One of the features the 2012 CrossFit Games Open in Africa will be remembered for was the strong competition between Wilna Appel and Rika Diedericks. The athletes were tied in 1st until Workout 12.3, before Appel broke the tie by winning the remaining two workouts. This set the stage for an interesting competition between the markedly different athletes at the Africa Regional.
Joining the two powers of the women’s Leaderboard were Lorinda van Loggerenberg and Lauren Guibert, among a wealth of new and unknown competitors. Places on the podium were expected to be fiercely fought for. However, the women’s division of the Africa Regional received a huge shake up after the first event, Diane. Only six women progressed on to Event 2, and only three of those qualified to compete on Day 2. Young Estevan Strauss joined Appel and Diedericks on Event 3, on what became the heartbreaking event of the weekend. Strauss and Appel failed to complete the required amount of dumbbell snatches, leaving Diedericks as the sole individual woman for the rest of the competition.
As an athlete accustomed to competition, Diedericks found the opportunity to progress uncontested difficult. “Event 4 and 5 was tough – not having any competition and therefore only required to do the minimum work required for each event,” she says. “I thrive on competition and to do only the minimum is not part of who I am.”
Despite the desire to compete, Diedericks opted to complete the basic requirements of the ensuing events. “It would have been great to be able to compete in all the events, but decided to use my head and reserve my strength for the muscle-ups in Event 6, even though my heart was screaming something else.”
In order to qualify for the Games, Diedericks needed to complete three rounds of seven muscle-ups, leaving her anxious in the approach to the final event. “To be honest, I did have some serious doubts. Although I felt really positive at the 2011 Regionals, I did not get the muscle-ups, which stopped me from competing at the 2011 Games as an individual,” she says. “In my preparation before this year’s Regionals, I put quite a bit of focus on handstand push-ups and muscle-ups. I still only managed a maximum of two muscle-ups before the Regionals.”
When Diedericks entered the arena for Event 6, the anti-climatic atmosphere surrounding her previous two events dissipated as the crowd converged to support her. Amongst the crowd of supporters were many of the women she competed against on Days 1 and 2. The events that transpired were a reflection of the powers of a strong competition background, and of the CrossFit community.
Diedericks approached each repetition of a muscle-up with coolness, and with the roar of the crowd behind her. She chipped away at the task, one rep at a time. “I wanted to be 100 percent sure that I got the 21 muscle-ups, so I decided to make sure every one of them counted,” she explains. “One (successful) muscle-up at a time also kept my confidence up because I knew that if I failed reps I would probably lose my confidence and that of the supporters.”
Her big game temperament, coupled with the unwavering support of the crowd, saw her through the 21 reps needed for a ticket to the Games. “I had to give it everything on each rep and could not waste unnecessary energy, but also needed the crowd behind me and they definitely supported me in an amazing way,” she says. “It was almost like I was riding the energy of the supporters – who would not get that muscle-up with support like that?”
She attributes much of her calmness during the competition to her rowing background. “During my rowing career, I competed at a high level and have learnt how to stay focused and make it count when it needs to count. Rowing is also a great power endurance sport and has a very similar feel to CrossFit.”
For Diedericks, the highlight of Event 6 was the response and support of the crowd. “I have never had so many people shed tears of joy with me – my victory was also their victory. It is amazing when people realize that the things they think they can’t do only remain so until they can. Then a whole world of possibilities open up, and that is what makes CrossFit such an amazing sport. People get to open new possibilities in their lives on a daily basis with every [personal best] they achieve.”
Diedericks is a worthy holder of the Fittest Woman in Africa title, and one can be certain she will continue to feature strongly in the African CrossFit community. “I look forward to the day that Africa becomes a competitive region at the CrossFit Games, and I hope that I will play a role in making that happen in the not too distant future.”