Ascending from Adversity: Sam Constantin Overcomes Skydiving Accident Through CrossFit

ByKelley LaxtonMarch 15, 2024
Found in:Essentials

It was a sunny September day in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. No wind, a high of 20 degrees Celsius, and clear skies. 

The perfect conditions for skydiving. 

Sam Constantin strapped on his gear and ascended into the air, preparing to practice some high-performance maneuvers. This was his 170th jump.

When he reached the drop zone, he leaped out of the plane and was hit with an adrenaline rush. The jump was going well.

But just feet away from the ground, it took a turn for the worse. Constantin was unable to initiate his landing maneuver before diving into the ground.  

He was about to run a marathon in just two days. He had a passion for snowboarding and skydiving. He was also an avid CrossFit athlete. 

But in just seconds, Constantin could no longer walk. 

Despite spending seven weeks in the hospital and two months in a rehabilitation center, Constantin returned to CrossFit as soon as he could after the accident. With the help of his community at CrossFit Caribou, he modified the gym to adapt his workouts to his disability. He became a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer so he could coach at the affiliate and is now participating in the 2024 Adaptive CrossFit Open. 

Why? CrossFit is the reason he is alive today, Constantin says. 

Finding Passions

In 2019, Constantin decided to take a leap of faith and join the rest of his family at CrossFit Caribou, his brother’s affiliate.

Sam Constantin in a split jerk

Photo courtesy of Sam Constantin

“My first workout was Murph,” Constantin said.

Murph is one of the hardest CrossFit workouts — dedicated to fallen Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy. But the two-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats didn’t scare Constantin away. The adrenaline rush he felt made him want more. 

“I scaled it down to 10 rounds. But it took me five days to be able to extend my arms and to walk properly,” he chuckled. 

Since then, Constantin had been going to the gym five to seven times a week. He even started competing in local competitions. His first CrossFit Open was in 2023, and he qualified for the Age-Group Quarterfinal. 

A year after picking up CrossFit, Constantin found a passion for skydiving. 

“I just knew I wanted to be an instructor,” he said

He researched how many jumps he had to do and what it took to be an instructor. He took his course and started to do as many jumps as he could each day to accumulate the required 500. 

In 2022, Constantin was hired at Parachute Montreal as a packer — a professional responsible for preparing parachutes. He was jumping every day. 

The Accident

On Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, Constantin’s life changed forever. That day, he was preparing to do a swoop maneuver.

Sam Constantin landing a skydive

Photo courtesy of Sam Constantin on Instagram

“Swooping is when an experienced skydiver takes a high-performance parachute and initiates a dive, generating speed. The speeds they’re doing are over 100 miles per hour … and then they transfer that (vertical) speed horizontally across the ground,” Professional Skydiver Tom Baker said. 

This maneuver requires an extremely precise measurement of altitude to execute properly. 

Skydivers use altimeters to measure their altitude. The altimeter Constantin usually uses to prepare him for landing was not working that day. So, he had to switch it out for a less precise altimeter.

“You need to be precise to 20 or 30 feet or you can crash,” Constantin said. 

He admits he was relatively inexperienced at the maneuver. Constantin was comfortable initiating the maneuver but wasn’t aware of the risks involved. Because of his faulty altimeter, he was forced to estimate his altitude before initiating his final turn to land. 

But his estimation was inaccurate. Before he could transfer his speed horizontally to slow down, Constantin dove into the ground at full speed. 

“I didn’t know at this time how bad it was,” He said. 

Constantin had two vertebrae explode, his spinal cord compress at the cauda equina, an ankle fracture, and a 15-centimeter wound in his gluteal region. But he was still conscious. 

He was sent by ambulance to l’Hôpital Sacre-Cœur, the best hospital in Quebec for spinal injuries and trauma, where he spent the next seven weeks undergoing surgery and rehabilitation.

Photo courtesy of CrossFit Caribou on Facebook

The first thing Constantin asked for was a dumbbell in his hospital room so he could still try to stay active while in recovery.

“I didn’t want to lose my shape,” he said with a smile.

After his release from the hospital, Constantin was moved to a rehabilitation center for the next two-and-a-half months to learn how to live life with his disability. He learned how to move from his wheelchair into a bed, how to take a shower, and how to get up off the ground if he fell.

After just two weeks, Constantin felt he could return home, but he stayed for the duration to continue physio and strengthen his body. 

“I really think if I wasn’t doing CrossFit I wouldn’t be alive right now,” Constantin said. “I was strong (before the accident) and my body was able to take the impact. I was (healing) faster than everyone (at the rehab center).” 

Learning to Adapt

Constantin lost a lot of muscle mass while recovering from his accident. He struggled to press even 2 lb overhead and was itching to return to CrossFit. 

After a month at the rehabilitation center, Constantin was allowed to spend the weekends at home. He rushed back to CrossFit Caribou on his first day home on Dec. 9, 2023. Constantin continued to train every weekend. 

“It was a lot of work to know how to adapt,” Constantin said. 

Sam Constantin working out in his wheelchair at CrossFit Caribou

Photos courtesy of Sam Constantin

His brother and two other coaches at CrossFit Caribou had experience training an adaptive athlete in a wheelchair, so they all helped coach Constantin and adapt his workouts.

The CrossFit Caribou community helped modify the gym. His family bought a Rogue kid’s pull-up bar so he could do pull-ups from his chair. They also bought adaptive bike handles for the Echo bike so he didn’t have to use his arms as much. A member even 3D printed a part for the ski erg to help bring the strap down for him to grab. 

Constantin wanted to help his community the same way they helped him. He recently received his Level 1 Certificate and is now coaching at CrossFit Caribou. 

Sam Constantin coaching at CrossFit Caribou

Sam Constantin coaching at CrossFit Caribou | Photo courtesy of Constantin

“It’s really a rollercoaster. Sometimes I just am really positive. Other times I’m just looking at the (athletes) cleaning and (thinking), ‘I want that feeling again,’” Constantin said. “(But) I’ve still got one objective: to walk again.”

If he heals enough to walk again, Constantin wants to continue his dream of becoming a skydiving instructor. In the meantime, his most recent goal is to make it to the Adaptive CrossFit Games. 

This year was Constantin’s second CrossFit Open. He joined the 2024 Adaptive Open in the Seated Without Hip Function division. 

Out of the 55 athletes in his division, Constantin placed 15th overall just six months after his accident. This placement qualifies him for the 2024 Adaptive Semifinal. 

Constantin’s accident changed his life forever. He lost the ability to walk in seconds. He lost his ability to skydive and snowboard. 

But Constantin didn’t lose CrossFit.

“No one should be ashamed to come to the gym. If you’re overweight or if you’re in a wheelchair, just come and get to know people,” Constantin said. “It’s all about the (CrossFit) community. I am not sure I would be in the situation I am now without this community.”


Kelley Laxton is a sports writer and editor for CrossFit, LLC. Graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in journalism and sports media, she has become passionate about promoting women in sports through her writing. Kelley has previously written for Her Sport, the first women’s sports magazine in Ireland, and continues to share the stories of strong women in the Sport of Fitness. She currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and enjoys her morning CrossFit class at CrossFit NCR.

Comments on Ascending from Adversity: Sam Constantin Overcomes Skydiving Accident Through CrossFit


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Amedeo Alessio Cerea
March 24th, 2024 at 12:11 pm
Commented on: Ascending from Adversity: Sam Constantin Overcomes Skydiving Accident Through CrossFit

Unfortunately this is life, anything can happen to us. But as in this case fitness (super health) helps us, and CrossFit is the thing that allows us to maintain it. Great testimony

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