Some of the nation's fittest CrossFit athletes - along with a sprinkling of international stars - are preparing to descend on the Illawarra for the 2023 Down Under Championship.
Australia's premier CrossFit event will return to the WIN Entertainment Centre this Friday, with the three-day competition to conclude on Sunday. CrossFit is a high-intensity program that combines gymnastics, Olympic-style weightlifting and general fitness.
The annual championship is set to attract more than 300 participants, who will be put through a series of gruelling workouts. Two people confirmed to return are last year's major individual men's and women's winners, Maddie Sturt and Jay Crouch.
Sturt is coming back to defend her top crown, with her partner Crouch opting to compete in the teams event in 2023. The pair will head up from Melbourne on Wednesday night for the Illawarra-based competition.
"We don't really have too many big competitions in Australia. There's the main one in Brisbane (the Topian Pro) which is part of the CrossFit season, but in terms of large comps, this is the only other one," Sturt told the Mercury.
"It's really cool to have something else to train for in the back end of the year. It's another competition to focus on and another opportunity to test yourself on the competition floor. There's not too many surprises (at the Down Under Championships), we know all of the workouts this year. You get them two weeks before the comp so there's not too much time (to get ready), but you can definitely have a play around and think about what the best strategy is for the workouts.
"My preparation has been interesting. I've been training alongside my partner Jay for his competitions and he's now in a bit more of a relaxed phase, and it's been my turn to take training seriously and hit it hard."
Crouch added that he looked forward to competing in the teams event in Wollongong.
"I've had a big pretty big season overseas as an individual, so I thought that it was time for some fun," he said.
"It was pretty special (to win it last year), it's the biggest off-season comp that we have in Australia. And my manager is part of running it, so I love supporting it. And being back in front of an Aussie crowd is always cool."
The Down Under Championship isn't a CrossFit invitational or qualifier event, but it is a CrossFit licensed event. There will be prize money on offer and the competition caters for all divisions and age groups.
Past competitors have included Southern Highlands talent Ricky Garard, who finished third individually at last year's World CrossFit Games, American superstar Lauren Fisher and six-time Fittest Woman on Earth, Tia-Clair Toomey.
The championship's media director John Bric said Illawarra residents could expect to see more top-line talent in 2023.
"It's pretty much the cream of the crop," he said.
"For example Ricky Garard is definitely a top 10 athlete, and then you've got two other guys from America - Chandler Smith and Noah Ohlsen - who would be top five, top 10 competitors across the world. In terms of Australian talent, this is pretty much the best we've got, although obviously there's been a few injuries and for others it didn't quite fit their schedule.
"But it's definitely an elite level with some of the world's best athletes competing this weekend."