CrossFit a path to more than just muscle development for Nevin Smith

31-year-old Nevin Smith, who was born with Down Syndrome, loves to work out and he has taken it to the extreme.
Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 9:45 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - 31-year-old Nevin Smith, who was born with Down Syndrome, loves to work out and he has taken it to the extreme.

Five years ago, Nevin told his mom, Laurie Smith, that he wanted to do CrossFit.

“When he first started it was really a challenge,” Andrea Janzen, the co-owner of CrossFit The Challenge, said. “He had a hard time comprehending, and just executing most basic movements. Over time, [he was] just be able to pick stuff up, get more confident.”

Nevin never missed a workout and worked his tail off at CrossFit The Challenge in Cedar Rapids. And boy, he has he gotten strong. Nevin finished third in the U.S. and fifth in the world in the adaptive division of the CrossFit Open.

Nevin calls himself “the red Hulk.” But, CrossFit has done so much more than just turn him into that. Laurie wrote a heartfelt letter to the National CrossFit Federation about how it has changed her son’s life.

“He is more determined, his cognitive skills have improved, his ability to listen...I’m going to cry,” Laurie said, reading from the letter and beginning to tear up before she continued. “Following instructions, confidence has gotten so much better in all areas of his life. Obviously, he has found a community that welcomes him, includes him, accepts him where he is, and encourages him to keep growing. He belongs.”

Nevin never shies away from a hard workout, some of which are incredibly tough. He’s a huge inspiration to the other CrossFit athletes he works out with.

“Other people see him pushing, it is contagious,” Coco Janzen, co-owner of the gym, said. “I mean if he can do it, there’s no excuses for anyone to not even try.”

At the end of a big workout, Nevin is famous for his bear hugs. It’s a sign of his passion for the hobby he’s found himself feeling at home in.

It’s just so wonderful, just know that he’s found his place. He’s found something that he has a passion for,” Laurie said. “There’s not anything better than seeing him in a community welcomes him and just embraces him. They embrace him.”

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