BILLINGS – Five years ago, Yurii Hanson was one of the most physically fit 35-year-olds on the planet, tirelessly training in his brand new workout space for the upcoming Reebok CrossFit World Games.

Today, Hanson may not look all that different, but, boy, have things changed.

“I went to the Crossfit Games, and about six months later, I resigned from the fire department,” said Hanson, “and my wife and I decided to take a leap of faith and go all-in on CrossFit Billings. It’s been a ride for the last five years.”

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Yurii and his wife, Kerri, are coming up on their four-year anniversary at their facility at 1428 Grand Avenue, and while he wouldn’t trade it for the world, the move did put a hold on the Games.

“I needed to take a step back from competing for a little bit,” Hanson said of his career change. “But I’m in the Masters division this year. We knew last year going into it that it was going to be potentially a good year to make this happen.”

What’s the Masters division, you ask?

“The Masters division is the nice way of saying an old guy,” Hanson chuckled.

The Masters division is open to athletes aged 40-44, so while Hanson was on the old end of the spectrum back in 2012, he was one of the youngest competitors in the 2017 field. After all of this year’s World Games qualifying attempts were submitted, Hanson finished fourth out of more than 25,000 competitors worldwide.

“It was surprising, but at the same time, it’s super encouraging,” Hanson admitted in June after his prelim finish. “It has lit a fire underneath me to want to see how far I can take this this year.”

The Games arrived six weeks later in Madison, Wisconsin. The 20 40-to-44 year olds were slated for 10 events across four days. Hanson opened with third- and sixth-place finishes the first day, but really hit his stride after that.

He won the ‘Bar Fight’ competition, which required 50 chest-to-bar pull-ups, followed by 40 toes-to-bar, and finished with 30 clean and jerk lifts at 205 pounds.

Day 3 was even bigger for the Billings man. He crossed in second during the Vest Triplet early in the day for some big points, and then came the Quatrain. Athletes had to do a course of muscle ups, handstand walks, wall balls, and — finally — a 200-pound sand bag carry. Athletes performed each task multiple times.

Hanson took the lead about three-quarters of the way through, and when he dropped the sand bag across the finish line for the final time, earned his second event win of the games, which at the time, got him right back into the title race.

“I knew that I had to make up some ground after the Double-Under one (in the) morning, even though that was the best Double-unders I’ve had,” Hanson said. “It was amazing, but I knew I had to make up ground. Just the family support – praying for me and helping me get through it – was really good.”

Hanson was able to hang on to his third-place standing through the final two events, earning a bronze medal. He racked up 816 points over the 10 events.