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Tech. Sgt. Brian Bowen, right, pulls through 50 "Knees to Elbows" with Capt. Jeremiah Buckenberger during an afternoon workout Friday at Ramstein Air Base's North side gym. Bowen is taking his CrossFit workout skills to the CrossFit world games this July in California after finishing second earlier this month at the European games in Ireland. Bowen works in the air procedures flight at U.S. Air Forces Europe headquarters.

Tech. Sgt. Brian Bowen, right, pulls through 50 "Knees to Elbows" with Capt. Jeremiah Buckenberger during an afternoon workout Friday at Ramstein Air Base's North side gym. Bowen is taking his CrossFit workout skills to the CrossFit world games this July in California after finishing second earlier this month at the European games in Ireland. Bowen works in the air procedures flight at U.S. Air Forces Europe headquarters. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — As Tech. Sgt. Brian Bowen tackled one of CrossFit’s more notorious workouts, "The Filthy 50," his pain was palpable.

He groaned and winced, he dripped sweat; his veins bulged, his face reddened, and he moved quickly, pushing hard with little rest through 500 repetitions of various muscle movements.

The final exercise of last Friday’s CrossFit workout at the north side gym was "double under." The rope, swinging so fast it was a blur, had to go under his feet twice for every jump to count as a repetition.

After the 50th repetition, Bowen shouted, "Time!"

The stopwatch keeper announced, "18:05."

Tech. Sgt. Ben Lazare, watching from a corner, was impressed. A member of CrossFit Ramstein since December, Lazare completed the same workout in double the time.

"That’s why he’s a world-class athlete, in my opinion," Lazare said of Bowen.

Bowen has already proved his mettle in the world of CrossFit beyond the gyms of Ramstein.

Earlier this month, Bowen placed second at the CrossFit European regional qualifier in Northern Ireland, earning the right to compete at the CrossFit international games in Aromas, Calif., July 10-12.

The event will mark the third annual world game for CrossFit, and Bowen’s first trip to the competition.

"It’s a culmination of three years of training," said the U.S. Air Force air traffic controller, who recently turned 30. "I felt like I was ready."

At the European regional, Bowen finished second to Mikko Salo, a 29-year-old professional firefighter and rescue diver from Pori, Finland. Fifteen athletes vied for a top-three spot and a trip to Aromas. Two other members of CrossFit Ramstein — Air Force 2nd Lts. P.J. Menajh and Kari Kundert — competed at the European regionals but did not advance.

Bowen’s unsure what prizes, if any, may be up for grabs among the 75 men and 75 women slated to compete at the world games. "They say the winner of the CrossFit Games has the right to call themselves ‘the fittest person on the planet,’" Bowen said. "That’s all I need."

A conditioning and strengthening program that focuses on 10 core fitness areas, CrossFit was developed in the States by a former gymnast and has gained an international following.

CrossFit has come under some criticism for being too intense and unsafe, charges that Bowen bristles at.

"At times CrossFit gets a bad name because people just aren’t educated about it," he said. "Our [serious] injury rate is zero percent. Yes, the workouts are hard, no doubt about it. You’re going to be sore … I’m a true testament to the program and how it works. This is a safe program."

Bowen attributes much of his success in the sport to Menajh, Kundert and the other 40 or so active members of CrossFit Ramstein. "You can put up good numbers, you can get really fit … but until you have the group setting with someone … motivating you and being proud of what you’re doing, that right there is what makes it happen for me," he said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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