Just when you thought it couldn't get any more exciting.
After celebrating the success of the elite teams in the Australia Region, attention quickly turned to Events 6 and 7 of the individual competition.
On the men's side, Chad Mackay's failure to stay within striking distance of the podium all but guaranteed that a new male qualifier would be heading to the StubHub Center in July. For the women, six previous Games qualifiers all stood a chance of finishing in the top three.
Heading into the final day of competition, Rob Forte and Brandon Swan retained their distance from the rest of the field with Forte in first place with 28 points and Swan in second with 35 points. Whilst it seemed certain the two Games veterans would be returning, there were several competitors in contention to join them.
Khan Porter started Day 3 in third place with 53 points however New Zealander, Kevin Manuel, was close behind with 57 points, followed by the lucky qualifier Zeke Grove with 60 points. Sitting beyond them but still within reach was a small group of athletes with the potential to make a late charge including James Newbury, Ben Garard and 2011 Games athlete, Chris Hogan.
Denae Brown began Day 3 in first place with 20 points with Kara Webb just one point behind her in second. Pip Malone went into the final day of competition in third place with 28 points. However, with Amanda Allen with 32 points, Jessica Coughlan with 33 and Ruth Anderson Horrell with 36 points, it was too close to make any confident predictions about the final placings.
Coming into The 50s, the women’s Leaderboard was as tight as it had been in years with just 16 points separating first and sixth place.
In a show of sheer grit and determination, Games veteran Anderson Horrell kept her hopes of a fourth-straight CrossFit Games appearance alive setting a new event record.
Until today, the event had defeated almost every woman who attempted it with Stacie Tovar from the North Central the only female athlete to get back on the rower.
While the deadlifts were light for most competitors at just 120 lb., technique was crucial with the heavy overhead squats to come in Event 7.
The volume proved far too much for the women of Heat 1, though Dimi Poulos was by far the standout, getting into her second set of 10 box jump overs on her way back to the rower.
In the top heat Allen, Coughlan and Anderson Horrell needed a high finish in hopes of securing a podium finish.
With so much on the line Allen and Anderson Horrell went out hard from the start.
Allen took the lead coming off the deadlifts and narrowly held it onto the rings, but Anderson Horrell made her move halfway through the dips to take a lead she would only extend as she made her way back down the floor.
Brown showed her gymnastics class in the ring dips to sneak in front of Allen and finish second overall.
Anderson Horrell was the standout performer taking no time for rest as she rowed her way to 19 calories, 12 more than the previous event record.
“There was no point coming second today,” she said. “I decided I was just going to hit it hard, and if it all fell apart, then it all fell apart. I'm pretty sure Sam Briggs had a lot to fight for today so I'm pretty sure (the event record) won't stand for long. I think she'll finish the workout because these movements are her strength, and she needs the win.”
Both Brown and Allen made it to the rower and only two calories separated them when the buzzer sounded.
The result saw Allen, who is desperate to return to the CrossFit Games as an individual after a two-year break, jump back into the top three, tied with Malone with 35 points.
“It was supposed to be fives on the ring dips but it went to ones pretty quickly,” she said. “Ideally, no missed reps but there were a lot of missed reps on the wall balls. Just not being familiar with the flooring and the ball and the target, it does throw a lot at you when you are fatigued, but I stuck with the game plan apart from the ring dips, which they dictated to me, ‘You will do singles.'”
Event 6 Results
1. Ruth Anderson Horrell (21:31)
2. Denae Brown (21:46)
3. Amanda Allen (21:48)
Under extreme pressure to keep her third place spot on the Leaderboard, Malone put on a show to win the final event and secure a podium position. And keeping up with the theme of the weekend, the 2013 Games qualifier set a new event record in the process.
The previous time of 2:00 was set by Talayna Fortunato in the South East Regional last weekend, but Malone had no trouble setting a new mark, reaching the finish mat in a time of 1:55.
Just like the men, the women in the early heats struggled with the 135-lb. overhead squat with only 12 of the 34 athletes completing the event in the six-minute time cap.
But it was the final heat that the fans were most interested in as the battle for the three podium positions got underway in front of a packed crowd at the WIN Entertainment Centre. Two previous Games competitors would miss out, while three females would secure another ticket to Carson, California.
With 64 pull-ups and eight overhead squats ahead of them, the women took to the bar with the intention of holding on as long as possible.
Coughlan was the last to drop off, but it was Malone who would make her way to the overhead squats first with Amy Dracup in close pursuit.
Malone stayed calm under pressure as 11 women tried hard to catch her, but her unbroken set of eight reps saw her finish the event in a record time of 1:55.
Malone said performing so well on the final event was a huge relief.
“I didn’t perform how I wanted to all weekend. I had something go wrong in every event,” she said. “Nothing went to plan and I knew it came down to that workout and it had to be a good workout for me and I just had to keep my head together and go for it.”
Webb followed her to the finish mat one second later to also beat Fortunato’s record, with a time of 1:56 and Dracup took third.
Brown finished the final event in fourth place, which was enough to secure first place overall and she was ecstatic.
“On top of the world. I think that I have to keep pinching myself because it really feels so surreal. I think it’s not actually going to hit me for a couple of days what I’ve actually just done,” she said.
“I expected the girls to go out fast. I just stuck to my game plan. That was all I needed to do just to make sure that I didn’t muck up to lose my spot to go to the Games,” she said.
Allen went into the event in third place, but she would finish the weekend in fourth, narrowly missing out for the third time in a row.
Again, her gymnastics brought her undone despite a beautiful butterfly kip on the rig.
“It’s strange, I’m not devastated and disappointed like I have been in the past,” she said. “I gave it everything I had and did everything I could. I executed my plans and I can’t be disappointed with my efforts. It was an epic battle to the end. I am actually really excited and I am still going to the Games.”
Event 7 Results
1. Pip Malone (1:55)
2. Kara Webb (1:56)
3. Amy Dracup (1:58)
1. Denae Brown (26)
2. Kara Webb (27)
3. Pip Malone (35)
The 50s was the long, grinding event of the competition, starting with a 50-calorie row, before moving along the arena through 50 box jump overs, 50 deadlifts, 50 wall-ball shots and 50 ring dips. Once the dips were completed, the competitors would move back through the first four movements to try and finish under a 21-minute time-cap.
Just three men worldwide finished 50s on the first weekend of competition, including ex-Australia Region competitor and event record holder Brent Fikowski.
In Heat 3, Rory Boyden maintained a steady pace throughout and it wasn’t until the second set of wall-ball shots that he pulled ahead of previous leader Keegan Wolfenden.
Matt Reilly tried to follow him to the end, but Boyden’s motor proved better and he extended his lead on the box jump overs.
Boyden rowed his final 50 calories in under two minutes to take the second fastest event time despite failing to complete it in training. Boyden completed Event 6 in 20:26.
“I practiced it twice in training. The first time I just managed to get back to the rower and the second time I got 37 calories on the rower and then that time I knew that I could finish it so I went hard,” he said.
Heat 4 would be a fight for third place with Aaron James, Porter and CJ Walker going out hard. Consistency proved the key however, with Forte remaining calm and collected from the rower. James Newbury went with him and the two men shared the lead until the end of the ring dips.
As Forte’s rower clocked over to 47 calories, the buzzer sounded leaving Boyden as the only man in the region to finish the event.
“I really made an effort to push hard on that one. I felt like I could finish it but just ran out of steam in the end. I'm a little bit disappointed about that,” Forte said. “I never did the whole thing In training. I did the first half to check the pace, and I felt confident that I'd have enough left in the tank to finish it. That didn't really go to plan. In hindsight, I probably should've practiced the whole thing, but I don't like to in some workouts. I sometimes prefer to have one go and give it everything.”
Swan and Newbury both joined Forte on the rower, but with less than 90 seconds before the buzzer neither man was able to complete 50 calories.
The fight for third place was now down to three men with Porter, Manuel and Newbury all within five points of each other.
Newbury finished the event in fifth overall and said he planned to go for broke in the final event.
“I want to do that unbroken and go for broke. Might as well,” he said.
Event 6 Results
1. Rory Boyden (20:26)
2. Rob Forte (21:04)
3. Matt Reilly (21:13)
While most competitors sailed through the 64 pull-ups in Event 7, the 205-lb. overhead squats proved problematic for many. In the early heats, many competitors failed to complete the work within the six-minute time-cap.
One of the highlights of the earlier heats was Luke McMahon, one of the youngest and smallest athletes in the competition, completing the event in just under five-and-a-half minutes, squatting more than 66-lb. over his body weight.
In the final heat the men were ready to leave their blood, sweat and tears on the stadium floor for a ticket to the Games. Three men went into the event desperate to secure third place.
Newbury did everything he could with a dominant performance that saw him finish first but it wasn’t enough to steal the podium from Porter who finished the event in third.
“Look, I had to go for broke and it sort of paid off ... I think I got one no-rep ... that’s the way it works and you just miss out but it's all good,” he said.
Porter credited his overall success to a perfectly executed game plan.
“I knew that the two guys that were chasing me were going to go out hard, I knew that it was going to be a fast heat,” he said. “I didn’t let the fact that James was already (to the barbell), that Zeke was already there get to me. I just had to stick to the game plan, and I executed perfectly.”
Second place in the event went to Manuel who, like Newbury and Porter, was in the hunt for bronze in the final event. His finish time of 1:57 gave him fifth place overall.
Like many athletes who didn’t qualify, Manuel was satisfied with his performance.
“I’ve done my best, that’s all I could ask for,” he said. “If I walked away and I felt like I left something out there I would say real bad, but I am very happy and very proud to be here. I mean they are amazing athletes so I’ve done my best so I am very, very happy.”
Games veterans Swan and Forte had nothing to fear going into the final event with their tickets to the Games secure, though both put in excellent performances to finish the event in sixth and 12th respectively.
Forte will make his fourth Games appearance this July.
“It feels really good and everything went to plan,” he said. “The whole year, all the training comes to this point so now I am just going to go straight to the drawing board and not fly too high after this and do well at the Games for once.”
At the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games, Swan injured his knee on Legless, so a return trip to prove himself on the world’s biggest stage has been hard earned.
“Obviously broke my leg at the Games, had another injury that put me out for a while that put me off my training, moving gyms, passings in the family, just a most eventful and a really disruptive offseason and I’ve worked really hard to reinvent myself and make myself the best athlete possible,” he said.
Event 7 Results
1.James Newbury (1:53)
2. Kevin Manuel (1:57)
3T. Brendan Clarke (2:04)
3T. Zeke Grove (2:04)
1. Rob Forte (42)
2. Brandon Swan (45)
3. Khan Porter (69)
The individual competitors will be joined at the Games by CrossFit Athletic, CrossFit Active and Tropic Thunder.