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Old man plays a young man’s CrossFit Games

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Clarke Holland will be heading to his sixth-straight CrossFit Games later this week. (Melissa Rule/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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S.F. resident heads to national competition for sixth-straight year

When Clarke Holland stepped into Tamalpais CrossFit seven years ago, he was seeking personal training to build strength and improve his running. Later this week, the 65-year-old San Francisco resident will compete in his 6th CrossFit Games as the oldest competitor.

A year after he started his training at the facility in San Rafael, he was encouraged to compete in the CrossFit Open, an online qualifier for the bigger event that aims to find the “fittest on earth.”

From there he became a serious competitor, placing in the top 10 of the Masters division (60-plus) four out of the five years he competed.

CrossFit is a varied, high intensity workout that incorporates a series of exercises including running, Olympic weightlifting and plyometrics. Over the last 10 years, it has gained worldwide participation. The sport claims more than 13,000 affiliated gyms globally. The top-five individual athletes and the top five teams from each of the eight regional competitions around the world make up the field of competitors at the CrossFit Games.

In his late 50s, Holland started engaging with the sport when his 40-year career as a lawyer was slowing down. He found training was something he could focus on instead of work.

“I’ve made so many friends here,” Holland said. “It’s so much fun to work out with a group of people that you know, and work with people who are going to work hard. It’s a huge improvement over working out in a gym and isolating yourself.”

Tamalpais CrossFit co-owners Michael Papes and Meshelle Mifsud say Holland is a disciplined athlete, who doesn’t get discouraged as he works out next to 20-year-olds all
day.

“He comes in here twice a day all the time, lives the lifestyle, eats properly and is always in a positive mood and that is a gift to the gym,” said Papes.

Holland, a UC Berkeley graduate, refuses to let his age define him as an athlete, he is just happy to be competing. 

Mifsud, who often competes alongside Holland at weightlifting competitions, spoke about him expanding the age boundaries in athletics.

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“I think his age and his hard work are redefining what ‘old’ is, and that old isn’t a negative, and nothing can stop him,” said Mifsud.

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