Larissa Cunha Looking Fulfill Childhood Dream by Making it to Madison
Larissa Cunha grew up dreaming about competing at the Olympics in gymnastics. For 12 years, she pursued the sport and became a national level gymnast, but didn’t quite reach her Olympic goal of representing Brazil on the biggest stage of her sport.
- Today, the CrossFit Games dream has replaced Cunha’s Olympics goal, and after “100 percent” devoting herself to her sport in recent years, the 30-year-old, who placed first in South America in the Quarterfinals, feels like it might finally be her year.
- “The Olympics were a personal dream of mine and I couldn’t do it. So I think this was always in my subconscious when I started developing in CrossFit,” Cunha said.
Cunha’s competitive history: Cunha’s first big competition was the Latin American regional competition in 2018, where she placed 10th overall. She has been on the rise since then.
- In 2019, she missed qualifying to the Games by becoming her country’s national champion in the Open by one spot. She won four events, but placed 26th in Brazil on 19.1 — a couplet of wall balls and rowing — which dropped her to second overall.
- Last year, Cunha thought she was on her way to Madison, WI when she took first in Brazil in the Open; however, her Games invite was revoked due to changes in the qualification process because of COVID-19.
- Cunha also gained international competitive experience at two Sanctionals last season — the Dubai CrossFit Championships and Wodapalooza — where she placed 15th and 19th respectively.
- Most recently, Cunha placed second in Brazil in the 2021 Open, and an impressive 23rd worldwide, before almost accidentally topping the leaderboard in the Quarterfinals, explained her long-time coach Bernardo Camargo. Their plan wasn’t to win Quarterfinals, Camargo explained, but simply to qualify and then “peak for the Semifinals,” so the fact that she managed to win bodes well for her chances at Semifinals, he said.
- “I felt very good about it. It was good feedback for us. We were expecting to be good, but I wasn’t thinking of winning,” Cunha said of her Quarterfinals win, adding that she was particularly proud of how well she did on the wall ball and rowing event—4th in South America—proving she has fixed her biggest weakness from 2019.
Training through COVID: When Cunha’s gym, CrossFit Cavaleiros in Macae, closed due to the pandemic, she was left scrambling for a training space. Then a friend of hers who owns a company told her about an empty warehouse she could borrow, so slowly Cunha began building a makeshift gym in the empty warehouse.
- “I borrowed some stuff from my gym and had some of my own equipment. For a while I didn’t have things like a GHD, but now it’s like a normal gym,” she said of where she has been training alone, two to three times a day, in recent months.
One big thing: In case Cunha’s consistent rise in the last three years isn’t evidence enough of her abilities, she also has taken a hiatus from coaching in the last 12 months to be a full-time athlete, “100 percent invested in the sport,” Cunha said.
- Currently, Cunha, who lives in Macae, is in Brasilia — an hour-and-a-half flight from Macae — training with her Camargo for two months in preparation for the upcoming Semifinals, something she never could have done if she was still coaching, she explained. “Now I’m able to wake up, train, eat, sleep, train, eat and repeat. Every day,” she said.
The bottom line: After the year of work she has put in, and her Open and Quarterfinals successes, Cunha is confident she’s on track to finally fulfill her childhood dream of making it to the most prestigious event her sport has to offer.
- Camargo thinks so too. “She is a very levelled athlete now and has no real weaknesses that will make her lose a spot at the Games,” he said.
- Cunha added: “We have been waiting for this moment for a long time because we have been working together and I have developed really well since 2019. We have been very close to getting a ticket to the Games. It wasn’t my time yet, but we have continued to work. And work a lot.”