February 14, 2014
Up and Coming: Tamarind Robinson
By Carter Jee
An Australian touch rugby player finds her sport in CrossFit.
An Australian touch rugby player finds her sport in CrossFit.

"In rugby, you either have the skill to play the game or not ... It's different with CrossFit. There's always something you can't do, but you can learn how to do it."

Photos courtesy of Dux Photography

Tamarind Robinson has accomplished a lot in her life.

The 20-year-old from Queensland, Australia, has represented her state in athletics and rugby union, and represented her country in touch rugby.

Now, after less than a year of CrossFit, she’s a top prospect in the Australia Region with a spot on the Again Faster Development Team.

Last May, a teammate on her touch rugby team brought her into City 4051 CrossFit.

“She was talking about giving something called CrossFit a try,” Robinson recalled. “So I decided to go with her.”

Her first introduction to CrossFit was the classic combination of thrusters and pull-ups known as Fran.

“I couldn’t do a chin-up, so I needed to use a band, but I could handle the weight,” she said. “It hurt. A lot.”

Her sporting background both helped and hindered her at the start.

“Coming into a new sport, there are always things that people can’t do or aren’t good at,” she said. “I couldn’t deadlift properly. My squats weren’t deep enough because of my ridiculously tight hamstrings. But, I wanted to do (CrossFit), and I wanted to be good at (CrossFit).”

Her lack of experience didn’t stop Gene Suna of Again Faster Australia from signing her as part of their development team in January.

"I train with the coaches at City 4051 (CrossFit) and we signed Tammi after seeing her train for a few months,” Suna said. “She has all the raw ingredients to be very successful in time.”

"Most of all, she has a great attitude and is comfortable when things get uncomfortable,” he added. “She has a great training environment with the coaches at City 4051. This year will be a good learning year for her and she'll be quite well-suited to the Open.”

Her innate drive to improve and succeed in CrossFit is one of Robinson’s greatest attributes. Extra strength sessions and skill work over the past few months have allowed her to improve rapidly.

“I’m not a perfectionist in life, in general, but in sports, it is something I just want to be good at, and that’s what drives me,” Robinson said.

A month after scaling Fran, Robinson did it as prescribed in 3:28. She also got her first bar muscle-up.

She’s also no slouch under a barbell, boasting strength numbers that rival some of Australia and New Zealand’s top athletes. Robinson currently holds a 70-kg (155-lb.) snatch, an 87.5-kg (192-lb.) clean and jerk, a 122.5-kg (269.5-lb.) back squat and a 49-kg (107-lb.) strict press.

Robinson believes her years as a sprinter and national touch rugby player had a lot to do with her rapid improvement.

“I definitely think my sporting background played a major part in helping me when I initially started CrossFit. In a sense, I had already obtained a base of fitness, as well as body awareness and coordination,” Robinson said.

“In saying that, CrossFit is unlike anything else,” she added. “It is always pushing you to your max, and tests your athletic capabilities. No matter what sporting background you come from, there is always a (workout) that can smash you.”

However, Robinson’s days as a national touch rugby player are now over.

In 2013, just a few months after her ‘Fran-troduction’ to CrossFit, Robinson quit the sport to focus on the 2014 Games season. While rugby is popular in Australia, it’s hard for female players to make a career out of it. CrossFit has more professional prospects, and appealed to Robinson.

"I just enjoy CrossFit so much," she said.

"It wasn't until recently that I found out why I enjoyed CrossFit more than anything else. In sprinting, you are fast or you are not. In rugby, you either have the skill to play the game or not. You either have it or you don't," she said. "It is different with CrossFit. There is always something you can't do, but you can learn how to do it. That moment of epiphany when you realize that you did it is simply awesome.”

Training for the Open

With less than a year of CrossFit training, Robinson has been working overtime with her coaches, Natan Geva and James Whybird in a bid to become a well-rounded athlete prior to the Open.

“My weaknesses definitely lay in movements that utilize my upper body, and I have been working vigorously on developing strength in those areas through additional training,” Robinson said.

Injuries from rugby and athletics, however, have had an impact on her progress. Numerous wrist fractures, and a broken and dislocated shoulder during her time competing mean that some of the more demanding skill movements are now difficult for Robinson.

“My false grip for muscle-ups isn’t good,” Robinson said. “And, if I couldn’t kip a handstand push-up, it would be a struggle.”

Robinson has also competed in a few local competitions in the lead up to the Open, and shown some promising form.

Just five months after her first CrossFit class, Robinson found herself in a field that boasted a number of Regional competitors including Lisa Menchetti, Sammy Wood and Sam Drescher. She was sitting inside the top 10 until a workout involving max-rep muscle-ups came up.

"I just stood under the rings. It was something that I avoided because of my wrist, but the failure spurred me on to work on the ring muscle-ups," she said.

Open Potential

Robinson is realistic about her goals for this season, and isn't setting the bar too high for the Open.

"This is my first Open, and I really want to enjoy the process and see what it is all about," she said.

"I'm not the well rounded and experienced athlete that I need to be this year, so going team might be a more realistic goal," Robinson said.

However, competing at the Australia Regional as part of a team will be a tough task for Robinson.

City 4051 CrossFit has never had a team compete at regionals, and most of its team members are relatively unknown. Geva, who finished 13th as an individual at the 2012 Australia Regional is the most decorated athlete at the affiliate.

Robinson is hoping for something light and gassy in 14.1.

Long chippers testing her strength and aerobic ability are her preference, while she’d also be happy with anything involving snatches or clean and jerks.

"Anything weightlifting, like the 5-minute squat clean and jerk (11.2) would be good, or long workouts where I can breathe,” she said.

“Lots of wall balls or burpees,” she said. “But not Fran!"