An estimated 500,000 athletes across the globe competed in the 2018 CrossFit Games Open, but only 40 men, 40 women and 40 teams make it to the CrossFit Games. After missing out on the CrossFit Games in 2017, one local athlete is hoping to be among those 40 men who will compete in Madison, Wisconsin, this summer for the title of the fittest on earth.

CrossFit athlete and Level 2 trainer Joey Tortora graduated from Ohio State in 2013 with a degree in psychology, but after discovering a passion for CrossFit, his career took a different path. Now 26 years old, Tortora is one of the top-ranked CrossFit athletes in the nation.

This year he placed 55th out of 216,828 people in the world in the men’s division of the CrossFit Games Open. His dream? To one day stand on the podium at the CrossFit Games.

“If you don’t think you can win, you shouldn’t be doing this stuff,” Tortora said. “People come into the gym every day to get better, and I come in with the aspect that I want to win.”

Tortora began CrossFit in 2012 when he and his friend tried the workouts in the Jesse Owens South Recreation Center. He later joined CrossFit Grandview and instantly knew that one day he wanted to compete at the CrossFit Games.

Ohio State alumnus and CrossFit athlete Joey Tortora performs a clean and jerk at the 2015 CrossFit Games. Credit: Courtesy of Joey Tortora

Tortora began making his dreams a reality when he qualified for regionals in 2014. The following year, he made it to the Games in the team division and placed eighth in the world. In 2016, the team placed eighth at regionals and fell short of qualifying for the Games for a second year.

“When I first qualified for regionals back in 2014, I went in there with no expectations, I just wanted to see what it was like being out there on that floor,” Tortora said. “That really just lit a fire under my butt because I realized how much more work I had to do.”

In 2017, Tortora went back to competing as an individual. He placed 11th at the Central Regional competition. Despite not placing top five and qualifying for the Games, Tortora said his performance proved that he can compete with the top athletes in the nation.

“I’m good enough to hang with these guys. I just need to believe in myself,” Tortora said. “As an athlete right now, I am very physically fit. Going into this year I need to work on being mentally fit.”

Ohio State alumnus and CrossFit athlete Joey Tortora poses for a picture during training in Dubai. Credit: Courtesy of Joey Tortora

A typical 12-hour day for Tortora includes a morning training session, a private coaching session, an afternoon training session and instructing three CrossFit classes throughout the day.

The balance between training and coaching takes a mental and physical toll on Tortora, but he said he’s too close to achieving his goals for him to ever give it up.

“There’s times when I don’t want to train,” Tortora said. “I wake up, I am sore,I’m tired, [but] I gotta remember let’s just get through today, let’s just get a little better,  suffer a little bit because it’s going to help you in the long run.”

Andy Ekleberry, a CrossFit Level 2 trainer and former teammate of Tortora, said it takes a winning mentality to be one of the best and Tortora has it.

“It’s really hard to do this stuff when you don’t think you can win because it is really hard to push yourself,” Ekleberry said. “This year he just wanted to win and it shows.”

Tortora will get his shot to prove himself once again at the Central Regional competition on May 25-27 in Nashville, Tennessee.

“When I first started back in 2013 it was hard for me to sleep because I’d be sitting there thinking about competing on that tennis stadium floor and that’s something I know that I’m going to end up doing one day,” Tortora said.

Although Tortora continues to strive to one day place top three at the Games and be recognized as one of the fittest on earth, for now he has his mind set on becoming the fittest male athlete in the central region.

“I just don’t want to go out there and compete at regionals,” said Tortora. “I want to go win so I’m going to do that.”