"I want to compete against the best. It’s fun to be an underdog. You don’t have the pressure when you chase."
While many exhaled in relief when the 2013 Open closed on Sunday, CrossFit Chino Hills athlete, Kristen Curry, won’t stop holding her breath until after the Southern California Regional.
Curry finished 19th overall in the SoCal Region and plans to use her seasoned competitive nature as a former gymnast and cheerleader to elevate her performance when she gets to the big stage in May.
Although 19th isn’t top 10, Curry’s coach, Doug Katona, believes she is right on schedule.
“I am happy with her placing. Our goal was to get top 24 to put her into a strong heat at Regionals,” Katona says. “Kristen is only getting better and better, and this year is a developmental year for her.”
Katona says we have yet to see the best of Curry, with her strengths being biased toward larger weights traditionally seen at Regionals. Curry recently hit a 150-lb. hang snatch in her training, and prefers moving heavier loads.
“Her strengths actually were not on display with the lighter loads in the Open,” Katona says. “I am pleased with how her developing engine performed. With slightly heavier loads, she makes a much bigger impact.”
Although fairly new to CrossFit, Curry is no stranger to competition. She began CrossFit in 2011 at CrossFit Chino Hills, and in June 2012, changed her programming to start training with Katona. However, it’s what she did before CrossFit that gives her an edge heading into Regionals.
“I was a competitive gymnast all the way through high school when I started also getting into competitive cheerleading,” Curry says. “I actually got a scholarship to competitive cheerleading in college. All of the lifting and tumbling that I did in cheer and gymnastics is so close to many of the power movements we do in CrossFit.”
With her advanced body control, Curry was able to pick up CrossFit quickly. She showcased her natural abilities by qualifying for the 2012 Regionals during her first year of competition.
“I think being able to know and feel my body from those sports is the reason why I work so well with Doug,” Curry says. “I completely understand his directions when he gives them to me, so I’m able to progress a lot quicker.”
After finishing 21st at the 2012 SoCal Regional, Curry spent the last year training with Katona and working on everything from movement efficiency to nutrition.
“Regionals 2012 was a huge eye opener. That was the first competition I ever competed individually (in,) she says. “I knew nothing at that time about recovery or nutrition, I was just out there trying to do my best. So I’m excited for this year’s challenge. I’m excited to see how I’ve progressed and where I wind up … I know I’m going to do better. Physically and mentally I’m stronger.”
Mental strength isn’t something a SoCal competitor can afford to lack. In a region stacked with elite females — three of the top-five female finishers in the 2013 Open have competed at the Games level — Curry doesn’t waste time being intimidated.
“To me, it’s exciting (to compete against the top five women). I want to compete against the best,” she says. “It’s fun to be an underdog. You don’t have the pressure when you chase.”
“I think what will elevate me at the individual level just goes back to competing in gymnastics. I’m used to the pressure of having to perform on your own,” Curry says. “Being on the team competition, I think that takes away the mental side more. Physically, you can push as hard — team or individual — but mentally, individual competition is a little different, and I’ve been there.”
Katona agrees that Curry’s mental tenacity is at an elevated level. He jokingly nicknamed her “Kristen the Piston.”
“Kristen has this uncanny ability to keep digging down deep and just fire away,” he says. “Piston just came to me one day while we were training, and it fit. Once she starts fighting, she keeps on clicking,” Katona laughs.
Curry is aware of the amount of physical and mental strength that will be required of her at Regionals. She continues to stay focused, calm and excited about the challenge.
“Probably 80 percent of it at this point is mental,” she says. “My maxes and lifts are pretty close to what any other girl would be. I think its just a question of, how much am I willing to suffer in order to get where I want to be?”