Victor Assaf of Ecuador entered the world of CrossFit at the age of 20 thanks to his brother’s encouragement, and he was immediately hooked.
The weightlifting aspect of the fitness regimen became his bread and butter, and he began building up his strength and skill at an impressive speed. His goal was to someday qualify for the CrossFit Games. But in 2012, Victor was in a motorcycle accident that forever altered his life — but not his love for CrossFit.
After a successful Strongman competition, during which Victor earned a podium position, he was driving home on his motorcycle when he lost control on a bridge. The crash propelled him into a light pole, and his right shoulder took the bulk of the impact.
Surviving the collision was a miracle in and of itself. He arrived at the hospital with major injuries to three cervical vertebrae and was placed in a medically-induced coma for five days to prevent any additional brain damage.
Eventually, he underwent a 10-hour surgery and came out of it without motor function or feeling in his right arm. To add insult to injury, his surgeon told him that his CrossFit dreams were now a thing of the past. It was a devastating loss for the athlete.
“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 to go through the realization that my life had changed completely,” Victor told Box Latino Magazine. “I had to relearn how to write, walk, stabilize myself. Shower, get dressed, eat, sleep, talk. I had to adapt to it and accept it all.”
After seven months, the athlete decided that he wouldn’t let his current circumstances determine his future. He got back on the CrossFit horse, determined to make it work.
“I had to invent my own way of doing CrossFit so I wouldn’t get injured doing everything with one arm,” Victor said.
Victor figured out a way to overcome the challenges his brachial plexus injury presented. He safely and effectively resumed his role as not only a CrossFit athlete but also a CrossFit competitor.
Nine years later, he has done all that and more! He has added the roles of entrepreneur, coach, and motivational speaker to his resume, and he’s an award-winning competitor in the CrossFit world.
These days, he is part of a group of top adaptive athletes known as WheelWOD, but their Olympic-focused training program is just like any other athlete’s.
“It comprises a warm-up, strength, Olympic weightlifting, three WODs [workout of the day], gymnastics, skills, mobility, between other things,” Victor explained.
He’s also a member of a competitive CrossFit team called Team Cyborgs.
“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,” Victor said. “That could add value to the competition, as well as motivate and prove that anything is possible.”
The team is slowly but surely revolutionizing Latin America’s idea of CrossFit competitions. Their mission is going global as more and more people around the world are taking notice of them.
“I’m not doing this because I want to prove something,” Victor told NowThis. “I’m doing this because there’s people that need to see this.”
Victor acknowledges that it hasn’t always been easy to compete in standard CrossFit competitions against opponents without disabilities, but he is never one to back down from a challenge.
“I don’t consider the accident a bad thing. … What happened that day made me see things more clearly and with a different perspective,” Victor added. “With one arm I can reach a lot more people than I did with two.”
He continues to dominate in the professional CrossFit world and hopes to someday gain sponsorships to increase his platform, revolutionize adaptive sports, and continue promoting inclusion at a global level.
Most of all, he hopes to encourage everyone to ditch the world of “what would have been” and not wait another minute to begin fighting for their dreams.
“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,” Victor said. “Put your head up and move forward, this is only the beginning.”
See his passion and skill come to life in the video below, and share this story to remind others to keep chasing their dreams.
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