“The thing about it, she said, ‘Why are they destroying our city?’ And I said, ‘What if you were trying to get mommy and daddy’s attention and we weren’t paying attention to you? What would you do?’ She was like, ‘Well, I would talk louder.’ I’m like, ‘What if we still didn’t listen to you?’ She was like, ‘I would scream!’ And I was like, ‘What if we STILL didn’t listen?’ She was like, ‘I would be really sad. I would start crying.’ And I was like, ‘I know! And what if we STILL didn’t listen? What if it went on all day long and we just didn’t listen to you?' She was like, ‘I would be so upset. I would… I don’t know.’ And I was like, ‘Would you throw a fit? A tantrum?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, I probably would. I’d probably throw my toys at you.’ And I was like ‘That’s kind of what happened, and then we would notice you because you would be making a mess, and we’d say ‘Sydney, Sydney, what’s wrong?’ And we would stand with you and try to calm you down and listen to you.’ So I said, ‘That’s kind of what happened with black people around the city.’ Definitely the first night. And people I think have realized what was going on, finally, and what black lives matters means and they were like, ‘Alright. You’re right. We stand with you.’”
- Deborah Cordner Carson
The CrossFit community may best recognize and remember Deborah Cordner Carson as the gutsy athlete who gave an inspirational performance at the 2012 CrossFit Games, overcoming a fear of open water swimming in the triathlon event and going on to win the 2012 Spirit of the Games award. Deb could also be distinguished by the compression sleeve she wears on her left leg, and by the color of her skin. Deb is one of the few black competitors in the sport of CrossFit.
Growing up, Deborah was inspired by great athletes in her family. Her father came to America from Trinidad and Tobago on a track and field scholarship and her grandfather was the heavy weight lifting champion of the British Empire. As a young girl she competed in gymnastics, and as a teenager she excelled in track and field, eventually earning a full scholarship to the University of Northern Iowa as a 400-meter sprinter.
When Deb developed lymphedema, a condition where fluid is retained in certain parts of the body and can cause dangerous swelling, she was forced to retire from her track and field career, but in time, she discovered ways to manage her condition- including that recognizable compression sleeve- while still being active. She took up CrossFit and quickly rose to elite status in the sport, placing as high as 5th in the 2013 CrossFit Open and 13th at the 2012 CrossFit Games.
Since retiring, Deborah continues to do CrossFit for health, but she has also struggled with the heartbreak of multiple miscarriages, and most recently, a diagnosis of gestational trophoblastic disease, a type of pregnancy-related cancer.
Throughout her life, Deborah has been aware that the color of her skin means she's had to work harder for opportunities than others. As a mother to two little girls and a resident of the Minneapolis area, she also has a unique perspective on the recent events that have highlighted the ongoing systemic racism in our society.
I am grateful to Deb for taking a moment to share her perspective amidst all the other challenges she is currently taking on. These conversations can be uncomfortable, but they're also important as we all strive to stand together and learn from each other. In this episode, we chat about her experiences as a minority CrossFit Games athlete, the mentality she's using to fight her cancer diagnosis, the lessons she strives to teach her daughters, and how we should all speak up to overcome injustice and racial bias.
In this episode we discuss:
You can follow Deborah on Instagram
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