Any doubt about Australia being a competitive region has been crushed due to three phenomenal athletes. After the 2011 CrossFit Games, the women of Australia proved to the world they are forces to be reckoned with.
Amy Dracup, Amanda Allen, and Ruth Anderson Horrell started off the competition particularly well with top 12 finishes for all three athletes in the beach event. Throughout the weekend, these first-time Games athletes continued to impress. Dracup finished in 11th place, with Allen and Horrell not too far behind in 19th and 31st, respectively.
A New Experience
Dracup earned her spot to the Games after a 1st place finish at the Australia Regional. The first-time Games competitor said the Games experience was something she will not soon forget. “It was the final stop in a long journey. And it was a lot of fun,” she said. “I loved getting to meet the athletes I only see from afar. The community and environment in the athlete area and in the stands is electric. It’s something you want to be a part of again and again.”
Allen said her experience was extraordinary. “It was a privilege and a joy to be amongst it,” Allen said. “I figured that no matter what, no one could take this experience away from me. And I was happy with that as an outcome. I was also grateful to simply be there with the best in the world.”
Horrell, the sheep farmer from New Zealand, was elated to be going to the Games after she finished the Regional in 2nd place. She came close in 2010, but missed her chance at the Games by one point. Coming close and missing gave her the fire to train hard and return a different athlete. Allen took 4th in the Beach Event with Horrell cruising in behind her in 8th and Dracup in 12th.
Going into the competition, all athletes set expectations for themselves. Dracup said she met the one expectation she put on herself prior to the Games. “The only expectation I placed on myself was to be a competitor, not a participant,” she explained. “The hard work had been done in the gym, and the Games are a chance to test that work.”
After placing 3rd at the Australia Regional, Allen suffered two “nasty” injuries – a torn rib joint and patella tendonitis – that debilitated her training. “I was in constant pain for three weeks and hardly able to breathe without pain.”
Unable to squat, run, or do much of anything else made the lead-up to the Games difficult for Allen. “It was quite distressing,” she said. “So, by the time I got to the Games, I was full of gratitude just to be able to move without pain and participate … maybe that took the pressure off.”
Horrell came to the Games with the intention to "come out of every workout feeling like I'd given everything I had to give." Whether it was her strongest or weakest event, she'd "throw everything at it" and let the cards fall where they may.
What athletes take away from competition is valuable to growth as a competitor. Many say the experience itself is a lesson and necessary to move forward.
Dracup said a goal was to make it to the final workout. Once she got there, it was all about mental preparedness. “I went into the final event in 9th and it would have been nice to hold onto that position, but fatigue got the better of my brain,” she said. “When pulling the final sled, I knew what to do in theory, but in the moment, it didn’t happen. I will take that experience into next year’s competitions.
Dracup’s biggest lesson was in regard to her own self-confidence. “I am stronger than I think I am.”
Allen took much away from her first year as a Games competitor, and already is thinking about what she’ll do if she makes it to the Games next year. “I learned so much. Skills are king. Consistency and experience make all the difference. And I learned when they say ‘Fittest on Earth,’ they mean in every aspect of being an athlete – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual,” she said. “It was a test of attitude, endurance, composure, willingness, character, preparation, nutrition, hydration, recovery … everything. I will bring a blow up mattress and my own massage therapist and chef next year.”
More than that though, Allen recalls three specific events that altered the course of the Games for her – chest-to-bar pull-ups, the snatch, and the front squat. Missing reps, batting against a clock, and struggling with the weight were defining and humbling moments for Allen. “It’s a big lesson in developing skills and perfect lifting technique,” she explained. “My lifting technique is fairly bad, so that is a focus of the coming year – learning to squat, rack, and snatch a bar.
“I learned that I can be better, so much better than I am, and that I am actually competitive against the best in the world. Wow. Never say never.
“The Games were everything along with the spectrum of human experience – exhilarating, disappointing, challenging, exciting, frustrating, exhausting, invigorating – and I loved every aspect of it for the way it mimics dealing with and overcoming adversity, challenge, and the unknown in daily life.”
Plans for next year
For Dracup, competing is not a question. “I love to compete. It may not always be CrossFit, but I like to challenge myself,” she explained. “I had a three-day break with my mates in Mexico, then it was back to training the day we landed. The best jet lag recovery is a workout.”
While training is more relaxed at the moment, Dracup said she and her coach be begun to talk about future programming and things to work on going into the 2012 Games season. But for the short term, one big thing is getting all of her attention. “Right now, I am planning my wedding for November.”
Allen is a natural competitor and athlete. She found CrossFit less than a year ago, but has been a professional athlete her whole life. For her not to compete, would not be natural. “I will do everything in my power to prepare for another attempt,” she said. “I guess my training has already begun for 2012, but it has begun by recovering whilst still training and eating cheesecake everyday, if I feel like it.”
Overall, Allen is focused. “My focus is crystal clear,” she explained. “I am changing my work commitments, downsizing my financial burdens, moving to a smaller, cheaper house, and giving myself the space and lifestyle to be the best I can be in 11 month’s time.”
In regard to her actual training program, Allen puts all her trust in her coach, Ben Norman. “I trust his judgment, skills, and knowledge to prepare a program that will see me improve to the necessary level for 2012. I see so much potential for improvement in myself and that is exciting,” Allen said. “Time will tell.”
Allen said she is still in awe with the entire atmosphere of the Games. “The organization of the Games was mind blowing. The people and volunteers were all so positive, supportive, and utterly committed to the values of the sport,” Allen said. “There were no ‘impossibility thinkers’ anywhere in sight. I love that about CrossFit.”
Overwhelmed by the support she received from fans she never knew she had, Allen said she has a whole host of new friends on Facebook. “The incredible hype and excitement surrounding the Games blows me away. People recognizing me in the street, requests for autographs, photos … it’s extraordinary. And I only came in 19th. Has anyone mentioned that this is the most exciting and dynamic sport on the planet? This sport is keeping my mind, body, soul so young.”
Even though Dracup got to meet and interact with some of the CrossFit “celebrity," one particular athlete made quite the impression on her. “Annie Sakamoto is the coolest woman I have ever met.”