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How CrossFit star Sara Sigmundsdottir dealt with a broken bone on the biggest stage

Sara Sigmundsdottir is one of the biggest stars in CrossFit, but a rib injury in the 2018 CrossFit Games caused her to take a nightmare decision.

Posted: Apr 4, 2019 11:10 AM
Updated: Apr 4, 2019 11:10 AM

In the sport of CrossFit, there are no stars bigger than Iceland's Sara Sigmundsdottir. With 1.4 million instagram followers and hoards of fans wherever she competes, no one receives louder cheers at the CrossFit Games.

However, despite that huge popularity, Sigmundsdottir is yet to reach the pinnacle of her sport, winning the CrossFit Games.

When she burst onto the CrossFit Games scene in 2015, Sigmundsdottir immediately made her mark, leading the field heading into the final day of competition, before eventually finishing third behind countrywoman Katrín Davíðsdóttir and Australia's Tia-Clair Toomey.

In 2016, much the same story. Sigmundsdottir was in contention throughout, but once again found herself on the third step of the podium, behind the same two women.

The following year, Sigmundsdottir competed with pain in her shoulder blades, finishing just off the podium in fourth. A later diagnosis found she had broken her rib, forcing her to miss the remainder of the 2018 season.

READ: 'Fittest woman on earth' wins gold

Despite being sidelined as her rivals trained, Sigmundsdottir once again made it back to the Games, believing she was fitter than ever.

"I've never been in as good form as I was there. I've never been as fit. I've never been as light weight. I just felt great. I felt I was peaking at the right time. I was so excited to show how hard I worked from coming from an injury and still being in that shape. And then, that happened."

Remarkably, while warming up for an event on day one of the Games, Sigmundsdottir broke a different rib.

"I was trying to hide it the whole time from my coach because I knew that if he knew, that he would make me withdraw. If I have a broken rib, it's not going to hurt any more. It's just a broken bone. I can live with it."

Sigmundsdottir managed to complete nine grueling physical events before the pain became too much and the brutal reality of her situation could no longer be ignored.

"It was the hardest decision I've ever made. I had managed to do an obstacle course in a weighted vest. And I managed to do a clean and jerk. And I managed to do a heavy deadlift.

"I thought there wasn't much left that I couldn't push through. And then they had this weird thing that we had to drag and I just remember the pain I was in there.

"I just thought, 'what's it worth to be in 10th place and maybe get more injuries by doing it?' [My] coach made the decision for me because I couldn't do it myself. I really wanted to try. The adrenaline would help me through it. Just wait. Then two minutes before my heat was called, I withdrew."

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Six months later and Sigmundsdottir is fully healed and seemingly fitter than ever. She finished in the top three in two of the biggest CrossFit events in the world, before finishing number one in the CrossFit Open, the global qualifying event for the Games.

"Winning the Open is of course something I am very happy about," Sigmundsdottir tells CNN. "But I don't take anything for granted. I know that I will have to work extremely hard to be able to perform to the standards I set for myself for the rest of the season and I am absolutely up for the challenge."

That challenge will culminate in Madison, Wisconsin this summer at the 2019 CrossFit Games, where, if she can keep her ribs in tact, could finally be the year she finishes on top.

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