63-year-old qualifies for CrossFit Games while battling cancer

Rick Neale

Indialantic gym rat Ken Ogden competed alongside some of Earth's fittest athletes at the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games in July of 2018 in Madison, Wisconsin — and he qualified while undergoing daily radiation treatments for cancer.

The 63-year-old ranked as one of the world's top 20 competitors in the CrossFit Men's 60+ Masters division. During the arduous, multi-month qualifying process featuring an array of workouts, Ogden endured six weeks of radiation therapy for squamous cell carcinoma on his left cheek.

"He's not an ordinary human. That's the easiest way to put it," said Matias Rodriguez, Ogden's coach and owner of CrossFit OwnIt in West Melbourne.

"He's here at least once a day. Many days, twice a day. It's hard to get him to take a day off. As a coach, I literally have to text him and say, 'What are you doing?' Because his day off consists of doing 100 burpees for fun, swimming and then biking," Rodriguez said.

"And that's his day off. That's his rest day," he said.

Listed at 5 feet, 9 inches and 179 pounds, Ogden teaches physical education and coaches swimming at Coastline Community School in South Patrick Shores.

The CrossFit Games happened Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, and ended Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018, and were televised by CBS Sports. 

"Well, I qualified 20th — by like three points. I'm happy. I have a couple of goals. One is, just enjoy the experience. Every second of it. And, to do the very best that I can," Ogden said, resting on a bench at CrossFit OwnIt after a workout.

Ken Ogden works out at CrossFit OwnIt Friday in West

Ogden swam freestyle and butterfly and played water polo at Auburn University. After college, he swam with the North Florida Masters swim club in Tallahassee through his mid-30s or thereabouts.

He joined CrossFit OwnIt in April 2017. He has also worked out for years at Trinity Fitness Beachside in Indian Harbour Beach. 

Injuries derailed Ogden's first two attempts at qualifying for the CrossFit Games. In 2016, he strained his calf and Achilles tendon doing "double unders," a jump-rope exercise where the rope passes beneath your feet twice during each jump.

Then last year, a right shoulder impingement limited his overhead-bar weightlifting abilities.

Doctors diagnosed Ogden's skin cancer in February, and he underwent radiation through early April.

"I started the treatment at basically the same time the CrossFit Open workouts started. The doctors would ask me every week, 'Are you feeling any fatigue?' And I would say, 'Yeah — I just came from a workout,'" he said.

He said the skin cancer is gone. Three years ago, he underwent similar radiation treatments for squamous cell carcinoma on his right cheek.

Ken Ogden poses for a photo with some of the coaches

In a key motivational move, Ogden flew to Wisconsin last summer and worked as a volunteer during the CrossFit Games.

"The one thing I remember more than anything is, I got a chance to watch the age group that I was in do a competition. We would get them ready, and they'd go out on the floor. I had this feeling that I was almost depressed: I could be out there," Ogden recalled.

"I told one of the girls who worked with me, 'Man, I really don't want to do this next year.' And she thought, not be a volunteer. She goes, 'You'd be out in the stands, so you can see all the competitions?' And I said, 'No, man, I want to be out there,'" he said, pointing toward the athletes.

"She just kind of gave me this look like, 'Yeah, sure,'" he said, laughing.

Ken Ogden works out at CrossFit OwnIt Friday in West

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: 63-year-old qualifies for CrossFit Games while battling cancer