May 19, 2013
Asia's Leading Lady: Nicole Tainatongo
By Akshay Mathur

"Moving weight is my forte, but in CrossFit you need to aim to be a balanced athlete."

Photos by Joey Montforte

Nicole Tainatongo narrowly missed a podium finish at the 2012 Asia Regional. She finished fourth and vowed to come back stronger next year.

“I knew I wanted to earn my spot on the podium this time ‘round, so I’ve been training specifically for the 2013 Regional ever since,” Tainatongo says.

On her way back to her homeland of Guam, she carefully etched out her game plan for 2013 (on a vomit bag, no less). Her plan of attack was simple – work on her weaknesses.

Boasting a 195-lb. clean, she knew she could move weight. Her main challenge was to be a higher-skilled athlete, with ‘big lungs.’

“Moving weight is my forte, but in CrossFit you need to aim to be a balanced athlete,” says Tainatongo, who has always struggled with high-skill gymnastics movements such as muscle-ups.

Her revised training plan took shape when she found CrossFit 671 and head trainer George Charfauros Jr., who’s been helping Tainatongo’s programming.

“I’ve tried so many training programs like Wendler, California Strength and Invictus, and I am very thankful to George, who’s let me experiment in 671,” Tainatongo says.

She gets up at 4 a.m. everyday to train. She also manages to squeeze in swimming and hiking.

In an effort to be more competitive, Tainatongo even participated in ‘War of the WODs 2013,’ in Greensboro, N.C., where her fiancée (Joey Montforte, also a CrossFit athlete) resides.

“I was the underdog in that competition and no one knew who I was – I found that to be a very good gauge of my abilities,” she says.

The journey to the top of the Leaderboard has not been easy. She has worked on physical preparation, as well as how to manage the mental aspect of the game.

“I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself and often get bogged down,” she admits. “The biggest challenge for me is to push the boundaries in my own head, rather than look at Candice, Vanessa and Marlene,” explains the ever-smiling athlete, as she refers to the top female athletes who were hot on her tail throughout the Open and will no doubt continue to prove themselves worthy competition in Seoul.

Consistent programming, improving her mental game and working on weaknesses bore instant fruit when she made considerable, measureable improvement in this year’s Open.

“I could not do my muscle-ups last year in 12.4, but this year, I did 13.3 and scored 13 reps,” Asia’s top female competitor says.

She looks to the Regionals with great excitement.

“I know the top 10 are very strong,” she says. “They have improved in the same manner as I have, but I know that I need to shoot for the stars and make it happen.”

Tainatongo ensures her spirits are high and her training is up to speed to the rest of the top women in Asia. She continues with a three days on, one day off training methodology, and is confident she will put on a good show in Seoul.

Tainatongo is also excited about the new location of the Regionals venue and is looking forward to moving heavy, odd-shaped objects.

“The arena seems much bigger, they might throw in a different movement, like tire flips,” the 24-year-old says. “Now that would make for a great photo opportunity.”