Víctor Assaf: The Face of Adaptive CrossFit in Latin America

Víctor Assaf describes himself as someone with a very strong will, someone who will never sit still and wait for things to happen.

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Box Latino Magazine had the chance to talk to this great athlete, and their conversation covers Víctor’s preparations as an adaptive athlete, his car crash, the road to recovery and his hopes and dreams.

You can read the full interview below:

Who is Víctor Assaf?

“Well, I’m a motivational speaker, an athlete, a coach, an entrepreneur and one could say someone pretty disciplined and serious.

“I’m 30-years-old and have been a full-time CrossFit athlete for over 10 years, six as a competitor and four as a professional.

“I deliver motivational talks nationally and internationally and I’ve got my own clothing branding, which I’m currently in the process of growing, hopefully to a worldwide level.”

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You had a car crash a while ago, was your recovery process like?

“Yes, I had a motorcycle accident seven years ago, which caused a total brachial plexus tearing and that’s how I lost sensibility and mobility on my right arm.

“I was put into a coma for five days in an attempt to treat all jaw injuries and mitigate the risks of a haemorrhage or brain damage.

“The recovery process was extremely long because I wasn’t only trying to recover physically but there was a big psychological toll too. I had not only suffered an accident, but I had to go through the realisation that my life had changed completely.

“I had to re-learn how to write, walk, stabilise myself. Shower, get dressed, eat, sleep, talk. I had to adapt to it and accept it all; and it wasn’t only a problem regarding what had happened but also how I looked.”

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Why did you decide to take on CrossFit?

“I did CrossFit way before the accident, around three years perhaps. The main reason back then was a family member, who insisted I take on CrossFit after some health issues I experienced caused by a third party.

“I was spiked and drugged with scopolamine at a party. I lost consciousness and it resulted in an overdose. My flat was broken into, etc…

“I started doing sport, specifically CrossFit, because I read sweating loads was best way to remove those toxins from the body. That was the start.”

What’s your programming like as an adaptive athlete?

“It’s not too different to a normal Games athlete program. It comprises a warmup, strength, Olympic weightlifting, three WODs, gymnastics, skills, mobility, between other things.

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“There are no shortcuts. And if you find them, they’re probably banned by the rules.

“Not everything happens inside a box. The important thing is to make the unknown look simple, regardless of the effort that you put in, the reward is always greater when the work is CLEAN.

“I’m very lucky but at the same time I’ve put in a lot of effort to get to where I am and be part of a team of top athletes known worldwide as wheelwod.”

Tell us more about Team Cyborgs?

“Team Cyborgs, woah! Comprised of Amalia Ortuño from Costa Rica, Pipe Maturana from Chile, Andrés Arana from Costa Rica, Titi Salas – who’s not an adaptive athlete – from Costa Rica and myself.

“It was born through an idea, which was to compete in a normal event with able-bodied athletes without derogating or belittling athletes with special limitations or setting them aside. That could add value to the competition, as well as motivate and prove that anything is possible.

“Once it gained momentum it became unstoppable. We’re the face of Latin America in the adaptive world, and everyone wants to know about it. Nowadays, everyone wants to add adaptive divisions, yet its true that not everyone can or knows how to.

“Team Cyborgs will continue to surprise Latin America, CrossFit and the world so, if I were you, I’d keep my eyes out for us. In 2020 we’re hoping to revolutionise inclusiveness in the sport globally.”

What was that process like with FitLand in Colombia?

“It started with an idea our manager, Andrés Arana, had. He contacted the organisers and they started thinking about ways to add this category within the RX category.

“The only difference was that we wouldn’t compete as a team that time, but as individuals within our own capacities.”

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What are your thoughts on the Open workouts for FitLand?

“They were very good. I repeated 19.1, which was 20.1 now, and it was great but exhausting.

“20.2 was very dynamic in its movements and 20.3 was my favourite. It wasn’t only the movements but also the challenge it presented to try and do the push presses unbroken, which I almost managed. I had great fun.

“The parameters for the workouts came from wheelwod and adaptivetraining, so it was Andrés, Christopher and Alec who created them.”

What has your inclusion process been like with regard to CrossFit?

“It has been a long process – it’s a trajectory that’s taken years. It’s not been easy, as adaptive CrossFit is something relatively new to me.

“I say relatively because I only discovered WheelWod a few years ago, but I’ve spent seven years training, teaching and adapting with only the help of my close friends or seminars I attended.

“CrossFit gave me a new light and brought me out of many negative steps, it opened up a career path and allowed me to become a better person every day.

“The normal competitions have always been a challenge for me, as my condition is different to everyone else’s, but I never took a step back. I competed against everyone else here in Ecuador and abroad, being the only one on the competition floor with a “disability”.

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“But I never felt I was beneath anyone; instead, it felt to me like I was setting the parameters and – sorry I put it this way – people always said “the man uses his balls even with a disability.”

“I’ve always been someone with a strong character and it goes to show that, if there’s a will, there’s a way. Attitude is everything in life, everything!

“Sadly, sponsorship isn’t around for me geographically, as only football players and pretty women get support… the rest isn’t of interest and for many brands it’s hard to sponsor someone when they’re based abroad.

“I’ve fought and continue to fight to try and get brands to work with me long-term, so we can mutually help each other. I feel I have a lot to offer as an athlete, motivational speaker, coach and competitor.

“But many just want to gift you a free tee-shirt and for you to essentially sell your soul – that’s not how things work. I take advantage of this interview to call out to brands within the sport of CrossFit, so we can work together to inspire and teach, everyone needs it.

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Víctor Assaf closed off with a message to the Latin American community:

“Nothing lasts forever; act today, do today what you didn’t do yesterday. Be it training, being thankful, resting, working, loving… Whatever it is, don’t give up.

“We Latinos are known for something, and that something is our grit and determination to fight and move forward. Forget the fact that this is sport; take instead the attitude you have in CrossFit and apply it to your daily life.

“Just like you wouldn’t want to skip a rep or how you want to get a PR, you should confront your life and your reality equally. Nobody wants to live in the “what would have been”.

“Everybody wants to tell you about the experience, don’t let them, live it yourself! Put your head up and move forward, this is only the beginning.”

This article was originally published in Spanish by Box Latino Magazine, a publication covering athletes, coaches and events in the Latin American region. The original article was written by Nicolás Garzón, the BOXROX version translated by Caro Kyllmann. You can find the original version here.

BOXROX has partnered with Box Latino Magazine to grow the coverage of the Latino CrossFit community. If you’re a Spanish speaking reader or interested in knowing more about the scene in Latin America consider giving them a follow @boxlatinomagazine.

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