Brooke Wells has never known a time when she wasn’t competing.
Her first contest was a race against her twin sister Sydney. Brooke was born first by eight minutes and she’s been competing ever since.
“We were always trying to beat each other, be the better twin,” Brooke says.
Whether it was gymnastics (Brooke won), or track-and-field events (Sydney won) or at school, they were always competing. Although, as Brooke jokingly points out, the competitions weren’t always fair.
“She was a collegiate athlete, so she got all the tutors,” the older-by-eight-minutes sister says. “So if she ever beat me on a test, I was like ‘OK, you have tutors and I don’t.'”
CrossFit or nothing
This zest for competition stemmed from their upbringing. Their father, Ben, was a personal trainer who always wanted to make sure they were physically active.
“One Christmas he got us bikes,” Wells recalls. “My mom wanted to say that they were from Santa Claus but he was not having that. He had to let me and my sister know that the bikes were from him.”
In the Wells household, sports equipment wasn’t a toy and sports were to be taken seriously.
It was on their father’s insistence that Wells joined a CrossFit gym. At the time, Wells wanted to join a regular gym where all her friends went, but her father saw through it
“He’s like, ‘I know what you’re going to do with your gym membership, you’re just going to like socialize the whole time. So you can have a CrossFit membership or you can have nothing,'” Wells recalls him saying.
While it was not the answer any teenager wanted to hear from her father, Wells chose CrossFit and the rest was history.
Within just a few short years, Wells was competing on the global stage at the CrossFit Games and establishing herself as one of the biggest stars in the sport.
Heading into her fourth straight Games, it is no longer her sister, Sydney, she is competing against; rather, it’s the fittest women on Earth.
‘My friends think I’m crazy’
In her corner, another Ben, coach Ben Bergeron, is guiding her through it.
Training with Bergeron means working alongside one of the best CrossFit athletes in the world, two-time Games champion Katrin Davidsdottir. The two have become close friends over the years, something not uncommon in a sport where many of the world’s top athletes regularly train side by side.
In the lead-up to this year’s CrossFit Games, Bergeron invited several top athletes to Boston for a training camp. In addition to Wells and Davidsdottir, the group included 2014 CrossFit Games champion Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and Games participants Amanda Barnhart, Ehea Schuerch and Jessica Griffith.
“It’s so much fun when you get around girls that have the same goals,” Wells said. “My friends think I’m crazy. They’re like ‘you’re spending how long in the gym?’ So when you get to be around girls that are doing the same thing as you, and they really push you, it’s always so much fun.”
While Wells is clearly enjoying her training, it’s not lost on her that her friends stand directly in front of her and her goal to become the Fittest Woman on Earth.
“I know, it’s crazy,” she acknowledges. “It’s really cool that we can do that and still be friends with your competitors. But then also, I know that I’m friends with you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to beat you.”
Fourth time lucky?
This year, she just might.
Wells was still a teenager when she first qualified for the Games back in 2015, finishing an impressive 16th. The following year she climbed to sixth, laying the foundation for a potential podium finish in 2017. But that was not to be.
After a disappointing start to the 2017 Games, Wells placed 14th. Rather than dwell on that, the 23-year-old sees only the bright side.
“I knew I was going to have to take a few steps backward in order to take a lot of steps forward,” she says. “And I think I just hadn’t taken all my steps forward yet.”
These steps included fundamentally reshaping who she is as a CrossFit athlete. Since arriving on the scene, Wells carved out a name for herself as “the Strong Girl.” Someone who could dominate the field with a barbell, but would struggle in gymnastic or endurance events.
Working with Bergeron, Wells is determined to become a more well-rounded athlete.
“People at my gym call me ‘Cardio Brooke’ because it’s just so new,” she says. “I’m not scared when I see a longer run. I’m not scared when I see muscle-ups in a workout. I’ve worked so hard on everything that I’m bad at that I’m really not scared of anything anymore. That’s why I’m so excited about this year is because I’ve taken a lot of steps forward now.”
While she attempts to quickly set aside her reputation as “just a strong girl,” one moniker that can’t be rushed away is being the “young one.”
Despite having qualified for her fourth straight CrossFit Games, Brooke is still one of the youngest competitors in the field.
That doesn’t mean she’s any less experienced. None of her opponents can boast about having competed since before they were born.