On May 27, 2016 something historic happened which, however, went largely unnoticed by the general Hungarian public. On that day, Laura Horváth competed as the first Hungarian woman at the Meridian Regionals in Madrid, Spain.
To understand what kind of accomplishment this is, it is important to look at what it took Laura to make it to Regionals (if you are unfamiliar with the term Regionals think of it as the European Championship of CrossFit).
From the infographic above you can see that the CrossFit Open is one of the biggest sporting events in the world with more than 324.000 people competing against each other over the course of 5 weeks. After the Open, the fittest men, women, and teams from each region of the world advance to the second stage of the CrossFit Games season: the Regionals.
CrossFit splits the world into 17 regions. There are 10 regions in the United States (North East, Mid Atlantic, South East, Central East, North Central, South Central, North West, South West, Northern California, Southern California), and 7 international regions (Canada West, Canada East, Latin America, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe).
In 2016, 12.925 women signed up for the CrossFit Open in Europe and competed for one of the 30 Regionals' qualifying spots. From a purely statistical point of view this would leave Laura with a 0,002% chance to qualify. Luckily, in sports probabilities are calculated differently. After the 5 weeks and 5 workouts Laura became 23rd in Europe with her best placing being a 7th place and the worst a 86th place.
But who is Laura Horváth? How did she find CrossFit and what is her athletic background? What are her thoughts on diet and that strong women are not feminine anymore? How did she feel competing on the biggest stage that CrossFit has to offer in Europe? Last week, Laura sat down with Lilly Letassy of Reebok CrossFit Duna and answered all those questions for us.
We should kick off this conversation by you telling me about the beginning, considering that - as some of us might know - you have a past with wall climbing, so I guess sport has always been in your life growing up. When was it that your interest shifted from climbing to CrossFit and how did you find CrossFit?
Wow, you already got me a good question [laughs]. In the beginning, we were working out at home with Kristóf [her brother] and it was him that started looking into CrossFit and lifting in general, so for me it started out as complimentary training to climbing. Gradually and over time, I started doing more CrossFit than climbing, so climbing slowly became secondary. After more or less a month, Kris signed me up for a competition [The Central European Throwdown in 2014] since he had to undergo surgery and couldn't compete himself. I placed 4th, which made me very enthusiastic and made me realise that I wanted to go into CrossFit on a competitive level.
Considering your climbing background. How do you think climbing helped you in CrossFit?
I think my biggest strengths are pull ups and grip strength. Essentially, all the gymnastics/ bodyweight exercises as climbing helped me develop a very strong upper body so when it comes to those exercises I do not fatigue as quickly, which allows me to keep pushing.
When did you first realise that this is more than a passion for you, that you actually want to start competing?
As long as I can remember, I have always been very competitive with everything I did. Even at primary school during PE I would feel the urge to beat everybody including the boys. It really comes naturally to me, nobody really tried to push me into this direction. It just happened this way. And now that I train mostly with Kris, I always try to beat him and everybody else too.
So I understand that you rely a lot on him when it comes to training, support and motivation. In the light of that, how did you react to his plans of moving to Malta and open his own CrossFit box?
Oh, I was really sad... I mean, why can't he open one here? [laughing] No seriously, I definitely feel that it is going to be a big change, because even if I will visit him often, and he will visit me, it is going to be very different. Now we work out together every day and support each other.
How did your family react when you told them that competing is going to be your main focus, and you want to make it a career?
It actually took my mom a long time to accept it. She was against it at the beginning but by now she has come around as she understood that this is what I want to do, that this is what makes me happy. She would have preferred that I follow a more "feminine" sport like dancing or ballet, but luckily by now it is my family that supports me the most alongside with Kris.
It is good that you mention 'feminine' as many people consider CrossFit as more of a sport for men because of the big muscles that they might see on the on other female CrossFit athletes. What are your thoughts on this?
I get this a lot that wherever I go, they ask me what I do, how do I have such big muscles. Honestly, I do not believe in an "ideal body" because as long as you are happy with yourself and how you are it does not matter. Frankly, I probably would not like myself if I had a super skinny model structure. I am happy with it the way I look, so I do not really care about people who think it is too much. Unfortunately, the media is still very much focused on the "skinny is sexy" message but luckily I also see that the image of a "strong woman" is becoming fashionable again.
Let me go back now for a second to the Laura that had just decided to go into competing and intense training started. Do you feel that because of this decision and focus, you had a different childhood compared to the other kids at your age?
It was completely different. When they started going out during the weekends, my days were just about training and sleeping to get the proper rest. However, I do not feel that I missed anything or that I had to make sacrifices, for me what meant and still means fun is knowing that I am doing the best for my goals, this is what keeps me motivated even on the days that normally I would not feel like training or doing anything at all.
As an athlete you also need to watch what you put in your body.What is the ideal diet and nutrition plan for you? Do you track what you eat?
I try to eat just as much as is necessary for the amount of training that I do, and I really think that having a big breakfast is beneficial. After breakfast, I eat about two, three times during the day, but I tried to avoid eating after 8pm. I really like the dairy products so I drink a lot of milk and yoghurts but I completely stay away from bread. I think the last time I ate bread was some sort of brown bread that my grandma baked at home [laughs].
You also followed the Paleo diet for a while, how did that work out for you?
It was okay, but at some point I just got too bored of so much meat that now I kind of hate it, and I do not eat it anymore [laughs].
So let's talk a bit about the main reason of this conversation, Regionals and competitions in general. How do you prepare mentally and when you are there how do you calm down your nerves?
I am not a nervous type in general, so I am not nervous prior to the competition. For me sleeping is the most essential thing, I try to sleep 8-10 hours before. When I am about to compete I feel the excitement, but it is more of a positive feeling, it is more the adrenalin that kicks in. I feel that I just want to be there and do it. And during the competition I totally blend out everything. I talked to some people who came to cheer for me and they asked me whether I heard them. It is funny because knowing that they are there helps a lot, but I did not hear anything.
Few people know that you had knee surgery in late 2015. Knowing this did you expect to qualify for Regionals?
For me qualifying for Regionals was more important than anything. By this I mean even the high school final exams. So if I hadn't qualified, I would have been extremely disappointed. After the surgery, I rested for 4 weeks but now looking back I think I really needed it and I might even have benefited from it physically. Even if at the time mentally I was quite down.
At Regionals how did you experience it? How is the mood and the atmosphere among the athletes?
God, it is hard to find the right words to express it [laughs]. Everybody is extremely nice and friendly, and I felt that nobody sees the other person as a rival. It is more of a competition with yourself and with the clock than against each other. I can compare the atmosphere like it is at the box right before a WoD. Everybody is excited, and we all talk to each other as friends.
What was your favourite Regionals moment, something that you will definitely never forget?
Definitely the last WoD is something I will never forget. Also, when we arrived I got to walk around with Annie [Annie Thorísdottir] and we had the most friendly conversation ever. This was an amazing feeling and very inspirational for me.
What will be the next step, what are your future plans with CrossFit and in general?
During the summer I will train as much as I can, and then I will go to study to Vienna from September. I will keep coming home often as the classes are from Monday to Thursday. My goal of course is to make it to the Regionals again next year and possibly even further [the best five of each Regionals qualify for the CrossFit Games which will take place in Carson, California from July 19-24, 2016].
I would like to wish you all the best for the future, thanks a lot for the conversation.
Below you will find all of Laura's Regionals' performances. For your convenience, the videos will start right before Laura's heat.