As the men’s heats began at noon, the stadium had reached maximum capacity, with throngs of loyal supporters decked out in colorful apparel. Fans located themselves as close to their favorite athletes as possible, with the loudest shouts and screams belonging to those cheering on local crowd favorite, Young-Jun Kim.
Michael Mogard started the day in first position with 35 points, hoping to defend his reign as Asia’s fittest man.
Ranked second and third and closely following Mogard, were Phil Hesketh and Eric Carmody, with 42 and 43 points respectively. Both Hesketh and Carmody are new to Asia, but not to the competitive side of CrossFit.
Last year, the two men lived in other regions and competed at their respective regionals. Hesketh took 14th place at the 2013 Europe Regional, and Carmody took 15th place at the 2013 South East Regional.
Fast forward a year, and they were in contention for the CrossFit Games or a podium spot.
“I had a problem with nerves and not being able to eat and sleep, but coming into this weekend, it has been good. My performance is matching the training that I have put in,” said Hesketh.
Carmody started the day off in third position, thanks to consistently solid performances in Events 3 and 4 yesterday, and especially after pulling away from the defending champion with consistent strict handstand push-ups. However, Carmody knew he had to dig deep to move up the Leaderboard.
The women’s side of the competition promised a closely contested match between two athletes representing the Middle East – Marlene Andersson, representing CrossFit 965, Kuwait and Candice Ford, representing CrossFit Lifespark, Dubai.
Crowd-pleaser Linda Huynh was sorely missed, after having to withdraw from the competition due to a knee injury. Her husband, Neil Seip and fellow regional competitor, also took a leave of absence from the weekend to be by his wife’ side.
“She wanted to save her grip from being destroyed and jumped down the rope on the floor. We could not find an MRI machine over the weekend but the doctors are pretty sure that it’s just a ligament tear and she will be OK,” said Jamie Light, head coach at CrossFit Asia.
The dreaded 50s event took no hostages.
Athletes in the initial heats started their journey across the floor confidently, with steady pacing on the rower, box jump overs, deadlifts and wall balls, before they struggled at the rings for the remaining time.
The women of Heat 3 took to the floor after a loud and excited cheer from the crowds, who were up on their feet and clapping together.
Marlene Andersson led the heat from the start and refused to let anyone past her right till the end.
She began with a measured row, followed closely by Crystal Sullivan, who leapt right behind her on the box jump overs and into the deadlift station.
Andersson steadily pulled ahead, executing 10 unbroken deadlifts at a time, with an obvious hip extension at the top so as to avoid a no-rep from her judge.
“I wanted to speed right up so I may have rounded my back a little, but I really wanted to exaggerate my extension to make sure every rep counted,” said Andersson.
Shooting wall balls at a 10-foot target proved no hassle for the Kuwaiti-based athlete, with Sullivan 15 reps behind her at all times.
The ring dips took the most amount of time for Andersson, as she had to break them up into smaller sets of five, and sometimes even three, in order complete the requisite 50.
Katherine Althoff joined Andersson soon after on the ring dips, along with Yuko Sakuyama, Sullivan and Jennifer Scott.
While Althoff made a valiant attempt to catch the leader, Andersson was far too swift, and after finishing her dips with quickly strung singles, she regained her speed.
“It’s always good to have people beside you, but I wanted to stay ahead, even if that meant breaking the dips down to single reps,” said Andersson.
The wall balls stood no chance against the determined athlete, who made short work of the 50 reps and moved on to the deadlifts.
Towards the end of the workout, Andersson stood alone on the deadlift mat and finished the event in first position.
Sakuyama chipped at the workout steadily to end the event in third place, behind Andersson and Sullivan.
“(Coach) Otoya from CrossFit Chikara told me to pace this workout and go easy, given my height disadvantage…that really prevented me from blowing this workout,” said Sakuyama.
Event 6 Results
1. Marlene Andersson (23:25)
2. Jennifer Scott (23:50)
3. Yuko Sakuyama (23:57)
The brutality of the last event of the weekend lay in its simplicity: one pull-up bar, one barbell, 72 reps and a six-minute time cap.
While most women in the initial heats were able to fulfill their quota of 64 pull-ups, the following eight 135-lb. overhead squats posed a significant challenge. None of the women in the first two heats were able to finish the event.
Heat 3 commenced with the athletes loudly cheering within a team huddle and encouraging spectators to put their hands together for a “3-2-1… Go!” in unison.
Butterflying their way through the pull-ups, the leaders in the heat only needed to break their sets three, or in some cases four times, to complete the requisite set.
Former gymnast Ford led the way, followed closely by Sullivan, Sakuyama and Andersson.
The LifeSpark coach completed the eight reps unbroken, while Sakuyama lost control of her bar after her sixth and seventh rep, but was still able to finish the workout in second spot, much to the crowd’s delight.
Andersson only managed to overhead squat five reps within the time cap, but that was enough for her to be crowned the Fittest in Asia.
In spite of her win in Event 7, it was too little too late for Ford, who trailed four points behind Andersson at the end of Day 3.
“I’m just not that strong this year,” explained Ford.
As Andersson stood atop the podium she confessed that, “Being number one is a dream come true.”
The recently married athlete delayed her honeymoon to train for the Asia Regional, a move that has clearly borne fruit.
“It has been a really long year for me and my husband. He has made many sacrifices on my behalf and I owe him a lot,” said Andersson, tearing up.
Event 7 Results
1. Candice Ford (3:18)
2. Yuko Sakuyama (5:50)
3T. Laura Apollonio Bergen (6:04)
3T. Carrie Freestone (6:04)
1. Marlene Andersson (25)
2. Candice Ford (29)
3. Yuko Sakuyama (31)
4. Crystal Sullivan (33)
5. Laura Apollonio Bergen (53)
6. Katherine Althoff (54)
7. Choi Mi-Jung (60)
8. Vanessa Fung (64)
9. Jennifer Scott (68)
10. Carrie Freestone (73)
The men’s 50s event opened with a couple of names rising above the competition: Henrik Olofsson and Ivan Marjanovic. As in Day 2, both athletes separated early from the rest in their respective heats, revealing their powerful engines that they possessed within.
“It would have helped to be chasing someone! I had a hard time maintaining my pace on the way back, especially with the box jumps, they felt twice as high!” admitted Olofsson, from CrossFit BK in Thailand.
Olofsson also had the vocal support from the crowd, bringing them to their feet when he carried his barbell to the next start point during the deadlifts, instead of dropping-and-rolling like the rest.
“I’m surprised no one else did it. It doesn’t help to put the bar down – it’s better to get the stretch reflex. I know the crowd liked it, but I wasn’t showing off, that was my plan,” he said.
Just before the final heats began for the highly talented names in the field, the crowd hushed in suspense as each athlete was introduced, with the music that filled the stadium adding to the anticipation.
As the men began their 50-calorie rows in strong and steady paces, each athlete was noticeably aware of their competition, with stolen glances across the floor. Hesketh was the first athlete to reach the first set of box jumps, followed closely by Carmody and Ben Thompson.
With a sporting background in rugby and a build to match, Hesketh moved rapidly for an athlete of his size. He continued grinding through the box jumps and pounded through each deadlift, eventually heading to the wall balls, where he remained alone. With Carmody close behind, Hesketh knew he had to maintain his pace.
“I set off really fast so that I would be ahead. I don’t like to chase from behind. I like all the movements in this event, especially the wall balls, so I used my height to my advantage. I have also been working on my gymnastics so the ring dips were okay,” he said.
Meanwhile, the crowd continued with their onslaught of screams and cheers for the athletes on the floor, with clear sections of the stadium backing specific athletes and counting their reps in unison.
Showing no signs of fatigue, Hesketh, who had maintained his lead from the start of the heat, again brought the crowd to their feet by being the first athlete to reach the rowers in the entire event.
By the one-minute mark, all three athletes, Hesketh, Carmody and Thompson were frantically pulling away at the rowers.
When time was called, a floored Hesketh emerged victorious with a time of 21:07, much to the delight of the crowd. The victory critically earned him valuable points in the Leaderboard, overtaking Mogard into the number one spot.
“I knew I was slowing down, but I heard what the MC was saying about the others, so I focused on maintaining my 15-20 rep lead,” said Hesketh.
Carmody, who finished closely behind Hesketh, was undoubtedly in a good mood.
He now stood at second place with 45 points, just two points below Hesketh and one point ahead of Mogard.
“I didn’t want to go too fast out of the gate, but Phil set an awesome pace. It was tough, and there were no surprises, but knowing that Ben was creeping up behind me on the box jumps was good motivation. Having said that, I wasn’t worried, because I know I can row,” said Carmody confidently.
Also making a comeback from fifth position on Day 2 was Thompson, who with a final time of 21:25, moved up to third place.
“I did everything to plan from this event. I just wanted to hang close to the leaders, I knew if I was within ten reps of them, I could probably catch up at the final set of box jumps and beat them at the rower. But I’m shorter than the rest so I don’t really like wall balls. I stayed within five reps the whole time, but Phil was so far out so I tried to focus on catching Eric instead. I give full credit to Eric though; he did a fantastic job. Overall I‘m happy I improved a lot from last year,” said Thompson.
Event Results 6
1. Phil Hesketh (21:07)
2. Eric Carmody (21:18)
3. Ben Thompson (21:25)
All men jumped up onto the bars, performing butterfly pull-ups in unison like a well-rehearsed orchestra symphony. Hesketh was the first to break up his reps, followed by Carmody. Mogard continued for another ten reps more, no doubt due to the fact that victory would send him back to Carson.
Carmody was the first to finish, much to the approval of the crowd, quickly followed by Mogard.
As both men set themselves up for the eight 205-lb. overhead squats, Carmody took a few seconds longer, while Mogard started off with a power clean, a jerk up onto the back, and then got going.
Hesketh followed closely reaching the barbells in third position.
Mogard and Carmody were at the center of attention, as each man went unbroken through the eight overhead squats. As the crowd seemed to focus on Mogard out in front, Carmody dropped his bar and began sprinting towards the mat. Mogard seemed surprised to see Carmody from the corner of his eye and quickly rushed onto the mat, but it was a second too late.
Carmody clinched first position in Event 7 with a timing of 2:22, and the crowd erupted into thunderous applause and screams. Hesketh came in third with a time of 22:27 and Aronpää fourth at 2:39, yet the athletes still didn’t know for certain what this meant.
Carmody, who initially looked confused over whether this victory meant that he was heading to Carson, paced back and forth on the floor.
After a few minutes, while waiting for the announcement of official results, the crowd from CrossFit Sentinel – who were obviously refreshing the Leaderboard on their browsers, broke into loud cheers ahead of the announcement: Carmody is Games-bound.
“I thought I’d be slower than the others on the pull-ups, but I threw off my gloves at the last second and just took off. I ripped my hands and couldn’t even feel my fingers, but this was the last event. When I went up to the bar, I saw Mogard running and thought that this is where it’s going to be won or lost. When I reached the mat, I was surprised and looked around thinking ‘Am I first?’” admitted the newly crowned Asia Regional Champion.
Carmody’s coach Jeff Barnett was beaming with pride when the final official was made:
“Eric didn’t just win. He fought all weekend to come from behind and tie up the score going into the final event. In order to win the region and get a shot at the Games, nothing less than winning the event outright would do. And that is exactly what he did. He crossed the finish line one second ahead of the next competitor. Had they have traded spots, the story would be different. But he took the floor with the will to win, executed flawlessly and got the job done. Champion.”
And while the community surrounding Carmody congratulated him on the competition floor, he was quick to add, “It ain’t over yet, there is still a lot of work to do before the Games in Carson.”
Event 7 Results
1. Eric Carmody(2:22)
2. Michael Mogard (2:23)
3. Phil Hesketh (2:27)
1. Eric Carmody (46)
2. Phil Hesketh (46)
3. Michael Mogard (48)
4. Shingo Moromasa (72)
5. Mikko Aronpää (72)
6. Ben Thompson (78)
7. Zohar Lipkin (92)
8. Utku Tuncer (98)
9. Clay Braden (103)
10. Ant Haynes (108)
Correction: Originally, the Men's Event 7 Results were in fact the Men's Event 6 Results. This error has been fixed.