For the first time since 2009, the sledgehammer returned to the CrossFit Games in a demonstration of farm strength and a bit of rage.
The Double Banger was the first Individual event of the last day of competition, and it was announced only hours before athletes completed it.
In the stake drive at Aromas, athletes had to hammer an iron rod into the ground with a sledge in a test of power and accuracy. This year, athletes had to drive a bright green, rectangular metal block down three different tracks with an sledgehammer. The women’s block weighed roughly 115 lb., while the men’s weighed about 175 lb.
The workout called for 50 double-unders, driving the weight 10 feet down a low track, 50 double-unders, driving the weight 10 feet down a track using a straddle technique often seen at firefighter competitions, 50 double-unders, and driving the weight 10 feet down a high track.
At 100 points, there was a 9-minute time cap on the event.
In Heat 1 for the women, Michele Letendre was first on the hammer, but it was sheep farmer Ruth Anderson Horrell who managed the sledge and weight quicker and was on to the double-unders. Wearing gloves, Anderson Horrell kept the lead in her heat, finishing with a time of 4:07.8.
In Heat 2, eyes were on Stacie Tovar and Becca Voigt, who competed in the 2009 CrossFit Games and had used a sledge in competition before.
While the 5’9” Voigt opted for long, golf-like swings, Angie Pye opted for short, choppy swings on the so-called “low banger.”
"My coach is a fireman and he said to do short and choppy hits," Pye said. "The hardest part was my grip. I couldn't close my hands at the end."
The workout, she said, "was really fun.”
“How is it not fun to hit something?" Pye said with a laugh.
But it was Jenny Davis who arrived first to the second double-unders and maintained her lead to take the top spot in her heat.
In Heat 3, last year’s champ, Annie Thorisdottir, was first to the low banger. The powerful Elisabeth Akinwale, however, more easily moved the block down the tracks with raw aggression, finishing with a time of 3:48.2.
"I have played with a hammer in a WOD about a year ago, hitting a tire,” Akinwale said. “Ever since 2009, people thought there might be a hammer workout. But none of us had touched the hammer or felt the weight before we went out there."
Akinwale said her strategy was to do "quick hits and cycle right through them." But once out there, she said she reverted to what was comfortable.
She entered the workout in eighth place.
“(It’s) not where I wanted to be, so I had to win this one,” Akinwale said. “There are a lot of points available. You have to go get them."
Akinwale took first in the event, followed by Anderson Horrell, then Jenny Davis was third in 4:11.4.
In Heat 1 for the men, crowd favorite Chris Spealler was first to the 175-lb. block.
The unmistakably hairy Lucas Parker, however, flew through the hammering and ended with a time of 2:58. Parker looks like a lumberjack, so he might as well behave like one. He cut a perfect Paul Bunyan at the end of the event as he stood atop a box with hammer on shoulder, massive beard flowing free.
In Heat 2, Marcus Hendren proved working on a farm is as functional as it gets, and handled the block with ease. Fans might remember farm girl Chastity Slone was similarly skilled with the sledge in 2009.
His strategy, Hendren said, was "hit it hard and keep going."
"This was right up my alley," Hendren said. "I know how to use a hammer. That was really fun."
This is his first time at the Games, having joined an affiliate in June 2011.
"People say to act like you expect it, but I'm really surprised," he said of his performance thus far.
Hendren entered the workout in ninth place; he finished it with a time of 2:56.
"I couldn't be happier,” he said. “My plan is to heal up and get ready to go. Just get after it. I feel great."
Heat 3 was the tightest with the Games’ top men, who went jump-for-jump on the double-unders and stroke-for-stroke on the hammer.
Kyle Kasperbauer, firefighter Matt Chan, Chad Mackay and last year’s champ, Rich Froning, provided a nail-biter as the crowd erupted with excitement.
Kasperbauer finished first at 2:51.
Froning said he “screwed up” on the start of the workout, abandoning his game plan a bit.
"I had to pick the rope back up at the end because I thought I did 50 double-unders, but the judge said 49," he explained.
Although he said he found the sledgehammer to be in his wheelhouse, he wanted to do better in the workout.
“I would have liked to have gotten some points on Chan and Kasperbauer, but I feel good," Froning said.
Kasperbauer’s time was good for first, Hendren’s earned him second, and big Nate Schrader was third in 2:56.0.
After the workout, the top three woman overall are Thorisdottir (812 points), Julie Foucher (753 points) and Talayna Fortunato (736 points). The top three men overall are Froning (811 points), Chan (721 points) and Kasperbauer (709 points).
The top 18 women and men advance to the next workouts, which are the CrossFit classics Elizabeth, Isabel and Fran.
For complete results, visit the Leaderboard.