When Deborah Cordner Carson asks herself why she does CrossFit, she looks at her grandfather’s weightlifting belt and remembers.
“I see my grandfather and how he sacrificed at some point in his life to achieve something,” she says. “It makes sense and it makes me feel like I was meant to do this.”
Cordner Carson’s grandfather was the heavyweight-lifting champion of the British Empire from 1942 to 1944.
The 33-year-old Minnesota athlete is known not only for conquering an intense fear of open-water swimming and winning the 2012 Spirit of the Games Award, but also for competing in spite of lymphedema. The condition is characterized by lymphatic fluid accumulating in the interstitial tissue and causes swelling, most often in arms and legs. Cordner Carson wears special compression garments to manage symptoms in competition.
Cordner Carson says she hopes to show children with the condition that they can do what medical professionals tell them they can’t.
“‘You can’t be an athlete. You’re not supposed to work out, you’re not supposed to walk, you’re not supposed to run.’ And, ya know what? Yeah, I can. I’ll show you how,” she says. “I’ll do it all.”
Video by Mike Koslap.
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Additional reading: Slapping Fear in the Face by Andréa Maria Cecil, published Sept. 5, 2012.