From Pregnancy to Podium, the Queen of Iceland Returns
Annie Thoridsdottir’s patented smile was nowhere to be seen during the final event at the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games.
She looked focused, almost fierce, as she worked her way through the 600-meter row, 90 chest-to-bar pull-ups, and 108-feet of 135 pound/60kg lunges that led to the finish line.
Thorisdottir was on a mission- To make it to the podium at the finish line before Norway’s Kristin Holte, so she could stand on the real podium.
- From start to finish, Thorisdottir led Holte, looking poised and confident, as if there was never a chance she would falter.
- Thorisdottir finished her final lunge, but instead of throwing her hands in the air and waving to the crowd while leaping onto the podium as she has done so many times in the past, she dropped her barbell and collapsed, breaking into tears at the realization that—after giving birth to her daughter Freyja a little less than a year ago—she had made her way back to the podium for the first time in four years.
- “I’m so glad I competed,” she said moments later, now smiling and laughing through tears, as she embraced her husband Frederick Aegidius.
Making history: Thorisdottir has become the first woman to get back to the podium at the CrossFit Games within a year of giving birth. She’s also the first mother to podium since Valorie Voboril in 2013.
- “Yes I won the CrossFit Games twice and nothing will top the experience of winning the CrossFit Games…but I wasn’t even planning on being here. I didn’t think I could compete. And I podiumed,” Thorisdottir said, breaking down again in an interview on the floor just moments after the event.
Thorisdottir’s Comeback Journey
August 2020: Thorisdottir gave birth to Freyja in a traumatic delivery that lasted multiple days, a labor that resulted in a blood transfusion from losing so much blood, leaving her so weak she “could barely stand by myself,” she explained.
- Thorisdottir didn’t sleep for five days after giving birth and sank lower emotionally than she thought was possible, a postpartum depression experience she eventually shared with the Morning Chalk Up in her article My Postpartum Fall: Speaking Up.
- “It scared me the way I was feeling,” she explained to the Morning Chalk Up, adding that during those early days of motherhood, she honestly felt like she’d never train again, would never be happy again, would never leave the house again. “I just never thought that I could feel like that,” she said.
- Another challenge for Thorisdottir was dealing with the way her body looked and felt. “I had this big empty belly and I just didn’t recognize my body. And that was really really difficult for me because my body is my work tool, and it has been such a big part of my identity. Not just the way that I look, but the way I feel, and I felt so powerless, so weak and just not myself, and that was the biggest shock,” Thorisdottir said at a press conference in Madison, WI on Friday evening.
One week postpartum: Thorisdottir left the house for the first time since giving birth, leaving her daughter with her mother, to go for a walk with her husband. She felt relieved, an experience she described as finally being able to see colors again.
Two weeks postpartum: Adjusting to motherhood, Thorisdottir now realized that she wanted more. “I’m not saying being a mom isn’t enough, and taking care of your child isn’t enough…it is a full-time job,” she said. But at the same time, she knew she wasn’t done being a professional, elite athlete.
- Her first workout back was just a light cycle, but even doing this felt comforting. Just being back in the gym and on the bike “was the most amazing feeling,” she said.
One month postpartum: Thoridottir was back at the gym regularly, but she wasn’t at all focused on making it back to the CrossFit Games this summer.
- “That wasn’t even crossing my mind at that point…I wanted to gain myself again…I wanted to gain the empowerment and the confidence that I could continue being myself after giving birth,” she said.
- She took to Instagram and posted about her excitement about getting her heart rate up to 80 percent for the first time “in what feels like forever,” she wrote.
Two months postpartum: Thorisdottir’s update reads: “Progress is slow and steady but everyday one step closer.”
Four months postpartum: “Things don’t always go the way you expect them to. I gave birth to my beautiful, healthy daughter four months ago today, and to be brutally honest, these last four months have been harder than the last four of my pregnancy. I have been an athlete my whole life and the way my body performs and looks, (has) always been a big part of how I would define myself. The changes that my pregnancy and difficult birth brought along has challenged me more than I expected. My expectation was that I would be able to bounce back, maybe after 8-10 weeks of easing back to my old ways and then start building capacity and strength. However, the progress has been slow—steady—but slow,” she posted on Instagram.
Five months postpartum: In an interview with the Morning Chalk Up, Thorisdottir said she was, once again, thinking about the CrossFit Games, this time with a new reason to compete.
- “I want to show my daughter that even though I had her, I can still continue training my career if I want to…No one else is going to dictate what I do with my body and my life,” she explained.
- She added: “I want to show Freyja what it means to be strong, not just physical strength, and I believe that I am a better mother if I take care of myself, and (I’m) becoming myself again, so I will be able to give her even more.”
- At the time, Thorisdottir said her conditioning was “close to 90 percent” of where she used to be, but her strength numbers and gymnastics skills still had a long way to go, as she was still rehabilitating her pelvic floor and abdominal muscles from experiencing a severe case of diastasis recti from her pregnancy. As a result, she said she still wasn’t capable of lifting heavy weights.
- Though getting to the Games, let alone the podium, still seemed like a long shot at the time, Thorisdottir admitted she isn’t exactly the participant type, and that if she’s going for it, she’ll be gunning for the podium.
Seven months postpartum: Still nowhere near 100 percent, Thorisdottir placed 118th overall in the Open—by far her lowest Open finish ever—but easily qualified to the Quarterfinals.
- Thorisdottir, who had only started doing chest-to-bar pull-ups and toes-to-bars in “very limited controlled quantities” three weeks before, did her first bar muscle-ups in the Open since before she gave birth.
- She also managed to improve her time in the repeat workout from 17.1, beating her 2017 time by nearly a full minute.
Nine months postpartum: Thorisdottir continued her rise, finishing an impressive ninth overall in Europe in the Quarterfinals, a weekend that included third and a 4th place event finishes.
- Though her lowest placing was the four-rep max front squat event, she was still able to hit 231 pounds for four reps, an emotional moment that left her in tears. “Nothing like a competition to get your mind to start trusting your body again. Tears of joy and relief. My 2021 season is still alive,” Thorisdottir posted on Instagram.
10 months postpartum: Thorisdottir performed like she was back to her old self at the online CrossFit Lowlands Throwdown semifinal, easily punching her ticket to her 11th CrossFit Games with a third place overall finish.
- “This season, I have doubted myself more than ever before. I wasn’t sure if my body would be ready or if my mind would,” she admitted after the competition.
One year postpartum: Thorisdottir was consistent on the first two days of competition at the CrossFit Games, performing well enough to enter Day 3 in 8th overall. After that, the real climb began.
- Thanks to a strong Day 3 showing that ended with an emotional personal best 200-pound snatch, good enough for second on the event, Thorisdottir found herself in 4th overall heading into the final day of competition, just 10 points behind Holte.
- Event 13 brought Thorisdottir her first event win of the weekend, and 14th all-time event win, helping her reduce the point spread between her and Holte by five points. Holte now led Thorisdottir by just five points.
- The same thing happened on Event 14. Thoridsdottir managed to beat Holte, but barely. Another five point gain for Thorisdottir and the two women entered the final event tied for third overall. It would all come down to who beat who in Event 15.
Thorisdottir handled the task with relative ease, finishing 37 seconds ahead of Holte and earning herself a historic, emotional podium finish, a moment the CrossFit community will remember for a long time.
“I have probably had one of the hardest years of my life, but I have also had one of the best years of my life at the same time,” Thorisdottir said in a post-event interview. Then she looked at the crowd and added: “I’m sorry that I’m crying. I’m really frickin happy right now.”