When a hip flexor injury ended Camille Leblanc-Bazinet's gymnastics career, she was left with a big gap to fill. Though only 16, she'd been a gymnast for 14 years.
That was 2002. Leblanc-Bazinet would spend the next several years trying on different sports, from rugby to distance running, in an attempt to find the perfect fit.
In 2010, she found CrossFit, and it was a perfect fit. Leblanc-Bazinet finished fourth at the Canada Regional, which was good enough for an invitation to Carson, Calif.
Unknown in California, Leblanc-Bazinet was placed in a heat with lower-ranked women. On the first event, Amanda, she finished second in 7:04, bested only by the eventual winner Kristan Clever. Two days later, she finished in 9th place over … in the world.
2011 saw the introduction of the CrossFit Games Open, and though Leblanc-Bazinet wasn't on every radar screen, she earned some limelight with a 12th-place Open finish. 2011 also saw standardization at the Regional level for the first time, and her finish on the 100s Event was an event record — almost a full minute faster than Annie Thorisdottir. She won every event but the final, and proved she would be a threat at the Games.
In Carson, Leblanc-Bazinet fluctuated between high finishes and low. A twenty-first finish countered her best, a second place, and when her rower appeared to malfunction on the ninth event, she burst into tears. But she still finished the Games in eighth overall.
In 2012, Leblanc-Bazinet switched gears, and hired CJ Martin (CrossFit Invictus) as coach.
“Before, I was a freak for intensity and not so good on technique,” she said. “Now, I am more of the opposite … being smart and steady.”
This focus on consistency would help her gain mental strength in the coming months; she'd need it.
The 2012 Open started on a low point for Leblanc-Bazinet. She returned from a trip to Australia in time for school exams at the University of Sherbrooke, and carried stress and fatigue on every burpee during 12.1. A 73rd-place finish meant she'd have to climb from a very deep hole, but her record improved with every event, hinting at the rising storm within.
Leblanc-Bazinet continued her travel throughout the Open, performing 12.3 in California and driving seven hours from Quebec to New Jersey to perform 12.5. She won the event anyway, breaking the world record with 173 points in Hoboken.
Leblanc-Bazinet hammered the first two events of the 2012 Canada East Regional, but 2011's Regional runner-up, Michele Letendre, wouldn't be shaken off. Only seven seconds separated them after two events, and the crowd was thrilled to see a potential rivalry emerging. Leblanc-Bazinet stumbled in the third event, taking fourth — her worst finish at a Regional level event in two years — and Letendre capitalized.
Tied with seven points after four events, the snatch ladder favored Leblanc-Bazinet, who had qualified for Canadian Nationals as a weightlifter months before. Both snatched 160 lbs., a personal best for Letendre, but not for Leblanc-Bazinet. When Letendre missed 165, however, she picked up her rope and hit two double-unders. When Leblanc-Bazinet missed the same weight, she reset for another attempt, and time expired. Letendre took that lead and held it through Sunday. Leblanc-Bazinet qualified for the Games as runner-up.
In what was becoming a familiar trend, Leblanc-Bazinet started slow at the 2012 Games, but built as the weekend went on. Though she didn't crack the top 10 in any of the first five events, Leblanc-Bazinet finished fifth on the track triplet, leaning heavily on her gymnastics background. The single-digit finish provided a foothold, and she began her climb.
The heavy medicine ball/handstand push-up event was a strong event for Canadians, as Albert-Dominic Larouche won for the men, and Leblanc-Bazinet took second among the women. Though the sprint and double-banger events challenged her she began to finish consistently among the top 10, and won the final event: Fran.
The 2013 Open saw a stronger Camille. Still with CJ Martin as her coach, Leblanc-Bazinet's numbers were on the rise, and she sat in second behind Europe’s Samantha Briggs after the first four events. When the two stars were paired for the Open 13.5 announcement in Santa Cruz, Calif., fans wondered if the new strength would possibly slow her down on her favorite workout.
It did not.
With her hallmark grace, Leblanc-Bazinet sped through 70 more reps than Sam Briggs, who could only watch, crouched, for the final four minutes as Leblanc-Bazinet pulled away on the rig.
Focusing on her lifting after the Open, Leblanc-Bazinet began to display numbers that would best the average male CrossFitter: a 190 snatch, a 225 clean, a 255 jerk.
The 2013 Canada East Regional was a display of power for Leblanc-Bazinet: she won five events of seven, broke two event records, and seemed to be having fun throughout.
"My goal was only to win," she said. "That was the only goal I had."
Leblanc-Bazinet doesn't do many events. She's still a full-time student, she travels to L1 courses, and she splits her time between California and Quebec.
In 2013, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet is a seasoned veteran. She's stronger, and as fast as she's ever been. She's more consistent, and doesn't get rattled when she makes a mistake. As at the Regional, she has one goal:
“To win,” she says simply.