Five months ago, a pint sized beauty, by the name of Amy Dracup created CrossFit history, becoming the first Australian female to make it to the final workout at the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games.
In her first ever appearance at Carson California’s Home Depot Centre, this 30-year-old sensation not only put in a memorable performance but also proved her win at the Australian Regional’s was no accident. Anyone that saw Dracup’s speed and finesse during the brutal box jump/deadlift couplet at the Regionals became keenly aware they were watching someone special.
However, what was unknown was how Dracup would deal with the pressures of the world stage and having to go head to head with some of the sports biggest names. This coupled with issues such as the long flight, competing in a foreign country, camera crews, screaming fans, and the notoriously unknown programming have all been known to take a toll on the most seasoned Games veterans.
This year just getting through the first day was a challenge within itself as several competitors both male and female failed to complete the first event. Dracup however, proved she not only had her nerves under control but she was there to win. She secured a 12th place finish during the beach event and went on to obtain three additional top ten finishes over the course of the weekend. In the end, Dracup finished 11th overall but more importantly proved she truly is a force on the global CrossFit stage.
Now, after demonstrating to herself and her fellow competitors she can mix it with the best, Dracup is on a mission to go even further in 2012.
Despite having only three years of CrossFit experience under her belt, Dracup has come a long way in her time and now is playing a huge part in shaping the CrossFit Community, Down Under.
Training out of Schwartz’s CrossFit in Melbourne, which hails some of Australia’s biggest names including Chris and Kieran Hogan, Dracup has an unwavering support system and everything she needs to perform even better next year.
This week John caught up with Amy for a quick chat. They discussed a range of topics: her thoughts on the 2011 Games, how she is preparing for 2012, discussion of fellow competitors (both locally and abroad), if Annie Thorisdottir can be beat and the blossoming Reebok CrossFit partnership, just to name a few.
So Amy how did you get into CrossFit?
I started September 2008. I came back from overseas and booked in ten personal training sessions with a trainer in CrossFit Victoria and by the tenth one they were asking me to teach the classes, and that was kind of it.
What sporting background did you come from?
I did a bit of every sport growing up. I was big on athletics and was in every team that school had to offer. Soccer was the sport I loved the most, so I took it on after school for a little bit, playing division one.
I also did a bit of gymnastics growing up. Everyone thinks I did more than that, but I was only a little kid and I wasn’t competing. Although I have it to thank for basic body awareness and I’d definitely put my kids through it that’s for sure.
As well as an athlete you’re also a trainer?
I’m almost up to eight years of training. I started at 23 and it was just meant to be a part time job while I was at uni, but it soon became a passion and took over.
CrossFit kind of revived personal training for me. I was ready to give it up but when I found CrossFit I kind of just woke up again and thought I can do this for a little bit longer now.
You had a great performance at this year’s CrossFit Games, finishing 11th overall, you must be pretty happy with that?
Yeah, my goal going into it and in training was to make it to the final workout. Last year, the cut was at 16, so I thought getting within that was achievable. If I had my best day and had luck with injuries I was confident I could make it. In the end the cut was 12, so I was super happy to be there.
What was it like competing over there in the States?
Wow, it seems like so long ago now. I think HQ did such a good job in planning the event. From the outset, the beach WOD straight away put fear in people and I loved that we were all uncomfortable form the start. It was something we weren’t familiar with and everyone was sort of level in a way because we were all uncomfortable and unfamiliar.
It was all unknown because there was no basic stuff like kettlebells and so on but it felt like home for me. It was exactly what I worked towards and it was exactly where I was meant to be – putting all your practice into theory to see if what you did leading up to it was right. Doing it in the gym is one thing, but pulling it out on the day as a competitor, when it matters, is what it’s all about.
So what is your goal for next year’s games?
My goal now is top five. That’s what my aim is and if things keep going the way they are then hopefully that’s achievable. But it’s a long way away and a lot of things can happen so I’ll just go in there with an open mind.
The Games has been phenomenal in my life and sharing it with my friends and family, I mean, I’m just doing something I love doing. It’s been a great part of my life and sharing it with my husband – It’s just a great life experience, I’m just doing something I love doing. So, top five would be great but lets just try to get there first!
Who will be the main competitors next year?
In Australia, I think we’ll see Amanda (Allen) straight back up there again. I think even at 41 years old she is phenomenal. She came in this year with very limited experience and skills, but she’s just improved, improved, improved and she shows that age doesn’t matter. She’s an amazing athlete.
Denae Brown came seventh this year and is my training buddy. She’s right up there with me in everything and I think she’ll be in that top three next year.
On the global scale, can Annie Thorisdottir be beaten?
I don’t think so. For the next couple of years I don’t think it can happen. But you never know who is going to come out and show us what they are capable of and I love that about CrossFit. Annie has all the tools to stay at number one but no one knows what beasts are going to come out and compete in the future.
Julie Foucher (5th this year) was phenomenal and I think she’ll be up there again. I think Lindsey Smith (16th this year) had a bad weekend. I think she’s top five material and I think she had a bad weekend. She’s an amazing athlete, I don’t know if you saw her on the main site last week clean and jerk 95 kilos? They’re pretty big numbers for a small girl like Lindsay Smith. So I think she’ll do better this year, she’s hungry and I love that. I love a fight back.
What changes have you made this time around?
After not getting in the previous year, straight afterwards my coach said, “what do you expect, you missed sessions”. It was kind of a realization that I did, so I made sure I didn’t miss any last year.
It was about being at every session my coach wanted me to. Making time my priority to do that double workout, to do the mobility and the flexibility movement in training and not just doing four to five WOD’s a week. Putting focus in every skill, being ticked off so if pistols come up, not a problem. If rope climbs’ come up, not a problem. So yeah – following my coaches program, listening to him and doing the work.
Listening to your body is also a big part of it, like resting injuries if your body needs it.
And what sort of diet are you on?
My husband is a nutritionist, so he tries to keep me as clean as possible, but I do have a sweet tooth (laughs). I probably say three months leading up to the games I’m a lot more drilled, but at home we’re aware of it, but just a bit more relaxed.
I don’t do zone, I just don’t eat processed food, so it’s predominantly paleo. We don’t have grains, sugar and rice, but generally if it comes in a packet don’t eat it – that’s my advice. If it wilts and dies, then eat it!
What are you’re thoughts on Reebok’s partnership with CrossFit?
Yeah, I’m behind the move. Initially I had my scepticism like everyone has about a corporate company getting involved. But having been there in the Games and being shown support by Reebok, I think their involvement has been the best thing – it means it’s going be around for a lot longer.
Who knows what the CrossFit games would be like without Reebok and imagine where it would be if they weren’t on board? It means that athletes have so much more support and have time to get to and from competitions. My only experience is positive. I can’t speak for everyone else and I know there are mixed reviews out there, but my own experience is really positive.
Reebok Australia, in particular, has been asking, “What do u need? How do we get you to the games again?” They’ve also sent me up to major competitions when I’ve needed to go, so they’ve been great so far. And in terms of the growth of the sport? That’s inevitable, but you need money to move forward.
Do you think it’s getting to the stage where some athletes can start calling themselves professional CrossFitters?
Good question. I guess so. I would love that job for sure! As of next year I won’t be coaching half the amount of hours as I am now so I can focus on that. In any sport your biggest asset is time. The hard balance between professional sport and earning a living is very tough and there are very few people who can do it.
So yeah I guess it is possible. Definitely possible to be a career, but it will always stem from a background of CrossFit training.
And how is CrossFit growth in Australia?
I know of four boxes opening in Melbourne in the next 3-4 months, and that’s just crazy. That’s huge growth so it’s really exciting, it’s fantastic and the more people involved the better. I love the idea of every community having access to it and not having to drive five suburbs to get a to a box to try it out, so it’s very exciting. In terms of athletes popping out of Australian gyms? Every gym you go into now has a games potential coming out of them.
On a personal level, what’s your most hated WOD?
I’d probably say Mr Joshua, only because back in the day it was one of those ones that makes you feel sick and that deadlift was heavy!
I remember on a Friday night I was still going and my coach Benji was locking up the gym and he goes, “You keep going and you can lock up.” So everyone had left and I’m still there doing this damn workout, droning on a Friday night – it was just hideous.
I love anything with an overhead, so any kind of snatch or overhead squat – I love it.
In terms of the Games next year, any exercise you don’t want to see included?
Yeah handstand walking was my least favourite part of the games last year. I just don’t have that perfect balance yet and I’ve been working on it everyday, but it’s still something I need to work on. Will it pop up again? More than likely! If you fear something, it’ll be there for sure.
And one exercise you’re hoping for at the Games?
I love the unknown stuff, I love that they gave us a swim last year, the softball throw and the max lift. I think they did a phenomenal job in programming and I think they’ll do it again.
I think they’ll definitely surprise us again next year, but its all how you deal with it on the day. You can train on the basic principles of CrossFit – the kettlebells, the squats, the box jumps, the row, but it’s all about how you deal with it on game day. Whether you embrace it or panic? It’s an attitude thing.
Finally, how would you sell CrossFit to someone new to the sport?
I’d sell it to them because it works and it’s changed my life, and because you don’t have to waste your time or your money. I’ve worked in Globo Gym’s and used to see people churn over. They’d come for the first month, twice in second month and by the third month you don’t see them again.
In terms of people staying dedicated, interested and motivated to come back, CrossFit does something. It flicks a switch and keeps people coming back and gyms just don’t do that to you. CrossFit keeps them dedicated and that’s empowering in every level of their life.
Back Squat 117.5kg
Clean and Jerk 80kg
Overhead Squat 82.5kg
Max HSPU 30
Nate 11 rounds