CrossFit champs persevere despite being in isolation

By Jessica Tyson

CrossFit athletes Madeline Shelling and Marnie Sykes are back in Aotearoa after competing in the 2021 Nobull CrossFit Games.

The competition was held in Wisconsin in the United States where they represented Aotearoa in the teams section and placed sixth overall - the highest placing for any New Zealand team in CrossFit history.

“It was a very, very cool experience. Even with the world being a bit weird at the moment, just being out there on the floor with all those other athletes was incredible,” says Shelling of Ngāti Porou.

The two athletes, from Plus64 Fitness, say competing in the Games has given them much motivation, so since returning to New Zealand and being in managed isolation they have not stopped training.

“Just seeing the other athletes you only ever see on Netflix shows and then all of a sudden they’re in front of you, it’s really inspiring," Shelling says. " It just makes us want to train even harder. So we’ve had no time off in lockdown. We’ve been training every day.”

Shelling and Marnie say, despite Covid-19 around the world, they did not come across any problems during their travels.

“We weren’t too worried about it. We got vaccinated before we left just to reduce the chances of getting Covid because there were a few athletes that caught it during their travels and they couldn’t compete.”

Shelling says it was more trouble getting back into New Zealand, “but the systems we’ve been going through, even in quarantine has been super straight forward so it’s not really been a problem”.

Shelling and Marnie have both been doing CrossFit for at least five years.

“The games have been our life goal for so long now, so we’re very stoked to have been there,” Marnie says.

Shelling says as female CrossFit athletes they want to inspire other rangatahi.

“As you can see, Marnie has got some guns. I’ve got them too under here. We get comments all the time and I used to find it off-putting and I would try to hide my muscles and put jumpers on and stuff. But when you think of what you can do, whether it's sport that makes you look a certain way, if you think about what you can achieve, it’s those things that are important and is what’s getting us to where we are going, not what people are saying about our bodies."

“I’m very passionate about rangatahi, especially girls, getting the message that you can do whatever you want to do and who cares what you look like because, if you’re doing what you love, that’s what’s most important.”

Now, they are looking at competing as individuals at the next CrossFit Games.

“It’s a little bit tougher. It means we’ve got to be a little bit more disciplined and more hard-working but, after seeing what we saw in the US it’s so exciting and motivating," Shelling says.

Sykes says, “We’re very excited and pumped and we’ve got a few plans ahead so just getting back out into training.”