March 14, 2014
Leaving Paradiso for Cape Town: Lara Erlank
By Irene van Rhyn

Will Erlank claim Africa's one spot to the CrossFit Games?

Photos courtesy of Alexi Lykissas.

Packing up and moving across borders isn’t anything new for Lara Erlank.

The Namibian citizen lived in Cape Town for most of her childhood, before moving to Singapore, San Francisco and Los Angeles. While a student at UCLA, she coached at and competed for Paradiso CrossFit, which took her all the way to the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Affiliate Cup competition.

Shortly after the Games, she packed up again and returned to Africa to be closer to her family and pursue her master’s in public health at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

The move has generated a buzz among African CrossFit competitors. Will Erlank claim Africa’s one spot to the CrossFit Games?

Last season, Erlank placed 28th in Southern California in the Open, competing against the likes of Lindsey Valenzuela, Rebecca Voigt, Kristan Clever and all of the other women in one of the world’s toughest regions for CrossFit competitors.

Not long after arriving in South Africa, she confirmed some African competitors’ fears by winning a local competition that had several top women in attendance including 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games competitor Mona Pretorius, last year’s 4th place Regional finisher Celestie Engelbrecht, and 2013 Regional qualifier Nicole Seymour. Her stats surpass many top women in the region. With a 1:32 500-m row, 4:36 Isabel, 250-lb. back squat, 170-lb. clean and jerk and 135-lb. snatch, Erlank is in another league.

Yet despite the buzz, Erlank isn’t at the top of the Africa Leaderboard after two weeks of the Open. She sits in third behind Mary Jamieson and Nicole Seymour.

Still recovering from a torn meniscus and focused on her studies, Erlank doesn’t think this will be her most competitive year.

“This won’t be my most competitive year because my goals are more in line with my academics,” she said. “I’m also nursing a couple of injuries so it’s more important to me to have fun and stay injury free.”

During the offseason, she took a short break from CrossFit competition due to a lack of equipment where she was staying in Namibia and her then-recently torn meniscus.

“I used to follow Outlaw Way, but when I moved to Namibia in August of 2013, I stopped doing CrossFit because I didn’t have access to any CrossFit-specific equipment and was nursing a torn meniscus. I stuck with some basic principles of strength and conditioning and did all my own programming,” she said.

Despite the hiatus, she was still strong enough to win the Walvis Strongman Competition in Namibia before she moved to Cape Town, South Africa, in January.

For the last couple months, she has been following Christian Oman’s advanced athlete programming at Cape CrossFit. Her goal is to get better at the basics by ridding herself of bad habits.

“I want to build a strong foundation to be more competitive next year,” she said.

This year, it’s just about enjoying CrossFit as a break from her studies.

“(I) really just have fun with the CrossFit lifestyle and community this year,” she said. “I want to ensure that I have balance in my life so that I can enjoy my achievements.”