Thirteen years ago Mel Van Antwerpen made the decision to turn her life around and found the “love of her life”.
A pack-a-day smoker, the single mother of two realised her health “was not the best” and her search for a fun, inclusive sport eventually led her to CrossFit.
“I was 30, I was a pack-a-day smoker and lived quite an unhealthy lifestyle,” she said.
“I saw my young daughter continually ‘smoking’ a pencil and I decided then and there that I had to change.
“I wanted to become a better version of myself and tried pump classes and things like that, but nothing really appealed to me until I found CrossFit.
“It was the community of CrossFit that I became addicted to – and it’s changed my life forever.”
Fast forward to late May 2023 and the 44-year-old CrossFit trainer and gym owner has proven she’s up there with the best, competing against athletes half her age in the gruelling three-day Oceania Torian Pro championships held at Brisbane’s Pat Rafter Arena.
While she’s competed at loads of events, including the National Masters and Pan Pacific Games, Mel secured a spot in the Sydney-based Heritage Listed team which qualified for the ‘Open’ section of the elite competition.
The team of two men and two women went into the Torian Pro ranked 82nd and, after being judged on strength, weight, time and technique, they finished the semifinal in 30th position which Mel was thrilled about.
“We are really, really happy with where we placed considering that we are a bunch of ‘Masters’ athletes in the Open division who only just got into the competition,” she said.
“I’m super happy with our results and it was a privilege just to be a part of the weekend and to be around the CrossFit community.
“To watch and see how much it’s grown for me was inspiring.”
Mel said a special part of the competition was the ‘Paint the Pro Pink’ day where athletes honoured the memory of Hannah Clarke and her three children who were tragically lost to an act of domestic violence in 2020.
Paint the Pro Pink is an initiative to raise awareness and funds for domestic violence prevention by supporting the Small Steps 4 Hannah Foundation and it was a day for the CrossFit community to come together and show its support for all those affected by domestic violence, and to send a strong message that this type of violence will not be tolerated.
CrossFit is a popular fitness regimen that involves constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity that are accessible and effective for people of all ages, abilities, and goals.
Mel has owned and operated CrossFit Huey in Ulladulla for five years and has been a trainer for nine years.
She says the CrossFit community is the love of her life and the Torian Pro experience has given her energy to “come home and put back into our Huey”.
Mel and her team welcome people of all ages and all abilities to their gym at South Ulladulla, offering a range of fitness classes for older members, teens, new mums as well as an adaptive class for people with special needs.
“I’m inspired by the people around me. I’ve found a real home in the community of CrossFit,” she said.
“I love the way it makes you feel when you walk out of the gym at the end of the day, feeling great and knowing that you’re helping other people achieve their fitness and lifestyle goals.
“I’ve been through a lot as a solo mum and, without my CrossFit community – my CrossFit family, I don’t know where I would be.
“It really has changed my life. It’s become my life, and is my life.”
Mel hopes her story will inspire others to put in the hard work and challenge themselves to be the best they can be.
Held from 26-28 May, the Torian Pro brought together the best CrossFit athletes from Oceania, with the winners gaining entry into the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games in Europe.