CrossFit community gathers to raise money for severely injured athlete

Saturday, January 25, 2014 | 9:46 p.m. CST; updated 12:16 a.m. CST, Sunday, January 26, 2014
An injury during a CrossFit routine left former MU student Kevin Ogar unable to move his legs. Friends, family and supporters packed CrossFit Fringe to raise money for his medical bills Saturday.

COLUMBIA — Megan Ogar wasn't planning on working out Saturday.

But when she arrived at CrossFit Fringe to support a fundraiser for her brother Kevin, she changed her mind.

And that's how she ended up doing the Ogar WOD, a CrossFit "Workout Of the Day" named after her brother. Surrounded by family and friends, she did squats with a PVC pipe, wearing a T-shirt that read "Kevin Ogar Strong."

"I did that for Kevin," she said.

Her brother, though, might never walk again. He was severely injured doing a move from that workout earlier this month.

Kevin Ogar, a former MU student who began his CrossFit training in Columbia, severely injured his spinal cord when a barbell fell on his neck during a competition. He's been unable to move from the waist down.

Saturday's fundraiser was intended to raise money for Kevin Ogar's medical bills. He is uninsured.

His friend Nate Bacott, a co-owner of CrossFit Fringe, helped organize the fundraiser. He'd hoped to raise $5,000 going into the event. By Saturday evening, they'd raised at least $6,048, Bacott said. 

Friends, family and members of the CrossFit community packed the training center and crowded around the workout area to watch supporters doing Kevin Ogar's favorite moves.

"It's a little overwhelming how much support there is," said Matt Kitzi, a trainer at CrossFit Fringe.

CrossFit, an intense strength and conditioning program, has been criticized recently for creating an environment that forces people to go dangerously beyond their physical limits, according to previous Missourian reporting.

But those gathered at the fundraiser Saturday didn't blame CrossFit for Kevin Ogar's injury.

"It's kinda like getting in a car accident," said Rachel Marion, a CrossFit trainer in Jefferson City. "You do everything you can to prepare for it. There's things you can't control."

Megan Ogar said what happened to her brother was a freak catastrophe.

The injury occurred during the OC Throwdown competition in California on Jan. 12. Ogar was performing a snatch, a highly technical lift that Bacott compared to a golf swing: If one thing goes wrong, the whole move can be thrown off, he said.

Kevin Ogar had performed that move thousands of times, Bacott said. But this time, the bar fell on his back and severely injured his spinal cord.

Doctors told Megan Ogar that her brother's injury was inexplicable.

Even experienced weightlifters like Ogar can miss lifts, Bacott said. Accidents happen.

For example, an Olympic weightlifter named Matthias Steiner dropped a 432-pound barbell on his neck during the 2012 London Olympics yet walked away unharmed.

But the severity of Kevin Ogar's injuries is unlike anything Bacott has witnessed.

"It's one of the worst things I've heard of happening, in weightlifting or CrossFit," Bacott said of Ogar's injury.

On Saturday, participants raised barbells high above their heads, then dropped them to the mat, where they bounced with a clatter just inches from their feet. On the sidelines, people cheered them on.

No one seemed worried as they repeated the same move that left Kevin Ogar unable to walk.

"You gotta be able to trust your coaches," said Dave Danaher, who has trained at CrossFit Fringe for almost two years.

Erica Hopkins-Wadlow, who was selling official "Ogar Strong" T-shirts, said the coaches at Fringe stress good form and staying within your ability. Injuries are not as common as people think, she said.

But Kevin Ogar's CrossFit career is likely over.

Doctors told Megan Ogar and her family that it's unlikely her brother will walk again.

But the money raised Saturday will help ensure that Kevin Ogar is able to fund his recovery. In addition to the $6,000 raised at Saturday's event, more than $300,000 has been raised for Kevin Ogar through an online fundraising effort.

"He has high hopes," said his grandmother, Evelyn Darr. "He's gonna fight it. All we can do is pray for him."

Megan Ogar said she believes that CrossFit will continue to be a part of his life.

"I think that Kevin finds his purpose in helping people to live their best and healthiest lives," she said. "CrossFit is a big part of that."

Her brother knows the road ahead will be long and difficult, she said. But he "knows that he's not going to be on this road alone."

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.

(Read a Sports Illustrated article about Kevin Ogar.)

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