Peter de Sury
In the last six months, the Europe region has experienced phenomenal growth in the sport of fitness. This has reflected in impressive numbers coming out, both at local competitions and in the media, where videos have witnessed the execution of classic main site and “girl” workouts at record times and reps.
The region has traditionally produced top athletes and CrossFit Games winners, like Mikko Salo (2009) and Annie Thorisdottir (2011). Also coming out of Europe is Samantha Briggs, who earned 4th place at the 2011 Games, and Tuomas Vainio, 19th in 2011.
One thing must be said about the European athletes: all top six who represented the region at last year’s Games have worked hard to improve their weaknesses and have been coached by the top experts in lifting, strength, and gymnastics. Many are traveling to the United States to meet with their specialty coaches.
Vainio, Mikko Aronpaa, and Elvar Por Karlsson, who suffered a shoulder injury, are ready to fight for a spot to the Games again in 2012. But the road to Regionals passes through the sand traps of the five workouts of the Open. This year, the workouts will be more competitive than ever with masses of new CrossFitters ready to challenge their better-known peers.
On the women’s side, Mike Burgener, Carl Paoli are coaching Thorisdottir in the Olympic lifts and gymnastics, respectively, and Jami Tikkanen--her head coach--is concentrating on Thorisdottir's mobility. She appears to be even stronger after having seen her performances at various competitions throughout the year. The world is waiting to see if anyone will be able to dethrone her in 2012.
Briggs has reaffirmed herself as an elite athlete, winning European competitions. She has been on a U.S. tour to work on her lifts, also with Burgener. Jenny Jacobsen has been dominating the local competition scene and is ready for 2012, striving to cancel out her unfortunate Games performance in Carson, Calif., last year. Helga Torfadottir has been training hard for a comeback in 2012.
New names to watch this year are Lacee Kovacs, Numi Katrinarson, Frederik Aegidius, Anders Galaly, Sveinbjorn Sveinbornsson, and Lee Howe on the men’s side with some possible surprises coming out of the Mediterranean countries where athletes have come over from other sports like soccer and MMA to CrossFit.
On the women’s side, there are great expectations on 2011 Regional runners-up like Caroline Fryklund, Erla Gudumundsdottir, and Hailey Knowles from the northern countries. We could see surprising performances from Marianna Tzourtek and Martina Barbaro out of the south.
2012, more than ever before, appears to be the year of surprises. Athletes coming out of nowhere, training at their home gyms in some remote town in Europe will come forward to conquer a place in the spotlight.
There will be fierce competition this year on the team side. Last year, Icelandic qualifiers CrossFit BC Island and CrossFit Sport were joined by CrossFit Butcher’s Garage of Denmark at the Home Depot Center. This year, some very competitive teams are coming out from the top boxes in Sweden and the United Kingdom, and although its early to tell, it appears there could be some big surprises in the affiliates that make it to Regionals.
Teams from all over Europe have gained experience by competing at European level and they will give it all at the Open and Regionals.
Europe has had few athletes compete in this category. In 2011, just one male Masters athlete made it to the Games in the 45-49 age division – Rob Powell, a U.S. citizen out of Germany. Scottish athlete, Neil Foley just missed a spot by tying for 20th place, but losing the tie to Charlie Clendening in the 50-54 age division. Tatiana Mazzolini, at 65, earned a spot in her age division to represent the region as the sole female European master.
Foley will be moving up to the 55-50 age bracket, and trying again for the Games once again.
Those athletes who have matured to the magic number of 45 will get to prove their fitness at the Masters level.
Stay on watch for the Open Leaderboard. The battle for Individuals, Teams, and Masters will be fierce.
The growth of CrossFit in the last year has been spectacular. We will be on the lookout for these new firebreathers and cover their stories as the season progresses.
Be sure to follow the athletes of the European region by liking us on Facebook: CrossFit Games – Europe Regional and by following us on Twitter: CFGEuropeReg.