CrossFit affiliate owners may as well get poster-size photos of Camille Leblanc-Bazinet to hang on their gym walls. Or even just wallet sizes to show those prospective female members who are afraid to even step foot in a facility filled with Olympic bars and bumper plates. It would be much easier than explaining how and why lifting weights won’t necessarily make a woman get big and bulky and lose her femininity. Just point to that picture for the proof.
This woman does CrossFit for three to four hours a day, and she’s not too big. Who wouldn’t want to look like this?
No offense to Rich Froning and Annie Thorisdottir, the undisputed King and queen of the CrossFit Games, but when we look at that photo of Leblanc-Bazinet, 24, we might just be looking at the Face of Fitness — an athlete with stunning looks and elite-level status in the sport, following three consecutive top-10 finishes at the Games (ninth place in 2010, eighth in ’11 and sixth this year). Throw in a good-natured, small-town-bred personality and her pursuit of a college degree in chemical engineering, and Leblanc-Bazinet’s marketability seems limitless.
“I think CrossFit is a good opportunity for me to be a good role model for girls around the world,” says the 5-foot-2, 125-pound Canadian. “It can be hard for those little girls to understand that you can be more than one thing in life. If you’re pretty, you can be smart, too, and you can be good in sports. You don’t need to be skinny and anorexic to be pretty. Muscle is great, and being smart is sexy. For me, I really want to be a face that everyone knows in the community to better portray what CrossFit is — it’s to help people get better.”
Athlete at Heart
Leblanc-Bazinet grew up in Richelieu, Quebec, Canada, a farming town she says is populated by more cows than people. In the absence of big-city distractions, Leblanc-Bazinet competed in gymnastics from ages 5 to 15 before an injury prematurely ended her career — but not her athletic ambitions. She tried every sport she could think of to replace gymnastics and satisfy her competitive nature — volleyball, skiing, soccer, rugby, flag football, distance running — before discovering CrossFit three years ago.
She took to the training immediately. At the time, she was playing rugby and had just completed her first half marathon, and her first CrossFit workout entailed running and burpees. “That was pretty much what I was doing all the time anyway,” Leblanc-Bazinet says, “so I beat everyone at the gym. I just fell in love [with CrossFit] right away. That was exactly what I was looking to have in my life. That same day, I paid the amount for a full-year membership.”
Her first two showings at the CrossFit Games were the result of training herself while living and going to school in Canada. But in the lead-up to the 2012 event, she moved to San Diego with then-fiance Dave Lipson (the two were married on Aug. 25) and began working full time with a dedicated coach, CrossFit Invictus owner C.J. Martin.
“The only real stable situation we’ve had trainingwise is when we moved out here to San Diego and had a regular routine and there wasn’t as much moving around,” says Lipson, who lived with Leblanc-Bazinet in his native Connecticut before hopping cross-country. “It’s been a full year of training very hard to prepare for the CrossFit Games. It’s a big sacrifice to take that chance — doing three or four hours of training a day and all the preparation that goes into it on top of that. Every year, Cam bumps up a couple spots. This year, she went from eighth [in 2011] to sixth place [in 2012]. And for those two spots, to consider all the work that went in to it, it’s enormous. Those spots have a lot of value.”
Just how much of that value is monetary remains to be seen. Leblanc-Bazinet has sponsorship deals with Reebok and Xendurance, a “neutraceutical” company that specializes in dietary supplements for endurance athletes. But if the sport of CrossFit continues to grow at anywhere near its current rate, other mainstream sponsors will certainly be looking for an image to represent their apparel, fitness equipment or whatever the products happen to be — products often aimed at female consumers.
“A lot of the girls in bodybuilding magazines and a lot of the girls you see in CrossFit look big and jacked-up and can be somewhat intimidating to women who want to still look like a girl,” Lipson says. “Cam has a cool image because she looks like a normal pretty girl. And she’s really smart and very funny. She’s got a lot of things going for her, so the possibility for her to build herself a really cool brand and get some great exposure is really there for her.”
Leblanc-Bazinet’s diversity makes her extremely marketable, but it also could make her CrossFit Games career a brief one. She’s currently a senior at Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, working toward a degree in chemical engineering. She would like to stay on track to graduate in the near future, and she’s currently looking for a college near San Diego that will accept her as a transfer in a similar program. If that doesn’t work, she’ll have to return to Canada later this year to continue coursework, a situation that would take her away from training with Martin, at least temporarily.
Despite the uncertainty of where she’ll be spending the next several months, Leblanc-Bazinet still plans to compete in the 2013 CrossFit Games, where she hopes to improve her placing for the fourth straight year. “Hopefully, I’ll keep climbing,” she says. “Anything better than this year would be amazing. My goal is definitely to get into the top five.”
Leblanc-Bazinet also has competitive ambitions outside of CrossFit — namely, the 2016 Olympics. “I did lots of weightlifting last year,” she says, “and I don’t know how good I’m going to get at it, but if I get good enough, I would really love to sacrifice one or two years to try the 2016 Canadian Olympic Trials in weightlifting.”
Her overriding goal, however, could just be to start a family, a desire that stems from her small-town upbringing. “I love competing, so the only thing that’s going to change is me not being good enough anymore or me wanting kids … or just life. When life moves on, I’m going to move on.”
The Other Half
Camille Leblanc-Bazinet’s husband, Dave Lipson, currently a coach and trainer for CrossFit HQ, talks about training alongside one of the fittest women in the world.
Do you and Camille ever train together?
All the time. It’s nice because we complement each other from the standpoint of she’s very good at gymnastics and I have a lot of background in strength training. I have kind of a hard time with gymnastics, so she tries to help me, and she’s been working a lot on her strength training and I’ve been trying to help her with that. Because we’re so close, it’s hard for us to take instruction from each other, so a lot of times we get frustrated. And we usually end the argument being pissed because we know the other one was right (laughs)
Do you ever get competitive with each other?
Yeah, we’re very supportive of each other, but sometimes it gets competitive. We’ll share our scores — she’ll tell me her scores and I’ll tell her what I did, and we’ll talk about what happened and what the challenges were. Because one, we want to help the other, but it also kind of pushes us. If I did something in a workout and I thought it was pretty good and she did something that was similar, it’s nice to have someone to share that with and, going forward, to constantly try and push that envelope.
So not too much smack-talking then?
Usually not, but sometimes, if we’re doing a WOD together at the same time, it becomes super competitive. Cam will be looking out of the corner of her eye and she’ll go, “Why is Dave finishing faster than me? What’s wrong with me? He must be cheating or something!” And if Cam finishes ahead of me, I can just say, “Well, she’s supposed to finish ahead of me — she’s the sixth-fittest woman in the world! No pressure on me!”
C.J. Martin, owner of CrossFit Invictus in San Diego, sounds off on Camille Leblanc-Bazinet’s training habits.
On Her Prior Weaknesses:
“I wouldn’t say that Camille had any major
weaknesses. She’s a smaller athlete, so she needed to get stronger to handle the heavier loads we expected [and saw] at Regionals. She had already started to focus on Olympic lifting and was making great progress. We kept that focus and added in supplemental strength and skill progressions. We worked a lot on cycling moderate to heavy loads for multiple reps, and we carved out time for her to continue to develop her gymnastics skills outside of the pressure of the clock. We structured her energy-systems training so as not to impact her strength development and then moved into building her aerobic base later in the season.”
On Her Work Ethic:
“Camille is like a sunburst of energy. No seriously, she’s a joy to have in the gym. I don’t recall her ever missing a training session, and she’s never even been late to a workout here in San Diego. She has a ton of energy and is excited to be in the gym for every session. Even when I was doing my best to kick her butt, I never once heard her complain. She is laser-focused on her goals as an athlete, and she understands what it’s going to take to achieve them. She’s also an amazing team player. She trained with the Invictus team athletes for several months preceding the Games and fit in as if she had been part of our close-knit family forever.”
On Her Training Volume:
“Camille is young, focused and volume tolerant. Her volume varies throughout the season, but she typically trains twice a day. One of those sessions will be a heavy strength-and-conditioning session, and the other is typically a monostructural aerobic base-building and/or a skill session.”