Imagine qualifying to compete in the biggest event in your sport -- with a $275,000 top prize, no less -- and not knowing exactly what you'll have to do to win. Nearly 100 women and men will do just that this week, as they compete in the 2013 CrossFit Games, beginning Friday (2 p.m. ET, ESPN3) in Carson, Calif.
These athletes have competed throughout the year, first in March in the "open" rounds, held at CrossFit gyms across the country, and then at regionals in May and June. It's a select crew -- only the top three from each region – made it to the finals.
They'll compete over three days in events that include sprints and endurance tests and pull from sports such as gymnastics and weightlifting, with that one caveat: The final events aren't announced until right before the Games, with clues posted on the CrossFit website in the weeks preceding the competition.
We've found six amazing women who aren't scared of the challenge. Here's a list of who to watch at this year's Games:
Volinda "Lindy" Wall
Background: "I played soccer my whole life, including two years of varsity soccer at the University of Dayton in Ohio. At the 2012 CrossFit Regionals, I placed seventh overall, and at the 2013 CrossFit Regionals, I placed third, which qualified me for the CrossFit Games.
"Three weeks into the 2011 open competition, I did a back squat and hurt myself -- I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, scoliosis, spina bifida and a fractured L-5 vertebra. Since the injury, my 163-pound snatch lift has been my greatest feat. That snatch is 30 pounds over my body weight with a squat involved, and I never thought that would have been possible for me two years ago. It takes a lot of skill and all-over body strength, involving just about every muscle in your body.
"I hit this 163-pound snatch the last week of the 2013 open, so it was just over two months ago, before regional training began. Now that I've been back to regular training for the unknown and unknowable at the Games, I am looking to hit that 168-pound mark."
Background: "I live and train in Manchester, England, where I'm a firefighter. I work for four days in a row, then have four days off during which I do CrossFit workouts in the firehouse gym – and try to get the guys to join me. I placed fourth in the 2011 CrossFit Games, but missed 2012 because of a knee injury. This year I placed first in the 2013 European Regionals to qualify for the Games.
"I can do 30 muscle-ups in two minutes, 50 seconds. I spent a long time working on my gymnastics, so stringing together multiple muscle-ups gives me a real adrenaline high. At the end of 30, I'm physically fatigued, but buzzing that I just got through them."
Background: "I grew up in Ontario, Canada, and was part of the Canadian junior rowing team. In 2005, I moved to Northern California to attend Saint Mary's College of California on a Division I rowing scholarship. I competed in the Games last year with my team, Diablo Crossfit, and we placed third. I placed second at the 2013 OC Throwdown in January, beating several individual Games competitors. I'm this year's NorCal individual champion going into the 2013 Games.
"There are many movements in CrossFit that I picked up pretty quickly, but for a long time I was struggling with chest-to-bar pull-ups and couldn't keep up with the lighter girls (I'm 5-foot-7 and 148 pounds). I've worked on them a lot over the last year. At this year's NorCal Regionals, I was able to prove how far I've come by winning the 100s workout that included 100 chest-to-bar pull-ups. Winning an event that included that many pull-ups was extra rewarding because I knew how hard I had worked to get there."
Background: "I was a Division III All-American volleyball player at California Lutheran University from 2005 to '09. I got first place in the Southern California Regionals this year as well as the 2013 OC Throwdown. I finished ninth at the 2012 CrossFit Games.
"I set a personal record on March 18 during this year's open, and am now able to clean and jerk 245 pounds at a body weight of 155 pounds. I was obviously super excited for this PR, as the heavier the weights get, the fewer and farther between the PRs happen. I always say: Never stop believing in yourself and you can accomplish anything! I might not be the fastest, I might not be the most 'gymnasty' out there, but I'll tell you that I'm never going to stop -- ever stop -- believing in what I can do."
Background: "I was a competitive equestrian rider for 19 years. I started riding when I was 3 and competing when I was 5 or 6. Last year, I went to the Games with my team, Champlain Valley CrossFit, and this year I'm the individual Northeast champion (by 1 point!). My boyfriend, Jade Jenny, is also my coach.
"When we were at the Games last year as part of the team, I told Jade that I wanted to try and qualify as an individual this year and see what could happen. I still don't know my full potential because I am constantly exceeding what I thought I could achieve. I am most proud of my mental game. I love anything related to gymnastics, and I find all of the running difficult!"
Background: "I used to be a competitive gymnast and did a lot of other sports -- from rugby to running -- as a kid as well. I was sixth at the 2012 CrossFit Games, and I placed first at the 2013 CrossFit Canada East Regionals to qualify for the Games this year.
"My favorite movements are pull-ups and weightlifting.
"The challenge of trying to get the crown of the Fittest Woman on the Planet isn't just trying to get great at one thing, but trying to achieve the virtuosity to be amazing at everything. This means embracing your weaknesses and attacking them on a daily basis."
Freelance writer and editor Rachel Cooperman is a frequent contributor to espnW.