Interview: Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet Hopes to Compete at Tokyo Olympics

There aren’t many women who have been crowned the Fittest Woman on Earth™ and Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet remains one of the strongest forces in the sport of CrossFit. One of the few athletes to have competed at the Reebok CrossFit Games nine times as an individual athlete, she took home the title in 2014 and has barely slowed down since.

In 2018 she came fourth in the Open worldwide and 13th at the Games, an extraordinary performance for such a long-time athlete. Now the 29-year-old is pondering life after CrossFit and sat down with BarBend to discuss her present, her future, and what the heck she’s thinking about those alleged changes that may be coming to next year’s CrossFit Games.

BarBend: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat, Camille! It’s rare to speak to someone with so much experience at the CrossFit Games. How do you feel the sport has changed since you won in 2014?

I think it’s changed a lot an the most obvious thing is the level the athletes are at. I feel like since 2014, everyone has kind of realized that we are professional athletes and we’ve started to act like that.

Any thoughts on the currently unconfirmed changes that Greg Glassman recently discussed regarding the Games format?

I mean it’s hard to say anything because we don’t know yet. I think right now it’s hard for all the athletes, in that this is kind of our life right now. I think it’s very scary for a lot of us. At the same time, we’re all going to evolve and change with whatever’s going to happen. And right now nothing has been confirmed or denied. So we’re just waiting to see when we’re going to have an Open.

I think for me, the first thing I thought was, “That sucks,” because I would like to have a little more of a season. It’s a very short break, to go destroy yourself at the CrossFit Games and then have to compete again two months afterward. But it’ll be whatever it’ll be and even if some day there are no CrossFit Games at all, I think there’s such a demand for this sport that I think someone else would do a “Fittest on Earth” championship somewhere.

I only have the same information as everyone else, so I’m in the same boat as everyone. I think the hard thing right now is just having this sort of waiting game and waiting to see what the next season will look like.

How long do you think you can keep competing at such a high level?

I think next year I’m going to compete at the CrossFit Games and the year after that, I’m really going to try to qualify for the Olympics in weightlifting. That’s my plan so far, and I’ll see where I go from there.

So the plan is to compete alongside your sister? (Rachel, a -58kg athlete who won bronze at this year’s Commonwealth Games.)

Well, we’re not in the same weight class, but I think it’d be great if we both qualified for the Olympics. There’s a possibility. I’d be a -59kg and she’d be a -55kg.

A sketch Camille performed in to poke fun at CrossFit newbie stereotypes.

In the 17-3 documentary you made some interesting comments regarding the intense pressure of competing at the Games:

Everyone ranks you, right? So everything is about your rank, everything is about, ‘you’re worth this because you’re ranked that,’ or ‘you’re worth this because you have that.’ And you know all that is kind of B.S. I’m worth me because I’m me. And you kind of lose sight of that as things pile up, and you get nervous about losing your sponsor (…) going through that you lose a bit of yourself.

Do you still find yourself dealing with these pressures?

When I was way younger and I started to become more known in the sport, that was the truth. That is the pressure that we have. It’s like you go from enjoying doing the sport and wanting to be the best you can be and finding enjoyment and satisfaction through that, and then all of a sudden I think everyone starts to put on you their own expectations and people want you to do great because they want to say they know you, in a way.

And it becomes really weird because you’re so young, so you’re like, does everyone like me because I’m doing well? And it does become something quite poisonous. I think as you grow older, as I have — I’ve been to the CrossFit Games nine times, so I’m obviously in no way quantifying or qualifying that way anymore. It was a very brief moment in my life but I remember it was quite destructive because it makes you forget who you are, a little bit.

Now I’m in a position where I love what I do, I’m here for the love of it, I’m here to be a role model and show people what hard work looks like. And no matter the result, I’m fully focused on really trying to reach my own personal goal. If that means getting top ten, that’s awesome. If it’s winning, that’s awesome. If it means finishing last, that’s also awesome. I’ve just been completely at peace with myself that way.

I’m going to be 30 this year. There’s this amazing thing that happens when you realize things are not about you and I think my focus has changed to really wanting to help people. That’s where my business is going with CLB Nation.

How do you plan for your business to help people?

The biggest focus of my last year has been our online program. The idea is to get people who just need somewhere to start. I’m very aware that in the CrossFit world, we’re way further ahead, knowledge-wise, than the general population is with regard to fitness and nutrition, and t’s really hard to try to ask someone who doesn’t have much knowledge there to dive into this right away.

So I’m trying to figure out a way to reach that population.

Right, not just telling people to buy a fat loss pill.

Right, there’s micro and macro, and there’s nothing macro out there. In nutrition, you hear this all the time. “You have to have calcium and have vitamin D.” And what you truly should be saying is, “You should be having vegetables and eating protein, fat, and carbs.”

Those are the biggest things you should focus on instead of being like, I ate fried chicken and fries but I had magnesium supplements with it. There’s a big disconnect out there because that’s how people make money.

“I’m going to tell you all the supplements you should be taking because I want to make money selling supplements, and I won’t tell you that you’ll save thousands of dollars just eating right.”

Aren’t you also a chemical engineer? Your Instagram describes you as a chemical engineer, where does that fit into your future? 

No! (laughs) I did my study. I did a couple of internships, I just felt like, I’m not going to help many people this way. But I think study and working all night and sleeping for an hour and then training, it made me really tough and I’m very grateful for my study. A lot of people say I wasted 7 years of my life and I disagree with them, I think it made me extremely tough.

I think the beauty with engineering is problem solving, so I got quite good at that and I think it’s very helpful for me now as I try to build my business. It’s scary, but at the same time I’ll find a way, I’ll reach out to the right people, I’ll keep learning. 

Well, we wish you all the best at solving all your future problems! We hope to see you at the Games next year and Tokyo after that.

This interview has been edited for space and clarity. 

Featured image via @camillelbaz and @redbull on Instagram.

Nick English

Nick English

Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of things.

After Shanghai, he went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before finishing his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and heading to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like BarBend, Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.

No fan of writing in the third person, Nick’s passion for health stems from an interest in self improvement: How do we reach our potential?

Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.

At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.

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