Guam native Nicole Tainatongo is officially the fittest woman in Asia, after having won both the Open and Regional this year. Quite a feat one might think, but these are merely stepping stones for the 24-year-old’s journey with CrossFit.
"Ultimately, my goal was to go to the Games, and in Asia you have to take first place because only the top athletes and team go through. So in order to go to the Games, I had no choice but to beat the entire region.”
And that’s exactly what she did.
Tainatongo dominated the three-day competition in Seoul, South Korea, taking first in four events and placing in the top three for all seven. By the end of Event 6, she had guaranteed a spot and the crowd broke out in cheers as she jumped excitedly and raced across the stadium.
Tainatongo takes the responsibility of being the sole female representative of the region to heart.
"The women in Asia have something to show to the rest of the world,” she says. "I'm going to bring my best to the Games, and then some. The ‘and then some’ is everyone else's energy — everyone that's been supporting me in my training. I’m taking that as motivation to push beyond my boundaries."
Asia’s top female feels there is something special about the region and its attitude to the development of CrossFit.
"I think it's the culture, not just Guam but Asia in general. We're very passionate yet humble about the things that we do. Do your best and always make sure you're representing where you’re from. We’re here to show the rest of the world just how much love we have for CrossFit."
Tainatongo trains at CrossFit 671, situated on the U.S. Coast Guard base in Guam, where she is stationed as a Marine Science Technician. She has been following the CrossFit Invictus competition programming since September 2012, after experimenting with a variety of different methods.
"I just silently started following their blog. I kept my own log and never made the time to post my results or check what other people posted,” she says. “I just did my own thing. I felt like I was getting somewhere, so I decided to trust it."
After winning the Asia Regional, Tainatongo reached out to CrossFit Invictus owner and coach CJ Martin, who has been emailing her workouts for the past few weeks since the competition in Seoul.
"I told him my game plan for Regionals had been to follow his programming. I didn't know if he did anything for people going to the Games. I needed to know if there was a step above that."
Pre-Games training has her working out multiple times a day, with an emphasis on challenging her body in as many ways as possible in an attempt to prepare herself for the unknown and unknowable that awaits her in Carson.
As far as mental preparation is concerned, Tainatongo’s biggest source of inspiration is her mother, an ultra runner. Her mother gave her advice, athlete to athlete, by connecting Regionals to her own experience with running.
"She told me, ‘You might be dreading it or just going through the motions, but there's always going to be an end. It's going to pass. Time is going to keep ticking. And if it's something you want, you have to push through the hurt to get to there and win.’ I’ve realized that I just need to embrace every moment; treat every day like it's your last,” Tainatongo explains. “It's a common saying, but I take it to heart a little bit more, having learned its lesson at Regionals. It's a life lesson that you can apply to anything."