Wanda Brenton has spent her life committed to being a model of fitness, but she wanted to test herself against the best in the world.
She found what she was looking for when she discovered CrossFit.
The Corner Brook native, a former member of the Cayman Islands national women’s doubles beach volleyball team, is the fittest female in the Caribbean after she won the women’s individual title at the Latin American Regional for the 2014 CrossFit Games July 25-30 in Carson, Calif.
It marks the first time Brenton, formerly Wanda Griffin of Curling, participated in CrossFit as an individual. She has participated in what is considered the premier test to the find the fittest on Earth as a member of Cayman Islands teams on three occasions since discovering her new passion in 2009.
“I started CrossFit to be a better volleyball player and then I liked CrossFit so much I stopped playing volleyball,” Brenton said with a hearty chuckle earlier this week.
She got into the CrossFit craze in 2009 while she was still playing beach volleyball, but then her focus shifted to training to be among the fittest women on the planet. She competed in her first team event in 2010, took a year off in 2011 when she and husband Carl Brenton welcomed daughter Logan into the world, and then helped CrossFit 7 Mile — the Cayman Islands representative — win top spot at the next two Latin American Regionals.
Brenton had informed her teammates at the end of last year’s run that it would be her last kick at the team event. She was ready to take another life journey.
“It’s always something that I always thought about doing. I done the team ... just a different sort of goal and to see how far I could take it,” she said of her decision to vie for the women’s individual crown.
Daughter of Corner Brook’s Danny and Annie Griffin and now a CrossFit coach herself, the former St. Francis Xavier University varsity volleyball star won three of the seven events and finished second in two more. She beat out 29 other competitors and beat her nearest rival by a mere two points.
It was a close battle for the right to advance, but Brenton made it clear from the start she was going into the event to win it all.
“So, it’s just nice to see that the hard work paid off and that was my goal this year was to win,” she said. “My goal was to make it to the Games and then from there anything is just going to be icing on the cake.
“It feels good for sure. I worked really hard at it,” she added, noting her lifestyle was hectic with two-hour daily training sessions being fitted in with her work and parental duties.
A key element to a fair test of fitness is the unknown and unknowable. Athletes cannot train for what they do not know. At each CrossFit Games, the athletes engage in a series of challenges unknown to them until right before the competition and there’s always a surprise or two thrown at those 100 men and women who outlasted thousands to get to the final leg of the journey.
The test of one’s fitness level could be anything from tackling a gymnastics or aerobic workout to running a triathlon or sandbag carries.
“You never really know what’s going to be thrown at you for one,” she said of her interest in a world-renowned event pegged as a gruelling test for the world’s toughest athletes and a thrilling experience for spectators.
Going to California this summer to compete against who she calls “the elite of the elite,” Brenton is just happy to be among such a group and only wants to embrace something she feels may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a woman who will turn 40 this year.
“I’m not going (there) to win. I’m definitely going to go for the experience and just try to soak it all in because I don’t know if I’m ever going to get back there,” she said.
She’s not feeling any pressure so she expects to have fun seeing how she stacks up.
“There’s most likely going to be things I’m not great at and there’s going to be some things I will be OK at, so the things I’m OK at I’m really going to try my best and just go for it,” she said.
She’s been asked many times why she would put herself through such a demanding event. She usually has a smile and a light chuckle to go with any of her responses.
“The whole drive and the whole pushing yourself to the limit ... it’s the only way to really to describe it,” she said. “There’s always something new and challenging. You’re never really great at anything in CrossFit. Some people are, yes, but there’s always that strive to be a little bit better, or be a little bit faster or lift a little bit heavier and that feeds you.”
She’s going to be working hard over the next few months to ensure she’s in great physical and mental condition to give it her best shot.
“You try to do as much of anything that’s crazy as possible, so that if it’s thrown at you you’re just like ‘OK’,” she said.