Cornell officer wins gold in World Police games

Whether he’s working as a police officer or competing in fitness contests, Tim Camilli prefers to be prepared.

“As a police officer, when you’re out there, anything can happen,” said Camilli, a field training officer with the Cornell University Police Department. “And you have to be physically and mentally ready for that. So you train and train and train.”

Camilli takes the same approach to CrossFit, a fitness regimen combining weightlifting, gymnastics, calisthenics and other exercises. This summer, his rigorous preparation helped him earn a gold medal in CrossFit at the biennial World Police and Fire Games in Chengdu, China.

Cornell Police Officer Tim Camilli at the World Police and Fire Games in Chengdu, China.

“It was just terrific,” Camilli said. “But the coolest thing was to meet people from all over the world. I got to meet police and firefighters from Brazil, Canada, Finland, Japan, China, Ukraine – I couldn’t even tell you all the places. And I’m hoping that maybe in another two years, I can qualify again.”

The 18th World Police and Fire Games, held Aug. 8-18, drew thousands of competitors from more than 80 countries to compete in more than 50 sports.

Uncertainty was the most stressful part of the competition, Camilli said.

In advance of the games, the athletes were told they’d be competing in three workouts over three days. But when he arrived in China, Camilli learned he’d actually need to do six workouts over three days, with just two days to prepare for unfamiliar routines.

“When I was on the line waiting for that buzzer to go off, that’s when I got nervous,” he said. “But as soon as I started the workouts, I was no longer nervous, because I was just focusing on what I needed to do to finish the event.”

Pacing, endurance and strategy were important, he said, to avoid tiring himself out too soon. For example, in one workout he needed to jump rope, followed by a movement requiring him to lift 135 pounds, followed by running, rowing and more. Though he didn’t finish all of his workouts, he performed well enough to win the gold medal for his age range, 45-49.

“With CrossFit, you’re humbled very quickly because you find out what you can’t do. And you have to practice constantly to get better at it,” Camilli said. “The games were awesome for that. It was a huge crowd, and everyone was cheering for everybody.”

Camilli said he felt common ground with everyone he met in Chengdu.

“That was kind of unexpected,” he said. “I thought [policing] might be different in other countries. But when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, we’ve been through the same stuff; we do the same things.”

Camilli, a lifelong athlete, played hockey at Ithaca High School and in college and later competed in national and regional contests in weightlifting, powerlifting and bodybuilding. In 2017, he took first place in two divisions for bodybuilding at the National Physique Committee’s New York Capitol Championships.

“I thought, ‘Wow, what a great way to end my bodybuilding career and move on to something else,’” Camilli said.

Camilli joined CUPD in 2012, following a stint with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C.

“Officer Camilli’s hard work and dedication shines through each day protecting and serving the Cornell community,” said Cornell Police Chief David Honan. “We were not surprised to learn that this same work ethic earned him an opportunity to represent the United States, law enforcement and Cornell University at the World Police and Fire Games. We are incredibly proud of him and his success at the games.”

Now that he’s already in shape, Camilli hopes to qualify for the CrossFit Games in 2020.

“That would be kind of like going to the Super Bowl,” he said. “If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, there’s still a lot of stuff I need to work on. The goal is just to get better.”

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Abby Butler