Nathalie ‘The Great’ Maurer has been at CrossFit Vancouver for a few months now, and somehow she has managed to stay under the radar. I’m not sure how; for one, her gorgeous curly hair is hard not to notice. Secondly, she’s been showing up consistently, often topping the leaderboard, for a number of months now. She was the girl with the broken wrist a while back; even a cast didn’t stop her from working out. Oh, and she happens to be one of our most highly acclaimed former national team athletes too. Before CrossFit, Nat was a national team rower. After rowing for UBC, she moved to London, Ontario to train with Canada’s national team. She competed in two World Rowing Championships, in 2006 and 2008, and raced at prestigious international competitions like the Pan American and Commonwealth Games. She even medaled - a silver medal in the pair and a gold medal in the quad - at the Pan American Games, a competition she remembers as being the highlight of her career. “Singing the anthem after winning gold in the quad…seeing the Canadian flag rise to the top of the pole for something that I did was just an awesome feeling,” said Nat. Nat debated continuing to pursue her long-time Olympic dream through 2012, but something inside her was ready to move on. “I knew there was more to life, and even though I wanted to make the Olympics so bad and had worked so hard, I didn’t want to spend another four years of training to maybe make the team,” said Nat, who calls herself a ‘cusper.’ “Cusper is a term I coined for those of us always sitting on the cusp of making the team,” she explained. “Rowing technique just didn’t come naturally for me, and I didn’t have the cutthroat competitiveness to be at the top,” said the environmental engineer. Because of this, it was a sport of ups and downs for the 28-year-old. The low point for Nat came in 2007. Prior to the 2008 Olympics, Nat was doing everything she could to make the team. Her coach told her to get leaner, so she lost 20 pounds in three months, leaning up tremendously. “But it didn’t make me any faster and I missed out on making the Olympic camp by one spot. That was the lowest point for sure…I think I was scarred from that experience, and instead of making me want to work harder, it shattered my confidence,” she said. Nat kept going in the sport for a while after that, but ended up retiring in the summer of 2009. Retiring from a sport for a high level athlete can be like going through a break-up. It was no exception for Nat. As she was working through her emotions, she stayed away from competition for a while. But like all true athletes, at some point she started to miss competing. So when Corey ‘Lunger’ emailed Nat’s soccer team to recruit new CrossFitters, Nat jumped at the chance. “I missed being strong and fit,” she said. “I felt like something was missing…my competitive drive was unfulfilled.” But the ordinary gym wasn’t the answer. “I really disliked going to the gym on my own, and I had no goals or motivation to actually get myself there. But CrossFit is different. It keeps me entertained, and it’s easy to have goals with CrossFit, which keeps me motivated to get fitter and stronger,” she added. “I want to not have to use a fuckin band for pull-ups. And in general, my gymnastic skills are non-existent, as well as my double unders. So ya, just keep working on my weaknesses,” said Nat of her CrossFit goals. CrossFit has also helped Nat get over rowing in a healthy way. When Nat retired from the sport, the thought of facing the ergometer haunted her for a while. “The first time the erg showed up in a WOD at CrossFit, it was a 2 km erg. I was really nervous to get on the machine, mostly out of fear – fear of how much it would hurt both my body and my ego to go so slowly,” she said. As Nat has started to get fitter and stronger again, her rowing wounds have started to heal. “I don’t miss rowing at all, and in fact, I’m planning on going to London in 2012 to watch my friends win an Olympic medal,” she said.