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CrossFit® / september 2018
Sarah Corda, Global Newsroom

Tia-Clair Toomey and Shane Orr on Their Relationship, Shared Values and the 2019 Games

Athlete and coach. Wife and husband. There’s no debating that Tia-Clair Toomey and Shane Orr are the ultimate team.

Toomey is the reigning Fittest Woman on Earth. Her win at this summer’s 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games ties her with Annie Thorisdottir and Katrin Davidsdottir as the only woman to win the title twice.

Orr was by her side for both victories; but, he’s been alongside her – been her teammate – for a lot longer than that. In fact, he was the one who introduced Toomey to CrossFit.

Toomey and Orr first met at a triathlon when they were in their teens. Toomey finished the first leg, the swim, ahead of the rest of the field, despite being a 15 year old competing against those double her age.  

“I wouldn't say I was star struck, but I was definitely something,” says Orr. “I wanted to catch up to her so that I could at least show her what I was made of.”

I wouldn't say I was star struck, but I was definitely something.

Orr became so focused on impressing Toomey that his strategy and pacing went out the door. “I put a lot of emphasis and effort into catching up on the bike, which I didn’t do, to the point that I'd exerted way too much energy.”

“I’m running out of energy, really struggling and I hear, ‘You can do it! Keep going, you can do it!’ Sure enough I look up and it's her.”

“That was our first encounter and it was a true representation of where we are at now years later,” jokes Orr. “We're still in the fitness industry and she's still cheering me on.”

That was our first encounter and it was a true representation of where we are at now years later.

Finding CrossFit

During their courtship, Orr began taking CrossFit classes with his rugby team as part of their training. He was hooked.

“Shane convinced me to go to a session with him, and to be honest, I actually didn't like it the first session. I felt like it just wasn't for me.”

Convinced the workout regimen would help Toomey on the track – the sport she was focused on at that time – Orr enrolled them in CrossFit classes together, regardless of Toomey not being fully on board.

“The more I went, I really started finding that love for it,” says Toomey. “There was a community aspect. I was so used to training by myself. And I started realizing it was not just about building your fitness. You're learning a lot more about nutrition, taking care of your actual health and how that affects your performance.”

“CrossFit, they were the first people to say to me that what we do in the next 23 hours is just as important as this hour workout. That resonated with me.”

CrossFit, they were the first people to say to me that what we do in the next 23 hours is just as important as this hour workout.

Toomey was competing in local CrossFit competitions less than a year later.

“When I realized I could do CrossFit as a sport, everything rapidly changed,” she says. “She’s naturally competitive,” adds Orr when it’s noted that many people have barely mastered the basic CrossFit movements within their first year, let alone are signing up for competitions.

“In order to get prepared for competitions, I needed to do more than what was in the prescribed workouts for the class,” continues Toomey.

“Shane started to research different movement techniques on the Internet. He looked outside the box and thought about what we could come up with that we hadn’t done before.”

Over time, this naturally morphed into Orr becoming Toomey’s coach.

In 2014, Toomey competed in her first CrossFit Regional, where she placed 18th. Later that summer, the pair traveled to California together to watch the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games.

Orr remembers watching the Games with awe. “That was the year Camille [Leblanc-Bazinet] won. I couldn’t believe what the athletes were accomplishing." 

“But Tia's reaction was different. I’m remember she said, ‘I'm doing this next year.’”

And she did. The following year, 2015, Toomey would not only qualify for the Games, she would end up on the podium.

“That really highlights the difference between the mentality of the average CrossFitter and what Tia wanted to achieve.”

That really highlights the difference between the mentality of the average CrossFitter and what Tia wanted to achieve.

A Team, Multiple Ways

It’s clear from Toomey’s performances at the CrossFit Games over the last four years that she spends a lot of time training. That means she spends a lot of time with her coach. But unlike other elite athletes and their coaches, when the workouts end, Toomey and Orr are driving home from the gym together, returning to the same home. While many may find it difficult to be coached by their spouse, Toomey sees it as an advantage.

“I think Shane's my secret weapon,” she says.

“I know that Shane absolutely has the 100 percent best interest in me and my abilities and wants me to succeed. He understands me better than anyone. He can feed off my emotion. I know that if I'm feeling down or there's a workout that didn't go my way, Shane knows exactly how to bring me back out of that hole.”

“Of course we get frustrated with each other at times,” she adds. “But also we don't know any better.”

This time, Orr nods in agreement. “I've been a part of Tia's fitness journey or athletic career for a long portion of time.”

“We both have a passion for fitness and actually improving our performance and lives. That's what attracted us together. To have someone, your companion there next to you, to be a part of it, just makes it more special I feel.”

We both have a passion for fitness and actually improving our performance and lives. That's what attracted us together.

Orr believes shared values are what brought the two together and make their relationship work. He sees shared values at the core of any good team—whether that’s a marriage or an athletic team.

And these two value many of the same things. Commitment, honesty, motivation and health are four that come to their minds immediately.

“If we just hold ourselves accountable for these values, we can achieve goals,” he says.

With changes to the CrossFit Games season on the horizon after the recent announcements of newly sanctioned competitions where Games qualifying spots will be up for grabs, Orr says these values are what keep the pair’s focus unwavering.

“No matter the format, the Fittest on Earth will rise above the rest. We're still trying to be the Fittest on Earth. I believe and she believes in the process.”

“At the end of the day, CrossFit's always been about this constantly varying, right?” he adds.

It’s a response that sparks a smile from Toomey.

No matter the format, the Fittest on Earth will rise above the rest. We're still trying to be the Fittest on Earth.

Shop the Nano 8 Team Series Pack—the black and gold Nano that Toomey and Orr are wearing in the images above.

CrossFit® / september 2018
Sarah Corda, Global Newsroom