Christian Brackenrich qualifies for CrossFit Games semifinals

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

Christian Brackenrich is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He’s polite, professional, and caring. 

He asks, “How are you and your family doing?” And you get the sense that he actually wants to know. 

Perhaps that’s because he’s seen his share of challenges at a young age. 

“Everybody brings a different situation to the table,” he says, noting that each person faces struggles. For Christian, though, what’s more important than the struggle is how you handle it. 

“The battle is between your ears.”

Eight surgeries

Christian was born with a club foot. “I’ve had eight surgeries over the years,” he shares. “They were all done through Shriner’s Hospital.”

Despite his disability, Christian always found a way to compete athletically. He excelled in football, starring as a linebacker on his high school team (the Greenbrier East Spartans). 

“I was going to play (collegiately) at Washington and Jefferson,” but for various reasons, including his health, it just didn’t work out. “I was at a place where I hated football and just wanted to come home.”

He still yearned for athletic competition and looked for an outlet. 

Bimbo Coles–local basketball legend in high school, Olympic champion in college, and veteran NBA player–owned the local gym at the time. He introduced Christian to CrossFit as a training tool during high school. 

“I started doing it again, and I’ve stuck with it since,” Christian says. 

First attempt to qualify for The CrossFit Games

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Christian has succeeded in CrossFit ever since. He’s a member of CrossFit Esprit in Ronceverte, WV.

Last year, he attempted to qualify for The CrossFit Games, the pinnacle of the sport. They offer an “adaptive division” for athletes with a physical impairment.

To qualify, you first have to video yourself doing a particular set of workouts sent to you by the organizers of the games. They review the video and assign you points for your successful and timely completion of the workout. It was Christian’s first attempt at qualifying. 

“I thought I did really well,” he remembers. “But then they told me I had an issue with the video.  They gave me a penalty on one of my videos because of bad lighting and shadows..” 

Organizers said one of the workouts looked obscure, so they penalized Christian. It knocked him out of the world finals.

“It was frustrating,” he says. “I couldn’t do one of the movements because of my foot.”

While he doesn’t have any additional surgeries on the horizon, Christian continues to deal with issues related to his impairment. 

“There have been a few issues that have come up over the last year dealing with my leg. The doctors say it doesn’t pose a threat right now, so we’re monitoring it.”

This year, Christian decided to give qualifying another shot. 

“They take the Top 20 from the open in the semifinals,” he says of the process where competitors send in their videos for judging.

During our first interview in early April, Christian unofficially sat in 4th place, which would qualify him for the finals. But he had to wait for official confirmation once the judges reviewed his videos. “Fingers crossed everything is good with the video this time.” 

On April 15, he learned that he was not actually in 4th place…he was in 3rd place overall and the highest-ranked American in the division.

he now awaits a new round of workouts to complete in hopes of remaining in the Top 10. That would earn him a spot in the finals.

The finals are held in San Antonio, Texas, later this year. 

“I’ve never been to Texas,” Christian jokes. 

‘A big family’

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You might think Christian thrives on the competitive aspect of CrossFit. While he does enjoy it, the competition is a distant third to 1) his mental & physical health and 2) the community he’s a part of. 

“You get to put the rest of the world in the rearview and find common ground with a group of people you’re with every day,” he says. “It sheds a light on the importance of togetherness. We’re not supposed to be lonely. There are people to help. Whether it’s life or a workout.”

“It’s like a big family,” he shares. “We do fundraisers for breast cancer, the Murph, and the Humane Society.”

Supporting the Greenbrier Humane Society is a personal passion for Christian and his family. His brother, Carrington, worked there when he died suddenly several years ago.

“The most important part of CrossFit to me is all the love and encouragement and life talks. They’ve been there for me when my brother died. And now we raise money every year to support the animals he loved.” 

Christian speaks softly, especially when he speaks of his brother, but his words pack power. 

“You may be born with a deformity, but I think of it as a gift. It provides you with a sense of resilience. It allows you to participate and not be excluded from something as large as CrossFit.”

If Christian does make it to the finals and wins any prize money, he already has a plan for it. And it’s not what you would expect, though I imagine he’d save some for the Greenbrier Humane Society. 

“If I were to win anything, I’d give it back to Shriner’s and inspire somebody that regardless of the cards you’re dealt, you can play the hand however you’d like to.”

Stay tuned to RealWV as we follow Christian and other CrossFit athletes from West Virginia through the 2024 CrossFit Games. 

After a technical error kept him out of the CrossFit Games last year, Christian Brackenrich qualified in 2024 for the semifinals. He currently sits in third place.
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