla Fitness, I think would give Mikko and anyone else for that matter a run for their money. This only underscores Mike E.'s point.

Khalipa's performance in '09 was amazing to me. If the each event had been scored evenly instead of heavily weighted toward the early events, Khalipa would have performed much better in the rankings. And just as Mikko could have pulled more weight in the deadlift event, Khalipa on another day may not have had calf cramps on the run. All that said, Mikko is exceptional and will be hard to beat no matter what comes out of the hopper. But that's why we play the game.


wrote …

The dude's wrapping athletic tape in lieu of collars.

Think he's sending a message?


wrote …

Ben, with all due respect, give me a break. I'm sure there are beasts in your box but to claim your homies will give Mikko a run for his money is a bit much. Where were they last year? Yes what comes out of the hopper will benefit some athletes more than others but Mikko is good across pretty much everything.

Prove me wrong, let's see your guys represent this year. Until they do, it rings hollow and is disrespectful to suggest they could take down the top guys.


wrote …

I feel so grateful to have Sevan and Mikko as part of the CrossFit community. Thanks to Sevan for the wonderful documentary, and to Mikko for giving us a peak into his life.


wrote …



wrote …

Inspiring. Mikko is the epitome of a champion and warrior.


wrote …

WOW! What a great, inspiring video! Mikko is a monster and the 2010 games should be epic...his mental toughness is off the charts!


Ben Liuzzi wrote …

Excellent video. Thanks so much for making the effort. You did well to capture some of the Finnish culture and attitude - it is truly a different and remarkable place.

It was interesting to see the variety in his training venues. I'd imagine, his 'status' in weightlifting gym is very different (very advanced student) from his position in the firefighter gym (trainer, role model). I think that's a great contrast that would add something to his training, both physically and psychologically.

My Finnish girlfriend and I are really looking for to watching Mikko in the next games. Thanks again!


wrote …

In a pro sports era where the best golfer is chasing tail when he should be shagging golf balls, the best quarterback argues with his coach about being pulled out of the game, and NBA team mates are drawing guns on each other in the locker room, I thought at 40 years old I would never have another sports hero like the ones you idolize in your teens & 20's...then comes Mikko Salo.

I'll definitely be showing this video to my 14 year old son as an example of what a real hero looks like. Thank you to Crossfit for creating the video and to Mikko Salo for allowing us to see into your life.


wrote …

Old Finnish Secret - the SAUUUUUUUUUNA!


wrote …

There is no secret here, only hard work. After watching this video, it is no wonder that Mikko won last year's CF Games.


wrote …

Master of Iron, Keeper of Fire and Water. haha
Great video. Thanks Sevan and Mikko. It was inspiring to say the least. I think I became a better person and CrossFitter just by watching this.


replied to comment from Tony Martin


I was thinking the same thing. Couldn't agree more.

I think you'd agree that there are others in this community that fit the bill: Chris Spealer comes to mind.

Of the hero's of my teens and 20's (I'm forty also), Mikko's countrymen Pertti Karppinen is one of them. He is one of only two men to win 3 olympic single scull golds ('76, '80, '84). He was also a fireman, quiet, humble and had a HUGE motor. His come from behind victory in '84 was superhuman. Sisu definitely applied. You can see the video on youtube.


replied to comment from Cam Birtwell

Cam, no disrespect was meant toward Mikko. I am as impressed with him as most others. But I will stand by my statement.

"If an athlete is competent across broad time and modal domains, he/she has as good a chance as anyone."

And yes, there are guys in my gym who fit this bill and are as impressive in their abilities as Mikko is in his. Does this mean they would automatically beat Mikko in a competition. Absolutely not. But neither would Mikko automatically beat them. Which is why I stand by my other statement.

"Mikko is exceptional and will be hard to beat no matter what comes out of the hopper. But that's why we play the game.."

Before we cancel all future CrossFit Games and automatically anoint Mikko as champion for the next decade, let's take a step back and realize what makes Mikko exceptional is not his work capacity alone, but his work ethic. His work ethic is adoptable by anyone of us. Couple that with some God-given ability and you have a formidable force. I believe there are other Mikko's out there yet to be discovered. But even with that, on any given Sunday, it's anybody's game provided he/she has put in the work.


wrote …

Top notch video. Well done. I think my year's goal is to be 50% Mikko. His Fran, DL/Burpees, Grace combined time was 8:01 x 2 = 16:02 for a half Mikko.


wrote …

With a resting heart rate of 31 Miko will forever be hard to beat at the games. Another athlete by the name of Lance Armstrong has I believe a recorded resting HR of 26 and look what he has Armstrong Miko just works on another level to everyone else. Genetics aside his 'SISU' is an inspriation to us all.


wrote …

Thanks - I really enjoyed that video. Had the priviledge, (+shock and awe!) of seeing this unknown Finn show up at the European qualifiers and set the place on fire (poor choice of metaphor but you get my drift...!)

Sevan, that was a great documentary. Very well thought out, shot and edited. I liked the way everything was allowed to be told from the perspective of the subjects. Sublety and craft there for sure. Well done.


Richard Meurk wrote …

Please stop posting videos based on fiction :P


wrote … absolutely have a way of making the viewer connect with the are a true film maker!!

i am so intrigued with miko....what an interesting, inspiring person....he brings a dimension of work ethic and humility to crossfit ...and you are bringing it to the viewers in such a real, artistic and captivating manner with this documentary. i really love the framing and lighting and sounds used in the last preview. i did not want it to end.

thanks for that...i cannot wait to see more!


wrote …

Insanely great vid. Thanks so much for putting this documentary together. Miko is my 15 year old lad's new hero!

Assuming all the top CFers are fit and able to participate, the 2010 CF games looks set to be the best yet.


wrote …

That weightlifting club looks sick, would love to have a place like that to train, and it's free to the public and open 6-9? Wow.

Also, an awesome thing about Miko is he doesn't take his shirt off to work out.


wrote …

I think we've found the first repeat "Fittest Man in the World"! My bet is on Mikko to win the 2010 Games.


wrote …

I have never been more proud of my Finnish heritage.


wrote …

Steven #72 are you a troll or just an a hole? I loved this video and my wife is pretty much hooked on Mikko & Crossfit after more than a year of me attempting to get her involved.

Love the old guys in the gym throwing huge weight around. Would love to train with old fat guys lifting 300kg and split jerking 170.


wrote …

Miko has the mental toughness- This is what gets him over the top. He seems like a very respectful/honest guy as well! Very Inspirational!


wrote …

I've spoken with Joe, and he's a great guy. He knows we use the phrase, but we would be very happy to run a competition for rights to the title if it were ever in contention.


Frank DiMeo wrote …



wrote …


care to put your film making credentials up?


wrote …

I watched this video 13 times. Mikko is my hero.


wrote …

Thanks for the video guys. Great job through and through. Mikko, you are an inspiration to this community and your humility is humbling. Thank you!


wrote …

wow, this is some really inspiring stuff. Thanks for the great video.


wrote …

What a great video. I believe that 5 time Tour De France champion Miguel Indurain had one of the lowest resting heart rates ever recorded at 28 BPM. Mikko seems to have the rare combination of genetic gifts, work ethic, and mental determination that defines 'the greats'. Best of luck to Mikko.


wrote …

Cool video. Mikko is an animal. I aspire to trash each and every work out like him. He also seems like such a nice guy.


The interesting thing looking at their proportional performance is that Jason was actually leading Mikko into the final event, including the run. I get Jason on 88.95% and Mikko on 88.39% going into the final event. But as it was, Mikko was nearly 2 minutes quicker on that final chipper and deservedly wins even under the a proportional performance based system.

Even on a slightly more sophisticated standard score based system Mikko still wins, Jason comes second. Even if Jason had finished with an average run time, in that system Mikko still wins.


wrote …

Mikko isn't a firebreather... he breathes magma.


wrote …

Mikko's incredible and this is some of the finest crossfit film making to date. Great work everyone.


wrote …

Sevan, thanks for making this video. Mikko, thanks for humbly sharing part of your life with us. Amazing and inspiring.


wrote …

Very inspirational! The video brought me back on track with my training and time management.


wrote …

This guy is a rock. Love the stoic attitude that Mikko has, no loud music, no yelling. Just good hard work. I am looking at WODs in a whole new way. NO lying on the back! Thank you Mikko.


wrote …

Fantastic video. Very well done. I was impressed by the simplicity of his style. No fancy equipment, no fancy gym, no overly complicated training system. But what really came through was his no quit intense desire to give full effort on all workouts and win.


wrote …

"When animals surrender, they lay on their back. I will never lay on my back."

Thanks for the inspiration, you are truly a great human being and Thanks to Corssfit for making us discover such high class human beings!!!


replied to comment from Graeme Howland

Greame i could not agree more.

Not many people have mentioned this. Aside from Mikko's truly astounding capacity, is his lack of ego.
..Mikko is a warrior to me, i think not because of what he can do, but because of what he does not do.

Taking of your shirt when doing wod's may seem small, but i do believe there is an almost spiritual component to crossfit, as in any sport, and Mikko represents that. I know that for myself, if i was crowned "The fittest Man Alive"...a big part of my personality would be inflamed, largely, my ego. And i think to be truly compassionate humans, and open hearted people, it starts by getting the egotistic stuff out of the way. I dont think thats easy, by any means, but its clear that Mikko lives it, and that is really inspiring.


wrote …

Wow I absolutely loved the film. Miko is such a great role model and so inspiring for other CrossFitters. Good luck at the Games 2010. ;)


wrote …

Inspiring. Crazy work ethic and passion, in all aspects of his life.


wrote …

Amazing documentary.. definitely a role model for both physical training and career focus. Keep it up Mikko!


Bjorn Schwarz wrote …

Amazing film, amazing guy. Thank you for this fantastic inspiration.


wrote …

I am trying to find the download link for Mikko Salo's documentary but it says it is:

This article is only available to subscribers. Please login or subscribe to download.

I am a subscriber and already logged in but can't work out where the link to download it is. This is the case on quite a lot of videos.

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