By: Sherrie Shover
“This year will be different for me. For the first time, I’m heading into the Open more excited than nervous. God has a plan for me and this journey and I’m 100% confident in that!”
That was the Instagram post Tasia Percevecz wrote on the first day of the 2017 CrossFit Games Open.
Percevecz, who shocked many with her Event 7 world-record finish at Regionals to propel her to 2016’s The CrossFit Games, was fitter and more confident this year. But her individual journey this season, which ended in heartbreaking fashion in the Open’s final week, no one could have seen coming.
After all, this was supposed to be the follow-up to her impressive debut. A former collegiate gymnast, the 26-year old Percevecz held her own as a Games rookie last year, compiling five top-10 finishes and placing 15th overall.
“The Games was awesome. It was one of the coolest weeks of my entire life,” said Percevecz, who’s been training at CrossFit Free since she started in 2013. “My goal was top 10; it wasn’t my primary goal but I try to write down number goals. My main goal was having fun and enjoying it. All the other Games athletes who had been there before, almost across the board, said they never enjoyed their first experience because they were so stressed. I wanted to just have fun and push myself. It was a life-changing experience.”
Leading up to this year’s Open, Percevecz continued to follow the same training that got her there. Programmed by her coach Brandon Peterson, Owner of CrossFit Free, she did mostly two-a-days and focused on working weaknesses like swimming and running.
“I added in swimming one to two times a week whereas before [the ’16 Games] I hadn’t even been in the water,” she said. “There was also so much more running at the Games than I anticipated and I wanted to become a better runner so I focused on that. Also, just getting better at the little weakness: you always want to get a little stronger, get a better engine and I think I did make that happen.”
Percevecz also put a big emphasis on enjoying training and keeping a positive mindset.
“I truly believe from being in this sport and watching people around me, that it 100% matters if you have overall positivity and enjoy what you do,” she said, “because, when the pressure sets in, if you love what you do, the outcome won’t matter in the end.”
That mantra would be tested much earlier than Percevecz had hoped.
She was on her way to easily qualifying in the Top 20 to make the East Regional again—placing 15th, 4th, 5th and 9th in Open workouts 17.1-17.4, respectively. But three days before 17.5 was set to be released, Percevecz started feeling ill.
“I don’t get really sick often,” she said. “When it first started coming on, I thought it was just like exhaustion that was brought on from the stress from the Open being almost over.”
But the sickness continued to escalate.
On Wednesday, she was having trouble staying awake, even falling asleep in her car before coaching. By Thursday, a deep cough emerged.
That Friday, after the workout was released —calling for 10 rounds for time of nine 65-lb. thrusters and 35 double unders—she was running a fever and taking a ridiculous amount of DayQuil just to function.
Percevecz tried to do the workout that day anyway. She only got through a few rounds and was feeling miserable. Confident she would feel better on Saturday, she decided to just give her body some more rest and then redo it. But she kept getting worse.
“It’s funny now because I’m over it at this point, but I was having so much trouble doing a 65-lb. thruster, which in my mind is one of my strongest movements,” said Percevecz, who can snatch 210 lb . “Barbell is my life and that’s what I’m good at. And I was having to break up the thrusters in the third round.”
Percevecz finally saw a doctor on Sunday and was told she had bronchitis and immediately put on antibiotics. That’s when she started feeling nervous. Monday night was her last chance to get through the workout to punch her Regionals ticket.
To stay in contention, she needed to complete 17.5 in around nine minutes, which normally wouldn’t be an issue. Most of the female elite athletes like Percevecz were finishing in the 6 and seven-minute mark. But none of them were struggling to breathe.
In a last ditch effort, Percevecz tried the workout one more time. But her body failed failed her and she collapsed onto the ground as the clock mercilessly ticked away any chance she had of going back to Regionals.
“In the moment, it was heartbreaking,” said Percevecz, who was officially credited with one thruster, to drop her down to No. 852.
“I cried so much that day, so much that weekend. I never thought I would experience something like this, as far as competing, since I could always do a workout when I’m sick. But I was obviously sicker than I had allowed myself to believe and was just 100% not in my body. At least it was clarity in the sense that I couldn’t physically do the workout during any one of those days. I had a clear answer that I wasn’t meant to do it.”
Fortunately, Percevecz’s season isn’t over just yet.
Since her scores weren’t pulled from her affiliate team —which they would have if she had gone individual— CrossFit Free ended up qualifying for the East Regional.
And although she’s excited and thankful to compete on the team this year, Percevecz’s faith and mental toughness is what’s comforting her the most, coming full circle in her Instagram post announcing her individual season was over:
“There is no pity party here. The CrossFit Games has never been the ultimate goal. Spreading love and joy to people has always been my destiny. And this won’t dull my shine. God has a plan for me. That I know for sure! And sometimes, His plan is simply different than our own.”
Sherrie Shover is a contributing writer who trains at Yankee CrossFit in Farmington, CT.
All photos courtesy of Tasia Percevecz and Capracotta Photo.