Known as one of CrossFit’s strongest athletes, Lindsey Valenzuela became a last minute substitution for Camille Leblanc-Bazinet to compete against two-time Games champion Annie Thorisdottir in Open workout 13.2.
Though many were disappointed that the popular and video-friendly Leblanc-Bazinet would not be competing, Valenzuela is one of the sport’s most popular and recognized athletes today. Especially well-known in the Southern California region, Valenzuela’s expertise and performances with Olympic lifts in competition has expanded to a level where CrossFitters worldwide are trying to “Lift like Lindsey.”
After completing 335 reps in 13.2, it should come as no surprise that the 26 year-old, two-time Games veteran currently sits in second place in the highly competitive Southern California region. Interestingly, Valenzuela is second to early Southern California frontrunner Andrea Ager, who she outperformed for the final CrossFit Games qualifying spot out of Southern California last year.
A former collegiate volleyball player, the 5 foot 4 inch tall Valenzuela is looking to qualify for her third consecutive CrossFit Games in 2013. She has made a meteoric rise in the sport since placing 13th at the South West Regionals in 2009, just months after adding CrossFit to her existing Olympic weightlifting training. As most CrossFit athletes know, getting started alone can take months for someone new to CrossFit, even if they were once a professional athlete (ask Charles Barkley).
Valenzuela’s quick ascent to the top of the sport should come as no surprise to those who have followed her achievements as an Olympic weightlifter. After her changing her focus from volleyball to weightlifting, Valenzuela competed in her first Olympic weightlifting competition in 2008.
By December 2010, her PR’s were a 152 pound snatch and a 205 pound clean and jerk (lifting numbers converted from kilograms). At the time, Valenzuela was competing in the 69 kilogram (152 pound) weight class.
The following month, Valenzuela placed first at the American Record Makers meet in January 2011, hitting a 174 pound snatch and 213 pound clean and jerk. An incredible leap for someone who had already been focused on weightlifting for two years.
Two months later, competing in a heavier weight class (75 kilogram), she improved her weightlifting numbers to an 178 pound snatch and a 231 pound clean and jerk.
By June 2011, Valenzuela raised her PR’s to new heights with an 191 pound snatch and 238 pound clean and jerk. She had increased her overall Olympic total by over 70 pounds in six months, all while training for the CrossFit Games, where she placed 34th.
Valenzuela said it was difficult training for both sports at the same time, but told CrossFit HQ in an interview, “My strength gains that I made last year in the sport of Olympic lifting have carried into CrossFit and have helped to give me the upper hand in many events.”
Just two weeks after competing in the 2011 CrossFit Games, where her training had added the additional gymnastics and metcon elements of the sport, Valenzuela took second place in the 75 kilogram division at the 2011 National Weightlifting Championships. She hit a 178 pound snatch and 235 pound clean and jerk.
Today, Valenzuela lists a 200 pound snatch, which she hit in October 2012, and a 240 pound clean and jerk as her current PRs, giving her an unofficial Olympic weightlifting total of roughly 200 kilograms or 440 pounds.
What does that mean? While an athlete cannot be expected to hit both of their Olympic PR’s at a single meet, at last year’s USA Weightlifting American Open in July, Valenzuela’s current unofficial Olympic PR’s would have earned her first place. Instead, Valenzuela won the Outlaw Open on the same weekend, hitting a 194 pound snatch in the competition.
To show just how impressive Valenzuela’s numbers are since she started her two-sport rapid ascent, her current unofficial Olympic PR total would have positioned her to take first place at the 2011 National Weightlifting Championships, by nine pounds. It also would be enough to take first place at the 2012 American Open by two kilograms. While hypothetical, the numbers put Valenzuela in elite territory for American weightlifting.
There is no doubt that Valenzuela’s growth is exceptional. As CrossFit has grown, it’s equally as impressive to see how the performances of the sport’s elite has pushed the entire group of top athletes to perform at an even higher level, not unlike how competitive training with other members of a box can push athletes to new heights.
Showing the results of competition and the sport’s continued evolution and focusing on technique, Coach Rudy Nielsen of Outlaw CrossFit found,
The top ten women at the 2009 CrossFit Games had an average snatch of 120 pounds.
The top ten women at the 2012 CrossFit Games had an average snatch of 164 pounds.
The average snatch of the 69 kilogram women (known as Olympic weightlifting’s most competitive weight class for women) at the 2012 American Open was 161.6 pounds – three pounds less than the average of the top CrossFit women.
With the growth of CrossFit, a greater number of athletes are pushing each other to new weightlifting heights and more CrossFit gyms are represented by athletes at weightlifting events by the day. While people can argue if CrossFit is truly saving weightlifting, it’s likely only a matter of time until the sport and elite athletes like Valenzuela, who could potentially make a run at qualifying for the 2016 Olympics for the United States, push the sport of Olympic weightlifting to new heights as well.
Though Valenzuela considers herself an Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit athlete, she has often been referred to as a “CrossFitter.” Valenzuela not only competes, but thrives and pushes her competitors at the highest level of another sport as a representative of CrossFit.
As CrossFit continues to grow after this year’s Games, here’s to hoping that we’ll see even more athletes continue to lift CrossFit as a sport as Valenzuela has done in a short time.