When it comes to jobs within the world of CrossFit, Kiwi Harriet Roberts might have the coolest one of all.

Roberts, who is leading the women’s division after the first day of the Pandaland CrossFit Challenge in Chengdu, China, teaches CrossFit to high school kids in Australia where she lives.

CrossFit is available as an elective for the students at the private school in a Sydney suburb alongside mainstay sports such as rugby, cricket and football. Roberts said she knows full well she has landed a dream job.

“I’m very, very lucky,” said the 28-year-old who spent a fair chunk of her childhood living in Singapore. “I feel like a lot of people don’t have a lot of stability in teaching CrossFit classes. So it’s given me that stability and [the school] is pretty good if I need to travel and obviously understanding when it is for CrossFit.”

Roberts first tried CrossFit in 2011 in Australia and surprisingly, things didn’t go well out of the gate. Although she has a background in competitive swimming and gymnastics, she had trouble doing thrusters on an empty bar which prompted the coach to give her a wooden stick out of pity which turned out to be a defeating moment.

“I did my first workout and I felt horrible so I called my mom crying and she said, ‘There’s two ways you can go, you can never show your face again because it sounds like you embarrassed yourself, or you can go back’.”

Roberts leads the women after the first day of the Pandaland CrossFit Challenge. Photo: Pandaland CrossFit Challenge

Roberts did in fact go back, however it was a slightly delayed process of redemption.

“I stayed away for about two weeks until the guilt set in, and then when I went back I was in it for the long haul.”

Her first jump into the upper levels of CrossFit was in 2012 when she finished 22nd at the Regionals for Australia, and then competed with a team, CrossFit Active, the following two years at the Regionals before heading back to individual competitions. She got her first taste of the Games in 2015, coming 27th with CrossFit Active, and then came 13th with Project X at this year’s Games.

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Heading into CrossFit’s 2020 season, Roberts said she and her fellow Project X team members figured they would give trying to qualify for the games individually a try. Khan Porter, one of Roberts’ teammates on Project X, is also in Chengdu this weekend and currently sits second behind American Jacob Heppner in the men’s category after day one, which featured three events. Sunday will finish off with two more and the top male, female and team will book their ticket straight to the Games via CrossFit’s new Sanctionals qualifying structure.

Having lived in Singapore for years as a child and teenager, and even a stint in one of China’s most famous cities for a year, Robert said the Pandaland CrossFit Challenge was an easy pick for her when it came to choosing a Sanctional to try and book her spot at the Games. Roberts, who finished 59th in this year’s CrossFit Open, is also a huge fan of rice, adding she eats it everyday and almost every meal.

“[Pandaland] kind of came as the first comp’ that was after the Open that was easily accessible and to be honest I actually did live for six months in Shanghai, so I probably don’t feel as overwhelmed as some people by China, I know what to expect.”

Harriet Roberts on the rope climb at the CrossFit Sanctionals Pandaland event. Photo: Pandaland CrossFit

CrossFit will return to China in May for the Asia CrossFit Championship, the second edition of that tournament. Roberts said it will only be a matter of time before China is a heavyweight in the sport as more and more boxes are added.

“As that number grows I think there are going to be some amazing athletes coming out of here, you look at the weightlifters and the class that they are at. And especially the discipline of the demographic, man they are going to pump out some crazy athletes.”

Roberts, who is now two solid workouts from booking her first ticket to the games as an individual, said she has the dream job back in Sydney, and could tick off another one tomorrow. “That would be a dream come true,” she said about making the 2020 CrossFit Games. “I’ve always said I’ve wanted to do that so it would be amazing.”