Finkel sisters cross world for CrossFit Games
You may think CrossFit is restricted to your local gym, but Capetonian sisters Reegan and Brady Finkel are heading to the United States this August to compete at the annual international CrossFit Games.
Reegan, 20, and Brady, 22, took up the sport about five years ago, and the Games, in Madison, Wisconsin, will be their first international competition. They will represent Africa as a team of four against the best teams from around the world.
The Finkels say competing at the Games will be the realisation of their “ultimate goal”, and they think they can place in the top 20 out of the 40 teams. “As we get older and do it more, I would love to fight for the top spots at the Games,” Reegan says.
To qualify for the Games, athletes must compete in three specific phases, the open, the quarter-finals, and the semi-finals.
The Finkels progressed to the semis, which took place in Johannesburg in May. They won two workouts out of six, placing them about 20 points behind the winning team.
Unexpected news followed when the winners failed a drug test. As a result, the Finkels bagged an invitation to participate in the CrossFit Games about three weeks after the semis.
The CrossFit Open is a three-week competition in which participants across the globe do one workout a week and enter their scores online. “You’re ranked on a leaderboard based on your best scores,” Reegan says. The Finkel sisters were part of the top 10% in Africa, who qualified for the individual quarter-finals, which consist of three days of workouts.
Reegan and Brady ranked amongst the top 30 girls in the quarter-finals, qualifying for the individual semi-finals, placing seventh and 12th respectively.
“The following week, we competed in the team quarter-finals in a team of four, two males and two females,” Reegan says. “We placed second, and were one of the top 20 teams to go to the semi-finals in Johannesburg.”
They arrived two weeks in advance to become accustomed to the difference in breathing and altitude. They competed in the semis across three days, having to do two workouts each day, whether it be gymnastics, weightlifting, or cardio exercises.
“As an example, the first workout we did was the cardio – there was running, bike riding, and skipping,” Reegan says. “We have this thing called a worm, which is a big bag shaped like a log, and we have to pick it up. There’s a lot of gymnastics. We have a weightlifting component with cleans, which are an Olympic lift. The winners should be the most well-rounded athletes in their team.
“Everyone around the world has the same workouts in the CrossFit Open. They’re competing against their own continent. Each continent has a certain amount of people who go through to the CrossFit Games.” Africa gets only one place for an individual female, an individual male, and a team.
The workouts at the Games will be more intense, Brady says. “The weights are a lot heavier, the cardio is a lot harder. You have to swim in lakes. And you compete against a much higher level of athletes.”
The Games’ official website says that it aims to find the fittest people on earth. Each year, the Games are a more comprehensive test of fitness, and athletes raise the competition level to unprecedented heights. The average semi-finals athlete this year will be more capable than the world’s best a decade ago.
During their school career at Camps Bay High, the Finkels took part in a lot of sport. They took a liking to CrossFit when their dad forced them to watch a CrossFit Games documentary about five years ago. “We didn’t want to watch it, but as soon as we finished watching, I said, ‘We have to start,’” Reegan recalls.
Reegan and Brady have participated in a few local competitions. “We’ve competed in the open semi-final individually,” Reegan says. “In 2021, Brady came seventh and I came 10th. Then in 2022, Brady couldn’t compete because she hurt her ankle. We were going to participate as a team as well. I still competed, and came seventh. Now we are competing as one team.”
Their training regimen is “honestly insane”, Reegan says, especially with the Games on the horizon. “On some days, we’re at the gym from 07:00 until 19:30 at night. We train for three hours in the morning, then rest, eat, and recover before going back into another session, which is three or four hours long.”
They train five days a week, with Thursdays focused on active recovery such as a swim or run, and Mondays being a full rest day. Aside from doing CrossFit, the Finkel sisters also coach the sport at their gym.
They usually do CrossFit with their youngest sister, 19-year-old Ashton, who also reached the semi-finals at the open, but with a different team.
Asked if there’s rivalry between the sisters, Reegan says, “When we compete as individuals, we’re competing against each other. But if we want anyone to beat us, it will be one of our sisters rather than anyone else.”
Reegan says CrossFit is like a combination of every sport, from bike riding and running to swimming and gymnastics. “The CrossFit community is special. You would have to try it to understand. Everyone is so supportive. It’s such an amazing and wholesome community. The training is insane. I love it.”
“It’s an addictive sport because you’re constantly improving,” Brady says. “You always want to do better and more. With the weightlifting, you get to increase your numbers. There are so many different movements you can learn and become experienced at.”