Darcia Ondrovcik survived a childhood of horrific family violence to become the first Indigenous Australian to compete at the CrossFit Games.
- Darcia Ondrovcik says her parent’s relationship was marred by domestic violence
- She always had a love for athletics and found CrossFit helped her to stay on the right path
- Ondrovcik will be mentoring athletes at this weekend’s CrossFit games in Brisbane
The coach and mentor said the sport saved her from a life of drugs and alcohol and also helped her break the cycle of domestic violence in her family by giving her a positive focus.
As a child, Ondrovcik would use her natural athletic ability as an escape from the trauma she was experiencing at home.
“Athletics was the one thing that I did really well at and Cathy Freeman was my idol,” she said.
“The 400-metre race was my race.”
But witnessing the abuse had a profound impact on her that she still deals with today.
“A lot of isolation, lack of confidence, not knowing how to love. Not trusting males, not trusting people in general,” she said.
“There’s a lot of insecurity around men in general, and I’ve had to overcome all that stuff and work through to be able to live the life that I am today.”
In her late teens, Ondrovcik left home in a bid to start a better life for herself, by moving from her hometown of Dubbo to Port Macquarie in New South Wales.
“I started working in bars, hanging out with a lot of older people that were maybe 10 years older,” she said.
“I started taking drugs, drinking a lot, and it was a coping mechanism to deal with all the emotional trauma.
“Rock bottom for me would have been, I was living Port Macquarie, I [had] just come out of a relationship. I didn’t have anywhere to live.
“I stayed in my car down on the beach in Port Macquarie, and I’m just sitting there going, ‘what has my life come to?’.
“I was 18 by this stage, I just turned 18, I’m sleeping in my car.
“My decision was I can either live in my car and stay in Port Macquarie, or go back to Dubbo, my hometown, and just give off on it all.”
Training to push yourself through adversity
She ultimately decided to stay in Port Macquarie and credits CrossFit with helping her cope with her trauma.
“I found CrossFit when I was about 20 [and] I got hooked straight away because athletics was one thing that I wanted to do,” she said.
“I also love lifting weights, and CrossFit combined those two together.
“I found out that there was CrossFit competitions, so I did the CrossFit Open in 2011.”
From there Ms Ondrovcik rapidly progressed in the sport of CrossFit and competed in the team events at the 2016 CrossFit Games.
“It just made a huge impact in my life because I used the sport to deal with my emotional trauma,” she said.
“It helped me live a happier, healthier, positive life that put me in a positive environment.”
Ms Ondrovcik met her husband through CrossFit and now has a two-year-old daughter.
She is also the manager of CrossFit Torian, one of the biggest CrossFit gyms in Australia, and works as a mentor with men and women wanting to overcome emotional trauma.
This weekend Ms Ondrovcik will be mentoring and working with athletes competing in a major CrossFit competition at Pat Rafter Arena, where Australia’s Tia-Clair Toomey and another of the sport’s greats, Rich Froning, will be working out alongside around 500 other competitors.
About 10,000 spectators are tipped to attend the event and Ondrovcik said the sport was attracting big crowds because of the unique community it has been able to cultivate.
“You’ve experienced something hard together. It’s like any adversity in life, you experience a bit of adversity in life, you have a different perspective,” she said.
“All our members are experiencing a bit of adversity through their workout, because what’s up here is the biggest challenge.
“They grow through their mindset, and then being able to experience that together.
“You put everyone together in a colosseum or in a massive grandstand to watch a CrossFit competition, you’re there for the same reasons, because you love it and you know every athlete out on the floor had to start somewhere.”
Ondrovcik’s father Dennis died in a car accident in Dubbo four years ago and despite all the heartache he put her family through, she has been able to forgive him.
“My dad passed away in 2015 and I was 25 years old then — that would have to be the first time in my life that I lived without fear,” she said.
“Even though I moved out of home [and] my father wasn’t in my life, there was still stuff going on, and I still feared for my life. I feared for the safety of my sisters.
“It wasn’t until he passed away that that fear just left me and I started to speak openly about what I experienced as a child.”