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6 South African Athletes To Follow & Learn From

When it comes to international CrossFit, South Africa is one spot to keep an eye on. Africa’s southernmost country has a steadily growing scene with over 80 affiliates dotted across its nine provinces.

Over the last few years, South Africa’s fittest have made it onto CrossFit’s biggest stages, and each year the scene introduces us to new names making waves locally and internationally.

With the Fittest in Cape Town CrossFit Semifinal held in the Cape of Good Hope this year (or at least until it moves online), let’s cast an eye over South African CrossFit with a few of the athletes to follow and learn from.

Mariska Smit

The results of the 2021 CrossFit Open are in, and Mariska Smit can currently claim the title of South Africa’s National Champion.

Mariska got into CrossFit in 2017 after catching a competition taking place in a Cape Town mall. “I was so intrigued with it,” she told BOXROX, “I immediately knew I wanted to try this as I was done with all the competitive sports I had done in University. I signed up that same evening and did my first class the very next day! And loved it. Could not even do a pull up though!”

Before the lockdown, Mariska set out her goals for the 2021 season with coach Cillie Malan. “Initially I wrote Top 3 in SA, and he scratched it out and wrote number 1. So as soon as it was on the list I knew I had to work hard to achieve each and every goal.”

Mariska trains with CrossFit Eikestad in Stellenbosch, and since that first CrossFit class in 2017 she’s slowly been climbing up the ranks of the SA Individual Women’s leaderboard; with a 4th place finish in 2020 and a 7th place finish in 2019. Overall she finished at 110 on the leaderboard in 2021.

While South Africa has a growing and enthusiastic scene, it still doesn’t have the kind of enthusiasm and popularity other countries in Oceania or Europe do, making it harder for SA athletes to really commit.

“I think we do have some great local competitions as well as some bigger competitions in SA which really serves as a great platform to spot talent and to give the opportunity for athletes to test their abilities in a competitive environment,” she said,”but SA does not really provide a platform for athletes doing Crossfit as a profession, it really does make it difficult as most athletes have an 8-5, or in my case a 7-7 job.”

That said, the challenge of training elite-level CrossFit alongside a full-time job hasn’t put Mariska Smit off her next challenge;

“My goals for the future definitely includes going to the Games both with the team and individually. Also achieving a Top 40 in the world with the Open.”

Mariska will be competing in the 2021 Teams Quarterfinals with Mighty Oaks from Crossfit Eikestad.

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