My interview with Carla Nunes da Costa doesn’t feel like an interview. She fills it with explosions of laughter, Dutch banter with her two bulldogs (she lived in the Netherlands previously) and enthusiastic statements like, “I want to teach the girls to roar! I want to see them grab that bar and embrace the roar!”
She may have the status of being Africa’s fittest woman, but she retains the demeanor of the girl in the box next door.
“I’m still just me,” she says. “Just Carla. I haven’t changed.”
While she may not have changed, the continent’s perception of her has. Until Regionals, she was virtually unknown, having only moved into the region this year. Following her win she took a week off to recover.
“I had physiotherapy treatment with Tamarr Shroeder at CrossFit Jozi to fix my body, and then it was back to training.”
She currently trains five days a week.
“I take Monday and Friday as rest days. I train twice a day on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, once on Wednesday, and then on Sunday I’ll do something like a swim.”
Nunes da Costa isn’t going at it alone.
“I started training with Chris Seymour of CrossFit City Bowl before the Regional competition,” she says. “He went through the gauntlet and all the grind work with me and kept me going when I was tired and losing my sense of humor. In preparation for the Games, Willem Pretorius has stepped up to the plate. He’s working with me on my strength cycle to help take me to the next level.”
Training is made more challenging by the coaching she does in between at Cape CrossFit.
“Coaching can be exhausting. Running a few classes back to back takes a lot of mental energy.”
Then again, mental challenges are what CrossFit is all about, she says.
“CrossFit is constantly a mental game. You can’t expect training to be easy. I don’t know a WOD that won’t hurt. You sign up knowing it will hurt, so you go in prepared for that.”
Two weeks before a big competition, the state of mental preparedness she develops during months of training intensifies.
“I become almost mathematically focused and everything revolves around a schedule of eat, focus, train, sleep, recover, repeat,” she explains.
On the actual day on a competition, “I go gladiator on myself!” she declares cheerfully. She steps into the arena not as an athlete, but as a warrior.
But even gladiators get nervous, especially when that arena is filled with the fittest in the world.
“It’s OK to be nervous,” she reminds herself, “but sometimes I ask myself, ‘Carla, what’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you just take up knitting instead?’”
She’s especially nervous about facing off against any long distance events.
“I’m a sprinter. I’m used to seeing the finish line. I’m not a diesel.”
Regardless of what the Games bring, she’s really just excited to be going.
“It’s amazing to be part of all of this. I just want to go there and just absorb everything. That’s something no one can take away from you.”
Come Games time, the region will be cheering as the dark horse turned Africa’s sweetheart takes the world stage.
“I’ll face up raw, unedited and with my heart on my sleeve, and then roar!”