in focus: Olympic champ Anna Tunnicliffe

Dream. Desire. Dedication. Discipline. Those are the “four D’s” Anna Tunnicliffe swears by in achieving her goals. Her Olympic gold medal in sailing and status as one of the fittest women in the world prove it’s more than just a slogan for her. Tunnicliffe, 31, who works—and works out—at Mt. Lebanon’s CrossFit studio, 427 Washington Road, has an extensive resume of athletic and personal achievement. In 2008 she won gold in sailing in the Laser Radial category (one-person dinghy) at the Beijing Olympics and four years later placed fifth in women’s match racing in London. She has twice been named International Sailing Federation Rolex World Sailor of the Year in her time between the Games.

But last year she retired from the water to pursue CrossFit, an exercise philosophy and competitive fitness sport that incorporates high intensity interval training, weightlifting, gymnastics and other high caliber exercise techniques. After her first try at CrossFit, Tunnicliffe says she “instantly fell in love.”

Goals are the driving force behind her success. She was 12 and had just moved to the United States from Doncaster, England, when she decided she wanted to compete in the Olympics. When she retired, she made a new goal of making it to the 2013 CrossFit Games. “I always set goals whether big ones or small ones,” she says. “If I have a goal it keeps me focused and on track.”

Tunnicliffe CrossFit
Two of the fittest, Mt. Lebanon CrossFit’s Kevin Beamon and Olympic gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe

At the 2013 games, she won the title of Ninth Fittest Woman in the World. At the 2014 CrossFit Games this summer, she finished in 22nd place at a very tough competition that mixes many fitness competitions, including running, weightlifting, muscle-ups on rings and a torturous thing called a “double under,” where you must pass the jump rope under you twice for each jump.

Her determination is also an inspiration to those around her. “She has a drive I’ve never seen that separates her from normal mortals,” says Kevin Beamon, the director of operations, coach and co-owner of Mt. Lebanon CrossFit.

Beamon first met Tunnicliffe and her coach, Brad Tobias, three years ago while he was training in Miami, Florida, where he lived at the time. The three collectively decided to bring CrossFit back to Pittsburgh when they moved here, and Beamon and Tobias and opened the local studio last year.

“The studio would not be at the same place it is today without Anna,” says Beamon. “She not only inspires me but tells me I can do things I don’t think I can do.” Though Beamon and Tobias are the owners of the studio, Tunniclilffe is a trainer and inspiration to all who practice there. “She is a celebrity in our microcosm,” says Beamon.

And now she has a new goal—she would like to become a motivational speaker to instill dream, desire, determination and discipline in others, especially young women. “My big goal in life is to encourage kids, especially women, to accomplish their dreams and go after them no matter what and not to be discouraged by the world around them.”

Photos by John Altdorfer