Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson is writing his sporting legend in real time. The 28-year-old, whose resume is adorned with titles and podium finishes, is Iceland’s top male CrossFit competitor. After entering his first competition almost a decade ago, his accolades include two third-place finishes at the CrossFit Games. Gudmundsson recently sat down with Virus to discuss how he got started in CrossFit, what he loves most about the sport, and how he was molded by Iceland’s scene.
Considering the circumstances, you may expect Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson to be slowed down by carrying the weight of expectations and responsibility. Rarely do you see an athlete writing history in real time, with Gudmundsson’s place as the top male CrossFit competitor in Iceland. And while his home country has a history of success in CrossFit, it is mostly through the women’s side with champions Annie Thorisdottir and Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir. But as Gudmundsson sets the tone for the men’s side, he is driven by a more personal, simpler goal: to finally win the CrossFit Games.
That level of focus comes almost second-nature for Gudmundsson, who has been competing his entire life. You could even go as far as saying that CrossFit was his destiny. He was introduced to the sport in 2012 by his older brother who opened a gym outside of his hometown of Reykjavik. The timing was right: Gudmundsson was searching for another competitive passion following an amateur career in gymnastics and soccer. Gudmundsson immediately fell in love with his new sport, admitting that he knew he would be competing from his first moment.
“In the beginning, it was just so much fun, and still is so much fun. But at this point, I’m just so dedicated to my goals that I never really get tired of it,” says Gudmundsson.
“I get tired, but I never get tired of doing CrossFit”
Gudmundsson is now completely dedicated to CrossFit through his year-round training and nutrition regimen, adding that “my life is basically just about CrossFit.” He admits it’s hard to be motivated all the time, though he reminds himself of the importance of having fun and being in the moment. Plus, there’s always something to improve upon. These days, he’s putting in extra work in swimming and lifting, in addition to putting on more weight and getting stronger.
He relies upon his routine for mental strength and preparation. He starts his training camp a month away from competitions, isolating himself with his close-knit team. Gudmundsson often leaves Iceland and goes abroad to prepare, giving him the space and distance to put him into a new mindset. As for getting over his competition-day nerves, it’s all about “trusting the work that you’ve put in.” His warm-up routine consists of getting into the zone through silence.
Besides, for top-level competitors, nerves are part of the equation.
“Everyone gets nerves, and that’s healthy, but it’s what you do with those nerves. I wouldn’t like to have them every day of my life, but it’s fine before a competition,” adds Gudmundsson.
“I’ve competed my whole life so I’ve gotten used to using my nerves to boost my performance”
His year-round training produces consistent performances, something he describes as his proudest athletic trait. But Gudmundsson’s ultimate goal is to win the CrossFit Games. He’s come close twice after finishing on the podium in 2015 and 2019, ranking both as the proudest accomplishments of his career. Sometimes the success feels inevitable, adding that he “didn’t see any other outcome other than finishing on the podium” in 2019.
Gudmundsson’s determination isn’t surprising as he lists Michael Jordan as one of his inspirations, calling him “the best athlete of all time.” Otherwise, it’s about family. He mentions his father as his biggest influence in not imposing any structures for Gudmundsson growing up, giving him the freedom to do whatever he wanted as long as he went all in.
“Winning the CrossFit Games is always getting closer and closer, and I won’t stop until I reach my goals”
That family feel is characteristic of Iceland’s CrossFit scene, with Gudmundsson frequently mentioning his pride in his home country. He observes that the scene is unique since the torch-bearers are mostly women. He credits Thorisdottir’s win in the 2011 CrossFit Games as the turning point for the sport in Iceland, boosting the scene for both men and women. Then Davidsdottir followed Thorisdottir with back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016. The women-led success is no surprise to Gudmundsson, who observes that there are more women than men training at his gym.
Gudmundsson was inspired by the energy of Thorisdottir’s initial title run. Likewise, he can also feel his own impact on Iceland’s relatively young CrossFit scene in real time. He is competing in his eighth games, blazing a trail for his peers. Thus, his biggest lessons aren’t centered around competing but about community, saying that the sport taught him the importance of being a good person. While he admits that “people that do CrossFit talk only about CrossFit,” he adds that the obsession comes from a genuine place.
“Cherish the people around you and try to be a nice person. CrossFit has really opened my eyes to those things,” Gudmundsson says of what the sport has taught him.
“When I get home, the people at my gym will always have my back”
Gudmundsson is also molded by Iceland in other unique ways, especially in the demands of his apparel. With the country dark and cold for up to nine months of the year, his go-to piece is the IconX pants as they keep him warm while giving him enough stretch to perform his movements. He adds that Virus gear has “never betrayed me in any way” even when considering how much he’s relied upon his attire throughout the years.
From his initial entry into CrossFit, to the family environment of his gym, to the demands of his gear, Gudmundsson’s career has been shaped by his environment. But as he carries the lofty torch for Iceland, he is grounded by simpler ideals. From the outside, Gudmundsson’s impressive list of accomplishments and titles speak for themselves. Beneath the surface, Gudmundsson is powered by his love of the CrossFit community and through using the sport to become a better person.