Three women. All competing at the Europe Regional. All 40 or older. All from the U.K.
“Even better!” declared Kelly Friel after hearing that information.
At 40 years old, Friel is among that trio of women. The three are the only 40-and-older athletes competing in any division at the Europe Regional. The oldest two men competing across any division are both 39: Neil Laverty on the CrossFit 8020 team and Bryan Degnan on the CrossFit East Kilbride squad. Both men are also from the U.K.
“I think it’s great that the Brits are finally, finally gettin’ a start,” Friel said shortly after Event 3 at the Velodrom in Berlin, Germany.
The ever-friendly Friel was thrilled she recorded a muscle-up in the early-afternoon event that also featured handstand walking and single-leg squats.
“I got one!” she told a fellow competitor, who offered a high-five.
“Muscle-ups are my nemesis,” she explained.
Friel has qualified for this year’s CrossFit Games in the Women’s 40-44 Division, finishing first in the Europe Central Region and sixth worldwide. She sat in 21st place overall after two days of competition at the Europe Regional.
Her goal for the weekend is simple: Have fun.
“Use it as a good prep for being out on the big floor (at) the Games,” Friel said.
Thus far, she’s accomplishing her goal.
“Loads of fun,” Friel said, smiling.
And age has little to do with it.
“There’s no barrier because I’m older.”
Ali Crawford would agree.
The 42-year-old said she never thinks of her age.
“Age, for me, is not a factor at all. I don’t even think of myself as being 40.”
Crawford is competing on the CrossFit East Kilbride team, which was in 14th place overall after two days of competition.
The former acrobatic gymnast started CrossFit four years ago.
“I’ve always done exercise and been fit,” Crawford explained. “I always want to try to stay ahead.”
And with CrossFit, there are “so many different things you can be good at.”
Like Crawford, 44-year-old Lianne Thomas said she feels like she can compete with athletes 20 years her junior.
Having said that, she had reservations about competing on a team at Regionals, worrying she might be the weak link.
“I’m not the strongest,” Thomas said.
Strong, of course, is relative.
At 51 kg (112 lb.), Thomas has a 150-kg (330 lb.) deadlift, a 115-kg (253 lb.) back squat and a 70-kg (154 lb.) clean and jerk, according to her CrossFit Games profile.
With a focus on recovery and nutrition—and a fifth-place finish in the Women’s 40-44 Division in the Europe Central Region to boost her confidence—Thomas has been holding her own on the team. ION Strength and Conditioning was in 23rd place overall after two days of competition.
“I’m happy with my performance,” Thomas said.
And now she feels she’s more than just an athlete filling a gap on the roster.
“I’ve earned my place on the team.”
Plus, she wants to prove wrong those who suggest people over 40 should take it easy since they’re old.
“I want those youngsters eating my dust,” she said with a wide smile.
Still, all three women said warm-up, recovery and nutrition have taken an increasingly larger role in their training, though their programming is often identical to their younger counterparts.
Their best advice for others in their 40s or older: It’s never too late.
“Don’t slow down,” Friel said. “You’ll have loads of fun!”
Cover photo: Lianne Thomas of the Ion Strength and Conditioning Team
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