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Written by Jia Ying Chia  |

As a female strength athlete, Nina Juna continues to make waves in a sport traditionally associated with men. She has made a name for herself in the world of fitness, joining CrossFit and Weightlifting competitions, and as a local ambassador of health brands like Fuel Athlete and YouC1000. Recently, she joined the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, as the Bruneian representative and the first woman to compete in said Games as a weightlifter. We sat down with Nina to chat a little about her experiences throughout her weightlifting journey and what it really means to have discipline. 

Community and competition don’t necessarily sound like words that go together, but it’s something you’ve consistently pointed out about why you love CrossFit — could you share your thought on that?

NINA JUNA:  For me, it’s like being on a battle floor, we are against each other but out of the floor, right after we finish the competition, it’s back to being friends again. There’s no hard feelings – we learn from each other and we can talk and hang out after.


You’re Brunei’s five-time fittest woman, and counting! How does it feel to be undefeated and to what do you credit your current status?

NINA JUNA:  To be the fittest in Brunei is easy right now for me, because there’s not much competition. But I always see myself from the perspective of Asia regional rankings. For CrossFit, everyone has their own goal and for me I want to compete, and see what my body is capable of every dat and where I can stand in this world. But Asian women athletes are so strong! I only went to the semi-finals twice, I tried to get into the Top 30 this year but I came ranked 39th in Asia. 


When you first started, you not only chose to compete but gave yourself an almost impossible timeline of three days to get ready — what inspired you to go ahead with this plan?

NINA JUNA:  I didn’t know much about what CrossFit was at the time. I thought it was a normal fitness comp and there were a lot of movements I didn’t know how to execute – because they have an execution standard for those moves and I could only pass on the deadlift. I cried after the competition! Calvin, who’s my CrossFit coach, was training at Extremist Gym back then and he recommended I join them, which I eventually did after winning a one-month pass to Extremist in a competition. After my membership expired, I thought ‘This is so challenging!’ and I like challenging things so I just kept with it. 


The recent move into weightlifting is perhaps not surprising then — does this mean you’ll be slowing down on CrossFit competitions? What myths are you happily busting about female weightlifters and the sport in general?

NINA JUNA:  I was weightlifting actually before I even started CrossFit, and I see it as a very pure sport – it’s really focused on technique because you only have six lifts when you’re on that stage. 

Actually, I want to balance it out between the two because I have a shoulder injury from the CrossFit Open this year, and at the same time I do pure lifting for weights – it’s more about muscle and strength and in CrossFit you have explosive movements with high reps. I might have overused the muscle so I’m focused on strength and conditioning exercises more. I want to prove to Bruneians that girls can lift too and some of the female athletes outside of Brunei are even stronger than me, and some of the guys here! I have a goal of three to five years for getting a medal in a major competition like the Olympics or Commonwealth Games. 


That’s a huge goal! Are you feeling confident?

NINA JUNA:  Umm, yeah, because I’m the kind of person where if I really want something, I’ll do what I need to do to get there; training twice a day, five times a week whether it’s CrossFit or weightlifting, my mind set is the same. 


Speaking of determination – how do you keep yourself motivated and competitive?

NINA JUNA:  Hmm, actually, my goal every day is to see myself do better. Yeah it’s always me versus me. I never think about wanting to be stronger or to beat somebody else. It took me so long to see how far I’ve come because when I get better at one thing, Calvin gives me another difficult thing to try and then I need to work to improve and learn about it. Even after doing CrossFit for eight years, I’m still learning how to be the most efficient at doing the exercises. 


What’s something that you didn’t expect to learn, about yourself or from someone recently in a competition?

NINA JUNA:  Oh, I learned how to pace myself during workouts. To avoid burning out too quickly, you need to go slow and steady. 


Okay, as a fellow ice-cream lover we have to know — what’s your go to flavour and where do you go to get it?

NINA JUNA:  VANILLA ! From anywhere, it’s going to be good. 


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