Northern Ireland

CrossFit Games: Is Emma McQuaid Ireland's fittest woman?

Emma McQuaid

"There's a lot of suffering when it comes to CrossFit - it probably helps to have a screw loose."

Emma McQuaid is the first Irish woman to qualify for the CrossFit Games - the crowning glory of a sport that claims to be for the "fittest people on Earth".

Measuring 5ft 4in and weighing 63kg, she's ranked the "fifteenth fittest woman in the world".

But for Emma, fitness is about more than winning a spot on a podium.

Bitten by the bug

The 29-year-old's strength proves useful when there is a lack of wheelchair access for her fiancé David.

The couple met through their mutual love of quad-racing and on many occasions they raced alongside each other.

A number of years ago, David was involved in a serious accident on a race course that left him unable to walk.

Image copyright Emma McQuaid
Image caption Emma McQuaid with fiancé David Wray

"There are times when David and I have travelled to small towns in England or Ireland and stayed in old castle-type buildings and there's been no wheelchair access," Emma explained.

"One time we were staying somewhere on the ground-floor and David had to take two wheels off his chair.

"Then I had to shuffle him on to my shoulder so we could get his chair through the door.

"Other times I'd help him get into a truck when we go to the racing.

"Strength plays a big part in that and it's been really useful during those times."

Image copyright Emma McQuaid
Image caption Emma was previously heavily involved in quad racing

It was when the couple travelled to America, where David received physiotherapy, that Emma was first bitten by the bug.

"I guess it was a fluke really," she said.

"It was off season for quad-racing but I was trying to keep up my fitness, so I went to the gym and was doing normal squats and stuff.

"But in the corner of the gym I could see people doing butterfly pull-ups and overhead squats.

"It looked great and I thought it would be a great accompaniment to my quad training.

"Then I just got really good at it," she joked.

How do you become an elite athlete?

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Media captionCrossFit: 'There's a lot of suffering, but it's worth it'

The style of training Emma does forces individuals out of their comfort zone.

While she says she had a base-level of fitness before starting, it's taken grit and determination to get to the CrossFit Games.

"When I came into the gym for the first time I couldn't do a pull-up," said Emma.

Image caption Alongside cardio and weightlifting, gymnastics is also a key element of the sport

"I could hardly even put a brush shaft over my head.

"It was a huge struggle for me - so if I can do it anyone can."

Excitement of the unknown

Unlike most sports, CrossFitters don't know the exact workout they'll have to do until they're in the gym.

"I love the surprise of it," explained Emma.

Image caption Emma says the style of training has helped her increase her functional fitness

"You're waiting on the line to hear what the workout will be and trying to figure out how you might go about it.

"Don't get me wrong, it's hard too, because typically you'll have trained everything, but you just don't know what you might be faced with."

Emma acknowledges that the sport is intense, but says people can reduce injuries with a good coach.

"You definitely have to be a wee bit wired up too," she joked. "That helps as well."

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