"Sometimes I think, 'No way, I cannot do this,' but slowly I keep tearing down the barriers of what I think is possible and see improvements everyday."
2013 was an eventful year for Marlene Andersson. Not only did she move from Europe to Asia, she also scorched the CrossFit Games Open with a second-place finish in Asia.
Weeks later, she traveled to Seoul to compete. The day she arrived, she learned that she was at the wrong regional.
Andersson started the Open in Europe, and completed the rest of the workouts in Asia. As per the Rulebook, an athlete cannot switch regions during the season (Section 3f). By registering as an Asian competitor anticipating her move, she had unintentionally broken the rules.
Simply put, she should have competed at the Europe Regional not the Asia Regional. But since the Europe Regional was held a week before Asia, there was nothing she could do.
“It was terrible finding out I got disqualified. I was devastated,” she said.
Although she wasn’t a valid competitor in Asia, the Games staff allowed her to compete alongside the other women at the regional but her scores didn’t count.
“In the bigger scheme of things, I had an amazing experience. I went out to the floor and got to meet some amazing people and my new CrossFit family,” Andersson said.
She finished ahead of the other women in five of the seven events, and showed that she would be a contender for the one Games spot out of Asia if she were to return to the regional in 2014.
Now, 2014 promises to be a good year, with fresh goals and a new box to call home.
A Level 1 trainer, Andersson works out of CrossFit 965, alongside regional fifth-place finisher Ben Thompson and her coach Rob Silver, who coaches her remotely from CrossFit South Miami "SOMI".
“Rob Silver writes all of my training and makes sure I don’t slack off,” Andersson said.
“Sometimes I think, ‘No way, I cannot do this,’ but slowly I keep tearing down the barriers of what I think is possible and see improvements everyday,” Andersson added. “I have already reached a level I never thought possible, so now I just want to see how far I can push myself and I don’t want to stop.”
A self-confessed child of TV and videogames, Andersson never played any sports in school or college, and only started CrossFit in 2010 at the insistence of a friend in London.
Her hard work and perseverance have paid off, with the athlete boasting a third-place finish in the Dubai Fitness Competition, 2013, behind Annie Thorisdottir and Lindsey Valenzuela.
“This was a very different type of competition,” she said. “It had CrossFit athletes competing against endurance athletes, which was a lot of fun.”
Andersson is getting through the 2014 Open with cautioned confidence.
“I’m better and stronger than last year, but so is everyone else after a year of training. Having said that, my confidence is pretty high this season,” she said.
Her approach to training is reflective of a seasoned, self-aware athlete. She juggles strength, coordination and capacity-building movements in a typical week, and sometimes even manages to squeeze in two workouts a day.
“I work on the premise of neglecting nothing and working on everything. I work on cardio through the year and squeeze in strength, gymnastics and Olympic weightlifting when needed,” she added. “The last thing I want is to rebuild my capacity when the Open approaches, so I prioritize cardio-intensive workouts.”
In addition to working hard on her body, she aims to be mentally stronger, too.
“I’m not the biggest fan of competitions. They make me very nervous. But I just can’t let this opportunity pass me,” she said.
“My husband is incredibly supportive. Beshar (Al Awadhi) cheers me on and encourages me. My friends are also fabulous in keeping my spirits up once the going gets tough,” she said.
In spite of nursing a slight shoulder injury, Andersson managed to score 348 reps on 14.1 to come out on top in Asia.
“I knew this would be a tough one for my shoulder, but I had to endure through the lung-burning pace of the snatches. My strategy was simple: Keep the double-unders unbroken and don’t let go of the bar,” Andersson said.
The thought of repeating the workout never entered her mind.
“My focus is to train for the regional and not spend too much time and energy on the Open,” she said.
This week, she posted 194 reps on 14.2, which currently puts her in the lead in Asia. The Leaderboard may still change as scores are validated until Wednesday, March 12 at 5 p.m. PT.
Whatever the rest of the Open presents, one thing is for sure: Marlene “The Machine” Andersson will surely read the Rulebook front to back, back to front and every way in between.