The healthy life that gives Tia-Clair Toomey a lift
TIA-CLAIR Toomey wears a smile almost as big as the weights she lifts. And lately the 22-year-old Gladstone resident has every reason to be beaming. Tia-Clair is a two-time CrossFit Games silver medallist and has worn the green and gold of Australia at the Olympic Games in Brazil as our sole female weightlifter. Her rise to the pinnacles of her respective sports has been meteoric.
But even now, months after the hype of the CrossFit Games and the Olympics has died down, she is still at a loss to describe exactly how she feels about the past 18 months.
"It wasn't that long ago that Shane (Tia's partner and coach Shane Orr) and I were walking the dogs talking about the last CrossFit Games (2015) and there I was preparing for my second Games and the Olympics,” Tia-Clair said.
"Even now I'm still trying to wrap my head around it all. I've been to two CrossFit Games now, placed second twice and I've represented Australia at the Olympics - it's amazing.
"They're very different (the CrossFit Games and the Olympics) but both are equally amazing.”
For the uninitiated, CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity that CrossFit supporters say mimic the core movements of life.
"This year was different, I felt I had a better understanding of what it meant to be competing at the Games, the mental and physical demands, having to juggle my performance in each event and my rest and recovery, but it was still a massive challenge,” Tia-Clair said.
The 2016 event began with a return to the spiritual home of the CrossFit Games, the family farm of Games director Dave Castro, The Ranch, in California.
The opening 7km trail run at The Ranch was a surprise event for the athletes and provided Tia-Clair with the perfect opportunity to turn her attention to one of her new 2016 Games goals.
"This year I was little more relaxed, I wanted to make sure I really enjoyed the moment. I knew most of the girls and they're all so wonderfully supportive despite what's at stake, so I just went out there and gave it my all but had fun at the same time.”
In the end the 2016 Games were almost a carbon copy of the 2015 Games in the women's division.
After several days of gruelling competition, which many pundits, fans and Games veterans considered to be the toughest in history, Tia-Clair finished second wedged firmly between Icelandic powerhouses Katrin Davidsdottir and Sara Sigmundsdóttir. It was the first time since the Games started in 2007 that the podium was exactly the same as the previous year.
With her silver CrossFit Games medal in hand, Tia-Clair had a short stint of R&R before she was Rio-bound for the Olympics.
The Olympics were the realisation of a dream Tia-Clair held on to growing up on her family's Sunshine Coast sugar cane farm - a dream to represent her country on the greatest stage of all.
"The CrossFit Games are big but the Olympics are something else entirely. When you're there at the Olympics it's not just about you, you're representing your country, it's almost surreal,” she said.
"It was a very emotional moment being on that weightlifting platform, representing my family and my country. It's one of the proudest moments of my life.”
But despite all the accolades and plaudits she has received, Tia-Clair and her goals remain the same.
"I have made a lot of sacrifices to become an elite athlete - everyone who is at the peak of their sport has to make sacrifices,” Tia-Clair said.
"But there are also a lot of people in my life who have also made sacrifices to help me get to where I am today. Shane and my other loved ones have all helped me achieve what I have and if I can make them proud I am happy.
"Shane has especially made a lot of sacrifices. He's always there for me. He is my rock.”
Things could have been a lot different, though.
"Shane first started CrossFit during a rugby pre-season,” Tia-Clair said.
"I went along to a few sessions because he thought it might help me with my athletics. It wasn't my thing at first but I quickly grew to love it. I'm naturally competitive and CrossFit does have a lot of competitive elements to it so I guess it naturally appealed to me.”
The love for the sport blossomed so much that Tia-Clair has gone from part-time CrossFitter to full-time coach.
"There is a lot to love. There are so many elements of CrossFit that are positive,” Tia-Clair said.
"It has been a great way to meet people all over the world and be a part of a close knit family at CrossFit Gladstone.
" That social aspect of it is huge.
"Then there is the fact that it keeps you very fit and healthy which is a big part of happiness.”
These days, Tia-Clair is confident, powerful and energetic. She is proud of her achievements and loves what she is able to command her body and mind to do.
But, like many women, she has experienced those moments of body doubt. In Tia-Clair's case, her doubt sprang from her slightly more muscular or fit body, which was the result of her dedication to her sports.
Tia-Clair said she now believes there is no such thing as an ideal female body.
"There is certainly no ideal CrossFit body, we are all different and we should celebrate that,” she said.
"I feel there is a misconception that CrossFitters need to be huge and muscly. I truly believe anyone can be a CrossFfitter, you don't have to be muscular or fit to start, all you need is the right mindset. You have to be willing and eager.
"I believe all women need to find their own 'fit' and just have fun with it. Don't put too much pressure on yourself, set small achievable goals as you go. Focus on your goals and your movement, what you can do with your body and how you move and improve that movement, not what it looks like.
"Focus on what you need and enjoy the journey.”
Happiness is the key to enjoying life and Tia-Clair has it in spades - you can see it all over her face whenever she lifts, trains, competes and coaches. You can see it right there in her trademark smile.