More than 300 CrossFit athletes from across the state and some from California came to the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena to compete in the 2015 Hawaii VA Games on Saturday.
It’s the fifth year of the event and the third year it has been held at the Blaisdell Arena.
“This is an opportunity for people who care about fitness and health to come together and compete,” said Gabe Amey, director of the Hawaii VA Games and president of Hawaii VA Loans, the main sponsor of the Hawaii VA Games. “But also have fun and meet each other.”
Dozens of local CrossFit affiliations were in attendance, including CrossFit 808, Alaka’i CrossFit and CrossFit Oahu. In front of a crowd of more than 1,600 fans and supporters, the athletes pushed, pulled and weight lifted their way through some of the most intense workouts all in the name of sportsmanship and a good cause.
“Profits of the event go to the Hawaii VA Foundation which supports Hawaii veterans,” Amey said.
The proceeds come from a combination of ticket sales, competition registration fees and sponsorships. Once the figures have been determined, organizers will then choose a beneficiary to receive the donation.
This year, the beneficiary was the Hawaii chapter of U.S.VETS, an organization that fights homelessness for local veterans. To date, the VA Games have raised more than $78,000 for nonprofit groups.
“We find the organization that’s gonna have the most impact on the people here on the island,” said Michael Libertini of CrossFit Oahu. “We have a strong military presence here in Hawaii and it’s really helpful to have resources available to these guys. That way we can help them in multiple facets.”
“The sacrifices that are made are just phenomenal,” said Kehaulani Deutsch of CrossFit Upcountry Maui. “We want to give back and this is a small way that we can do that.”
Since beginning in 2011, the Hawaii VA Games have experienced a steady growth in popularity, particularly among the CrossFit community.
“The first competition was at a CrossFit box (gym) in Ewa Beach,” Amey said. “And ever since then it’s gotten bigger and bigger.”
The Hawaii VA Games have also gotten an increase in recognition on the mainland. Stephanie Perez of Another Level CrossFit in Lodi, Calif., hadn’t even heard of the Hawaii VA Games until she was invited to compete last year.
“I had just heard about it and Gabe reached out to me about competing as an individual,” Perez said. “So we took the venture and came here and everybody was so nice … it was neat to come back and be a part of the community again.”
With the Hawaii VA Games getting more and more recognition, some of the athletes are hoping that the event will move beyond the Blaisdell Arena and integrate more of Hawaii’s natural landscapes.
“Here in Hawaii we have some of the most beautiful landscapes around,” said Libertini. “To be able to integrate some of the swim stuff … would be great.”
Despite the highly competitive environment, the athletes say that the core value of the Hawaii VA Games and CrossFit in general isn’t about competition.
“We’re very unique as CrossFitters in that we will build each other up,” said Deutch. “We are positive. We are super excited about one another. Yes, the competition is a part of it, but it’s more about the camaraderie community.”