Letter to Homeland Security helps resolve NI athlete’s Covid travel rules wrangle
A CrossFit athlete from Co Down has managed to overcome one of her toughest obstacles yet, getting a visa to compete in the United States.
Emma McQuaid (31) from Ravernet near Lisburn has been named as the fittest woman in Ireland on multiple occasions.
She qualified to take part in this year’s prestigious CrossFit games in Madison, Wisconsin but was told last month that Covid travel rules set by the US meant she was not allowed to fly from Dublin.
Covid restrictions meant that, with limited exception, anyone who had been in the UK, Ireland and other designated countries in the previous 14 days were not permitted to travel to the US.
Sport Ireland were also unable to assist her as there is currently no recognised national governing body for CrossFit in Ireland.
Emma had been considering a costly detour, in which she travelled to Dubai and self isolated before getting another flight to the United States.
It eventually took a letter to US Homeland security explaining that Emma was “one of the best in the world” at what she does to get permission.
The letter from the organisers of the CrossFit games stated: “From a field of over 264,000 athletes, Emma distinguished herself as one of the best in the world during the CrossFit Open this year and went on to finish first in the CrossFit Lowlands Throwdown semi final” to earn her place.
Now in its 15th year, the organisers describe the CrossFit games as a global event where athletes from all over the world compete for the title of “The Fittest on Earth”.
The letter added they would “highly recommend” that Emma was granted a visa to “continue her quest to become the Fittest woman on earth”.
On Thursday Emma flew out from Dublin to Chicago, with no one more relieved than her mother Sonya.
“It was just two weeks of stress that she didn’t need,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.
“Her mindset wasn’t in the right place and it was so unfair. At the end of the day the CrossFit authorities knew that someone from Europe was going to get through so they should have had all this in place.
“So it wasn’t just Emma but all the European athletes who were in the same boat.
“I imagine it unnerved them all and put them on the back foot with their training.
“But you know what, she’s there now and has a chance to get herself acclimatised and settled.
“There’s little things like a change in food and she can just focus on her game.”
An unusual element of CrossFit compared to other sporting competitions is that Emma has no idea what particular fitness challenges will be set.
Due to begin the competition on July 25 over several days, Emma's varied training regime has covered as many types of training as possible from weight lifting to open water swimming.
"From what she's telling me the first challenge will be to do with the water and paddle boarding, but we just have to wait and see," Sonya said.