Dani Speegle has been an athlete her entire life. At 25-years-old, Speegle’s athletic journey spans more than two decades, and has included a variety of different athletic pursuits.
As a child, she was introduced to gymnastics during her preschool years, and was immediately taken by the sport.
“At three-years-old I was in the gym, tumbling around, getting on the beams, and I started competing pretty young, I was actually like five or six when I started competing, and I got up to a pretty high level, I have a few state titles in my name,” Speegle said.
Unfortunately, a decade long foray into gymnastics would come to an abrupt end.
A miss on the uneven bars led to a debilitating back injury after Speegle landed and her “legs went over my head, and my spine bent the wrong way.” The pain was too serious of an issue to ignore.
“It was one of those thing where at a very young age I was having chronic back pain and having to go get serious work done,” Speegle said. “It was super hard for me finally letting something go that had been a part of my life for so long, so I went through a pretty tough year of not knowing what I wanted to do.”
Ultimately it was athletics that was able to pull her out of her slump, and even though the competitive gymnastics door had shut, Speegle soon found that many more doors – in particular team sports – had opened.
“I did volleyball, I did track, I did springboard diving, I mean I just did it all,” Speegle said. “Freshman year of college I was even on a rowing scholarship.”
Her collegiate rowing career was short lived, but by the end of college, fitness had become a larger part of the picture.
During her senior year of college a friend introduced her to CrossFit, but despite her initial reservations, her friend convinced her to watch some clips of the CrossFit Games on YouTube. The two Games events she happened to watch ended up being two of the more notoriously brutal events in Games history: 2013’s Burden Run and the 2014 Triple-3 event.
Speegle was immediately sold. “I watched those two events and was like ‘I gotta get into this’ and the next day walked into CrossFit Ownit down in Melbourne, Florida, and just took it away from there.”
“I watched those two events and was like ‘I gotta get into this’ and the next day walked into CrossFit Ownit down in Melbourne, Florida, and just took it away from there.”
A month later, not only had Speegle fallen in love with the sport, but she called her parents and informed them that despite being three months away from finishing her degree in marine biology degree, she would be switching focus to competing in CrossFit once her schooling was done.
Her parents were supportive, and thankfully the results came relatively quick. A year later she was competing at the 2017 Atlantic Regional on the Kings Point team, and a year after that finished her first and final appearance at Regionals as an individual just three spots away from qualifying in 8th place overall.
Still, despite the success, and continued improvement, the big turning point in Speegle’s competitive came much more recently at the start of the 2019 season. “My major lightbulb moment came in Dubai when I placed top five with some really serious athletes,” Speegle revealed, “I knew that I could compete, but there’s a difference between just going to one of these sanctioned events, and competing for a podium spot, and it took me a while for me to realize that I was at that level now.”
Three years after walking into her first CrossFit gym, Speegle now finds herself amongst the elite of the sport after three tremendous sanctioned event performances, and an Open performance that has her currently sitting in the top 3 worldwide and in position to win the national champion honors for the United States.
At the surface level, her rise has come quick, but really it’s the intersection of 20+ years of athletics, and a sport that levies elements from all of them. As the fourth week of the Open comes to a close, barring disaster Dani Speegle will soon add another line item to her athletic career: CrossFit Games athlete.
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