March 13, 2014
By Alex Brown

“CrossFit is definitely something I will continue with. It is something to look forward to. It just takes your mind off everything.”

Photos courtesy of Don Stanton

Open Workout 14.1 will live long in the memory of Sinead Pierce.

The 16-year-old was fresh off completing her foundations course at Great Island CrossFit in January when she surprised coach James Walsh by signing up for the CrossFit Games Open.

At first, Pierce struggled with the snatch element of 14.1. She scored 30 on her first two attempts, unable to lift a single snatch at 55 lb. However, Walsh said he sensed the problem was not technique, but the plates Pierce had on the bar.

“I had an inkling what was going on,” he said. “She was using our wooden technique plates, which are for people to get used to the size, but don’t weigh anything ... When we took off the technique plates, it clicked. I think it was purely the psychological aspect of it. Totally a mental thing.”

Straight away, Pierce snatched the weight—a 22-lb. PR—and, with Walsh and her father, Pat, watching, she demanded another attempt at the workout.

“I knew I could do it,” Pierce said. “It was purely mental. I was so annoyed.”

Pierce said her double-unders were “a bit shaky” because she had only given herself 10 minutes to rest before attempting the workout for the third time.

“But I had to do it. The rope was getting caught in my feet and in my hair, but I was so happy with my 10 reps on the snatch,” she said. “I was absolutely delighted with myself. I thought it was the best thing ever.”

“The atmosphere was really nice. I don’t think I expected everybody to cheer me on, but they did,” she added.

For Walsh, the moment summed up the sport.

“There were 12 people standing there staring at her, amazed that she did it. In the great scheme of things, this is CrossFit,” he said. “The pride in herself and her father's eyes was unbelievable.”

Walsh said he is as proud of Sinead’s 14.1 score of 40 as any of the 14 athletes from Great Island CrossFit, in County Cork, Ireland, who are taking part in the Open.

“It is one thing for an athlete who knows all the moves and knows what they are doing, but somebody who’s new, who doesn’t even know what half the movements are called and struggles with one aspect—that’s a real achievement,” Walsh said.

Walsh has been training with Pierce, a second-degree taekwondo black belt, for years. Finally, before Christmas, Pierce told him she wanted to try CrossFit.

“She’s very clumsy,” Walsh said. “But when you stick a pair of (taekwondo) gloves on her, she goes mental and when the clock goes on. She is very focused.”

After just two months, Pierce, who hopes to study nutrition when she leaves school, says she will now have a twin commitment to CrossFit and taekwondo.

“CrossFit is definitely something I will continue with,” she said. “It is something to look forward to. It just takes your mind off everything.”

Pierce was unable to recreate the same type of moment in 14.2, as she was unable to complete an overhead squat.

But with 14.1 and 14.2 behind her, Pierce has one wish for the rest of the Open workouts: “I really don’t want to have to do them all three times,” she said.