Interview with Roy Gamboa — CrossFit, Life and Retirement

CrossFit Games veteran Roy Gamboa with fiancee Mackenzie Webb.
CrossFit Games veteran Roy Gamboa with fiancee Mackenzie Webb.

Roy Gamboa made his first appearance at the CrossFit Games in 2013 after beginning CrossFit just a year earlier in August of 2012. Today, he is preparing to be a husband in October and a servant to the city of Abilene as a firefighter.

After a successful football career, playing linebacker for Hardin-Simmons University from 2007-’10, Gamboa turned to CrossFit to fill that competitive void in his life. He began programming his own workouts while in graduate school at Hardin-Simmons, then stepped into CrossFit Abilene and never looked back.

After taking first at the South Regional in 2016, Gamboa was more fit than he’d ever been. Three months later the three-time Games qualifier placed 35th at the 2016 Games and won his first event: the Suicide Sprint.

And yes, Gamboa won the event. Games champion Mat Fraser may have made the incredible comeback to chase down the 2015 CrossFit games champ Ben Smith in his heat by mere feet, but Gamboa beat Fraser by a full second to bring home the event win and some cash. The years he spent chasing down running backs and wide receivers paid off.

Not only did he take first in the event, but he proposed to his girlfriend of three and a half years, Mackenzie Webb, on the Monday following the CrossFit Games on the white sands of Hermosa beach.

Roy Gamboa proposes to girlfriend, Mackenzie Webb, the day after the 2016 CrossFit Games.
Roy Gamboa proposes to girlfriend, Mackenzie Webb, the day after the 2016 CrossFit Games.

Since then, Gamboa has done what all CrossFit Games athletes do following the Games. Take a rest, go on vacation, enjoy a cheat day that sometime turns into a cheat week and then focus on the weaknesses the Games unveiled that year, work on them and come back better than the year before.

During the offseason Gamboa changed where he worked out, but he continued to train as if he was going to compete once again at the 2017 CrossFit Games. He left CrossFit Abilene to train at Train Elevate.

After placing 24th worldwide in the 2017 Open, which was not his best finish in the Open, he began training for Regionals until he heard from the Abilene Fire Department that he would be a firefighter.

On May 1st, Gamboa announced via social media he would hang up his lifters. His intention to sit out the 2017 season is to focus on two things: [1] his career as a firefighter and [2] providing for his future wife.

It’s been an amazing journey! So this is hard because of how much time I’ve invested in this sport (August 2012). I will not be competing this year at the 2017 South regional. I have been blessed with the opportunity to become what I’ve always wanted to be, a firefighter! With that blessing taking place recently, it has come down to me making the decision to pursue my career over competing this season. No regrets in my decision, I know what’s best for me and my future wife @mackenzieannette and she deserves my best as a provider and my career deserves my best as a servant for my city. I do wanna to say thank you to @xfitalex1 @prepareandexecute for getting me into the best shape possible and winning the south central region was no fluke, that was all you, sir! Thank you to @3fu3l for all your support and keeping my body fueled for competition and training, always. Also, thank you to my @trainelevate family for taking me and my squad in and for giving us a home and a chance to be part of a community that cherishes and appreciates us all! And all those who suffered with me in training to make me the best possible fitness athlete I could be! Thank you to all of my family (pops, momma and sisters) for making me into the man I am today! Always keeping me grounded and loving me in all the choices I’ve ever made including taking until 30 years old to grow up haha. And thank you @mackenzieannette for your unconditional love and support for me through this amazing journey! I’m very blessed to call you “mine” and I’m excited to start our lives together in October until forever! I love you more than you’ll ever know! And most importantly, my Lord and savior Christ Jesus! For dying for all my sins, for your everlasting love and for all the amazing blessings! I’m thankful for this journey in CrossFit You have allowed me to make, for the accomplishments You’ve allowed me to achieve and for the relationships I’ve gained (including my life partner). No regrets because Your plan is always better than mine and I Thank you that You allow me to find comfort in that! So thank you all to those who have followed me on this journey and good luck to those competing this season!

A post shared by Roy Gamboa (@cfroygamboa) on

Gamboa pretty much laid it all out in his post, but The Barbell Spin had a chance to interview him to gain a better understanding of why he’s retiring from the sport of fitness.

The Barbell Spin: So Roy, other than the caption in your post on Instagram, what other factors led you to retire?

Roy Gamboa: The main thing is me trying to listen to where God wants me to be. I think He knew that this was going to be tough for me to give up, but it was a good opportunity to show Him my obedience and also to sacrifice something great to provide for something and someone greater.

The Barbell Spin: Did anyone from the CrossFit community contact you following your announcement? If so, who, and what did those relationships mean to you?

Roy Gamboa: (Three-time Games qualifier) Daniel Tyminski direct messaged me on Instagram telling me he was also trying to pursue a career as a firefighter. Kenny Leverich reached out to me to congratulate me on a great career. Brent Fikowski (placed fourth at the 2016 Games as a rookie) wished me luck as well. I had some great support from the CrossFit community. 

The Barbell Spin: Will you be competing next year, or is your focus strictly on your firefighting career and your marriage?

Roy Gamboa: I believe my Instagram post said I will be missing out this season, so you can take that however you want to take that. If the opportunity allows me to compete again and everything is right, then I will. I’m a competitor. For this season, I had to do what was right for me.

The Barbell Spin: The 30-year-old Gamboa did however say he’s five years from competing in the Master’s division.

Roy Gamboa: I’m five years away, but if I’m still healthy and I still have some competitiveness in me, and time allows, then maybe next year I’ll give it another run.

The Barbell Spin: What do you think your feelings would be when you watch this year’s CrossFit Games?

Roy Gamboa: To be honest, it is probably going to be pretty difficult to watch. I want to be out there competing. Even back when I wasn’t playing football it was tough to watch NFL games on TV. When I got into CrossFit, it made that a little easier to get over. I think this season will probably be the most difficult to watch, but I’ll still watch it.

The Barbell Spin: You used your platform in ways most athletes of any sport don’t nowadays, but what does it mean for you to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ through CrossFit?

Roy Gamboa: I believe I’m called here to do is to share Jesus with everybody. Once I recognized the platform I had and had the opportunities to do that, it meant everything to me. It gave me more meaning for why I’m competing. It wasn’t just me competing to win, I win, and that’s it. If I compete and I don’t win and I shared the Gospel and somebody somewhere received eternal life because what I do and say on the competition floor, then that’s more than I could ever ask for.

The Barbell Spin: What will you do in the coming months before your wedding?

RG: Right now I’m in the middle of the Fire Academy, going through orientation stuff and all that. Me and Mackenzie are looking at getting a house established, and all the fun things that come with getting married. Really my focus will be my career and Mackenzie right now.

Roy Gamboa with fiancee Mackenzie Webb after the 2016 CrossFit Games
Roy Gamboa with fiancee Mackenzie Webb after the 2016 CrossFit Games

The Barbell Spin: Last year was the tenth anniversary of the CrossFit Games. What do you think CrossFit will be like ten years from now?

Roy Gamboa: Competitors will be a lot younger, I’ll tell you that. I think people are starting to tap in to their potential that they never thought they were capable of, so I think a lot of the numbers you see now will be warm-up numbers for future athletes.

The Barbell Spin: Last question, Roy: What do you hope people who followed you throughout your career can understand or learn from you? Doesn’t have to be CrossFit related.

Roy Gamboa: What’s seen on social media, I didn’t do it for just fame or fortune. I didn’t do it to be a popular name. I did it because I realized the blessing I was given, and I wanted to be obedient and be a good steward with that.