SINGAPORE — Before this year, the possibility of a Singaporean making it to the CrossFit Games via the tough qualification process was virtually zero.
Yet this year, there will be not one, but two athletes – national CrossFit champions Ian Wee and Landy Eng – who will be representing Singapore at the annual tournament from 1 to 4 August at Madison, Wisconsin.
They are the first Singaporeans to make it to the Games since Chew Feng Yi did so in 2009, before the event grew in popularity and made qualifying increasingly difficult amid the worldwide participation.
Tough qualification standards eased this year
Those who were interested to participate had to qualify based on results from the CrossFit Open – an online worldwide qualifier, typically held in February each year, where five workouts are released over five weeks and participants complete them for points.
Only a small percentage of athletes managed to make the cut for the CrossFit Games annually.
However, the qualifying format changed this year, giving athletes much better chances at making it to the main event.
Now, the top male and female athlete of the CrossFit Open for each country will get the opportunity to represent their nations in the CrossFit Games. Other ways of qualifying for the CrossFit Games include finishing top 20 worldwide in the Open or win a sanctioned event.
“When I first heard about the new format, I didn’t quite believe that it was going to happen,” said Eng, 30, a coach at CrossFit Mobilus. “It wasn’t until I was in the midst of the Opens that it began to sink in.”
Overcoming injury to become champion
This is the fifth year that Eng has competed in the CrossFit Open, after picking up the sport in 2014 while she was training with the national dragonboating team.
Her best result before this year was overall second in 2017, but she suffered a shoulder injury at the end of that year, much to her dismay.
She said, “I’ve been struggling with my shoulder for the past one-and-a-half years, and there are certain movements that I cannot perform properly. Sometimes my shoulder can just pop out during training and then I would have to sit out for a few weeks.
“It is all very frustrating and disappointing, hence I didn’t set the goal of national champion. I just wanted to do what I can and if I did get it, then it would be a bonus.”
Eyes set on the prize
Medical student Wee, 24, on the other hand, firmly set his eyes on the prize right from the start.
He said, “I became very serious about CrossFit when they changed the rules and announced the new qualification. This was at the end of last year so I decided to work towards it, training at lunch time and in the evenings every day after school.”
Wee first tried CrossFit six years ago, but he went on to compete in weightlifting instead, representing Singapore at the Commonwealth Weightlifting Championship in 2016.
It was only when he returned to Singapore at the end of 2017 after his medical studies that he picked it up again at CrossFit Mobilus as part of his fitness regime.
“With the new qualification format, there is now a real purpose to training and it’s great because the Games will now have better international representation,” he added.
“The new format is definitely good, because it keeps the sport alive in the local scene, with this real opportunity to get to the Games. Otherwise people will keep viewing this as a sport only for the ang mohs (caucasians).”
Tops in most of the workouts
Wee finished first in three of the five workouts in the Open, while Eng finished first in four.
“The competition was tough of course and you cannot really relax until you get the official confirmation. I re-did each workout three times, to try and get a better score, and what kept me going was the goal of getting to the Games,” Wee said.
“We also had to submit videos of our attempts for review and there is a chance that the score might change, so we were really happy and relieved when we got the confirmation email,” Eng added.
“I surprised myself to be honest,” she continued, “Reality only sank in for me after the fourth workout, where I finally found the confidence in myself.”