My interview with Stephanie was originally intended for The CrossFit Games website, but the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Open results and timing sensitivity meant that it went unpublished. I decided to publish the interview here instead because I love Stephanie’s fighting spirit and wanted to share it with everyone.
By her own admission, 26-year old Stephanie Liew feels that her path to redemption is about to end, after a poor showing at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Asia Regional.
The writing was already on the wall during the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open when she failed to attempt any muscle-ups in Open Workout 13.3, which was 150 wall-balls, 90 double-unders and 30 muscle-ups.
As a result, she did not qualified for the Regional as an Individual, but instead was chosen to compete as a member of Brunei’s GETFIT CrossFit team after helping them to qualify.
To her dismay, she found out that muscle-ups were penciled in for the Team Events after the workouts were announced ahead of time; she scrambled to work on the complex gymnastic movement. However, time ran out on her.
Her worst nightmare came to pass when she failed to attempt a single muscle-up in Team Event 3, which was a 7-minute AMRAP of burpees muscle-ups, which meant that her team got a DNF, thus preventing the team from advancing in the competition.
“Mentally, I felt that I could do the muscle-ups, but physically, my body didn’t agree,” she said.
It was cold comfort to Liew that out of 20 teams that competed in the Regional, only 3 teams managed to finish Team Event 3. Her inability to perform the gymnastic movement crushed her, and she went back to the drawing board with her coaches to re-evaluate her training as a whole after Seoul, with the ultimate goal of mastering muscle-ups.
“I went back to basics. I started doing strict gymnastic movements and focused on progressions to build strength. I also started training consistently, knowing that skills take hours of practice to master. At the same time, I kept strictly to my scheduled rest days to prevent burn out,” she explained.
It was a long and arduous 6 months, but Liew’s revised approach to her training has benefitted her tremendously. By the time 2013 came to a close, she could finally string together a couple of muscle-ups whenever it was programmed in a WOD.
She has been on a roll since Regional, winning Brunei’s Battle Royale 2013 and finishing in second place at the inaugural Sin City Invitational 2013 in Singapore. Even though these local competitions did not program muscle-ups in scored workouts, her performance at the Regional is all but a distant memory.
“When I competed in the local competitions, I focused on the pain I felt when I failed in Seoul, and I used it to fuel and push myself to do well because I never want to feel the same way again.”
She credits her head coach, Gavin Singh Sekhon, for keeping her rooted and not letting her successes get to her head.
“He spots my weaknesses and puts me through drills and progressions over and over again. He doesn’t have to remind me of what happened during Regionals because he knows it will always be at the back of my mind.”
Liew, who coaches the kids’ program at her box, feels that teaching the kids the fundamental movements of CrossFit has gone a long way in helping her cope with her new training directions.
“What I have learned and realized after every lesson I have with them is, when in doubt, revert to the basics,” she said.
Liew felt that her experiences since May last year, both good and bad, helped influenced how she approached the recently concluded 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open
“The competition is really steep, no doubt about that. But as the level of competition increased, the way I trained has also evolved. That was why I am confident of my chances.”
Liew felt that out of the 5 Open workouts, Open Workout 14.4, which was a 14 minute AMRAP of 60-calorie row, 50 toes-to-bars, 40 wall-ball shots, 30 cleans and 20 muscle-ups, was the hardest workout for her, both physically and mentally.
“I have never rowed more than 300m continuously before this, so it was truly a mental game. There were also a lot more pressure in this WOD because I expected myself to reach the muscle-ups without burning out during the row.”
In the end, Liew only managed to score 178 reps, 2 reps shy of reaching the muscle-ups, before the clock ran out on her.
Liew was confident of her chances of qualifying for this year’s Regional. In the event that she made it through; she was undecided on whether to compete with the GETFIT CrossFit team or as an individual
“The fundamental nature of CrossFit is to be ready for ‘the unknown and unknowable’. I will do my best to be prepared for whatever awaits me. Between now and Regional, I will concentrating more on my work capacity.”
Despite her valiant efforts, Liew will have to look ahead to 2015 for the chance to redeem herself after missing out on the ticket to Seoul, South Korea this year. With her exceptional work rate, she will definitely put up a strong challenge next year.