Last year, Regional athletes greeted the dawn in Cape Town with mountain views and sea air. This year, they huddled around steaming cups of morning coffee in the shadow of the Johannesburg stadium that played host to the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
The Africa Regional has migrated from its recent home on the Cape Coast to the heart of the Gauteng province where the majority of the African boxes are based. It’s a move that means more spectators and a super charge of energy. But it also means competing at a higher altitude.
The cheering of the crowd moved to the rhythm of the athletes and rose in pitch and intensity as the heats progressed through Event 1: Jackie. Athletes readied themselves in near silence, but as the rowing started, the cheering began, and it built through the thrusters until it reached fever pitch when the athletes hit the rig for pull-ups.
It was the pull-ups that got to many of the athletes. In the first two heats, several women were unable to finish, as the judges called time at 10 minutes.
In the third heat, there was an explosion of activity on the rowers with last year’s winner, Rika Diedericks and the 2011 winner Mona Pretorious, went head to head. While fans expected Diedericks to flex her Olympic-rower muscles and move off the rower first, Pretorious matched her in a surprising demonstration of speed. The two athletes flew through the thrusters and started pull-ups at the same time.
Diedericks was confident about her performance.
“The row was good because that’s where I’m most efficient,” she said.
She proved most efficient on the rig too, powering through the pull-ups to finish first. Even though the had a strong start, Pretorious dropped for frequent rests on the pull-ups, then lost her lead, finishing seventh in the event.
Newcomer, Nicole Seymour finished second place just three seconds ahead of Carla Nunes da Costa who is competing in Africa this year, after placing ninth at the 2012 Europe Regional.
Nunes da Costa said the altitude got her.
“Jackie at high altitude is like Jackie on steroids,” said the athlete from the Cape who came up a week early to acclimate.
1. Rika Diedericks (7:15)
2. Nicole Seymour (8:01)
3. Carla Nunes da Costa (8:04)
When the men took to the stadium, things got loud.
In the first heat, the athletes struck an easy rhythm and hit the thrusters around the same time, with Sean Tangney (CrossFit Proform) making it to the rig first and then finishing first in the heat.
Heat 2 was a blitz of action as Ivan Kruger broke into the lead that would earn him fifth place overall.
“I overshot the row a bit, so I had to slow down on the thrusters,” said Kruger, who is competing in his first Regional. “But the pull ups were amazing.”
When the final heat started, the crowd roared. With veteran athletes Danie du Preez, Richard Smith and Jason Smith going up against last year’s winner and this year’s Open leader, David Levey, the crowd was expecting good competition. And they didn’t disappoint.
Jaco van der Vyer was first to the pull-ups with Levey close behind. It was a case of “blink and you’ll miss it,” as Levey flew off the rig to finish first.
“I went easy on the row so I didn’t overdo it,” said Levey, explaining his strategy. “I did the thrusters unbroken and I really enjoyed the pull ups.”
A name absent from the top of the Leaderboard is Richard Smith, who placed second in the Open. Smith sustained a knee injury just two weeks before the Regional and, although he’s competing, he said he’s not at 100 percent.
1. David Levey (5:42)
2. Gian Smit (5:49)
2. Jaco van Vyver (5:49)
Team Fitness Technologies (CrossFit Platinum) was first off the rower and sped through the thrusters and pull-ups to lead the heat, with CrossFit Proform just behind.
When teams took to the floor for the second heat, there were two teams spectators couldn’t wait to watch: CrossFit Platinum and CrossFit PBM. The word in the box being that CrossFit Platinum were fielding the strongest men in the region and CrossFit PBM the strongest women.
Athletes set a frenetic pace on the rowers with athletes springing to the thrusters within seconds of each other. Platinum made it to the rig first, but seemed to be taking strain and fell back.
Cape CrossFit Avengers took the gap, swooping in to take the lead. The male athlete hit the rower ahead of the other teams and took the team to a very comfortable 50-second lead.
Cape CrossFit Avengers was the only team to finish the event.
Following Cape CrossFit Avengers was CrossFit PBM2 and CrossFit Platinum.
1. Cape CrossFit Avengers (14:59)
2. CrossFit PBM2 (15:40)
3. CrossFit Platinum (15:50)