Anna Tunnicliffe
Anna Tunnicliffe
ODU Sports

Gold Medalist Anna Tunnicliffe Adds CrossFit Games to List of Accomplishments

August 07, 2014
By ODU Athletics

A two-time Olympian and 2008 Gold Medalist, former Old Dominion University sailor Anna Tunnicliffe placed 22nd overall at the 2014 CrossFit Games in July.

Having started CrossFit over two and a half years ago, Tunnicliffe has fallen in love with the sport. Old sailing friends introduced her to CrossFit as an alternative to cross training.

“After the Olympics were over, I made it my goal to be able compete in the Crossfit Games,” said Tunnicliffe.

To qualify for the games, athletes must compete in the Open, a five-week series including a new workout every week. Each workout is announced on a Thursday and athletes must submit their scores by Monday at the latest. In order to submit scores, an official judges athletes or they can send in a recording of their workout.

The top athletes from the Open in each of the 17 regions around the world qualify for the second stage of the competition, Regionals, a three-day live competition, cumulating with the Reebok CrossFit Games.

Located in Carson, Ca., Tunnicliffe won her first event, The Beach, a swimming workout and placed 2nd in the Triple 3. In the Triple 3, athletes start by rowing 3000 meters, then 300 double unders and finish with a three mile run. During her run, Tunnicliffe heard a pop in her foot. “I could barely put weight on my foot for the rest of the games,” she said.

Even competing with an injured foot, Tunnicliffe was not giving up.

“The competition at the games is very intense and I wanted to get the best scores I could regarding the circumstances,” she said. “I gave everything I could to be at the games, and I was not allowing this injury to have me sit out. I represent myself, my box, my region and my coaches. I do not want to let them down,” Tunnicliffe said.

While comparing the Olympics to the CrossFit Games, Tunnicliffe says the competition levels are the exact same. “CrossFit is completely different when it comes to expectation,” she said. “Athletes prepare for the games not knowing what workouts they will be doing, but preparing for the Olympics athletes know what event they will be doing. With the games, you don’t know what to expect. The Olympics, you know what you’re competing in and for,” said Tunnicliffe.

While preparing for the Olympics athletes have four years to focus on one sport. The CrossFit Games are held annually with various events. “Olympics, one sport one event and CrossFit all workouts all events is how I see it,” she said.

“The way you train is the way you practice for the games,” said Tunnicliffe.  Not knowing what workouts athletes will compete in is the thrill to most crossfitters. Tunnicliffe arrives at the gym every morning with no plan and receives her workout when she arrives. “It makes it more fun,” she said.

A part-owner of Mt. Lebanon CrossFit in Pittsburgh, Pa., Tunnicliffe will continue her new aspiration for competing in CrossFit.  “CrossFit is the only sport where everyone supports each other, no matter the level. People help one another while doing their workouts. This is something I want to be apart of for the rest of my life,” she said.

Although her sailing days are not over, she still races today and alternates events with a teammate. Learning so much while attending ODU, Tunnicliffe says she had the best experience.

“Coming in as a freshman, I had a phenomenal team above me. When I graduated, I left an amazing team behind me,” said Tunnicliffe. Her coaches then still coached her while training for the Olympics. 

Since Tunnicliffe was 12 years old, she had a dream to attend the Olympics and win a gold medal in sailing. In Beijing, her dream became reality. “It just proves that if you want something, you can make it  happen,” she said.

Her gold medal will not be found hanging in her living room, or displayed at her gym. Tunnicliffe carries her gold medal in her backpack everywhere she goes. “When someone is struggling, I pull it out to inspire them,” she said.

While traveling back from California, Tunnicliffe met two young sailors from North Carolina who just competed in a national race. She showed them her medal and talked to them about never giving up. They wrote back saying that meeting her was the highlight of their trip.

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