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Europe Regional Report: Go Big or Go Home

Published on Fri, 2013-05-17 10:47
By: 
Mike Warkentin

Briggs's ballsy gamble pays off.

Sam Briggs went all-in: hit a PR or give up on the CrossFit Games.

Event 2’s rules forced female individual athletes to pick an opening weight of 85, 125, 155 or 175 lb. for an overhead-squat triple. To stay in the competition, the opener had to go up. Fail to complete 3 reps at the opening weight within the 7-minute time cap, and you’re out of the Regional.
 
Briggs, the Open winner and a favorite to qualify for the Games—and perhaps win them—decided to open at 175 lb. on Event 2. Briggs’ best single is just under 200 lb., but her best triple? Not 175 lb. In fact, Briggs PR’d in warm-up by doubling 175.
 
Three women opened at 175 in the final heat: Briggs, Olympian Oxana Slivenko, and Games competitor Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir.
 
Slivenko made the weight look like absolute child’s play. She power-cleaned it almost with disdain before popping it behind her head for an easy snatch-grip push press. She hit 175 despite one no-rep and then utterly demolished everything she put on the bar. Jumping up in 5-lb. increments, she reached 200 lb. with about 30 seconds on the clock. She finished all three overhead squats at 200 lb. for a winning score of 200.30. 
 
Easy clean. Easy push press. Easy triple. Easy win.
 
After the event, Slivenko, who speaks little English, said she could hit about 264 for a single and about 242 for a triple if she could go straight to it rather than work up in 5-lb. jumps. A silver medalist in the Beijing Olympics, Slivenko snatched 115 kg and clean and jerked 140 kg for second in the 69-kg class. At the 2006 World Weightlifting Championships, she landed a world record snatch of 123 kg. And she can do muscle-ups—17 of them in seven minutes, which was good enough for a tie for 10th in Event 3.
 
On her platform, Briggs missed her third rep at 175, and the previous two looked shaky. As the Brit collected herself for another attempt, Hayley Knowles was repeatedly failing at 155. Her Games were about to come to an early end. In previous heats, Sonia Alves and Ragnheiour Sara Sigmundsdottir had also missed openers and earned the dreaded DNF.
 
Games hopes on the line, Briggs cleaned the weight and popped it overhead with a narrow grip she’s been using for the last week due to a shoulder issue. After getting two reps down, Briggs had to fight with the third, and few were certain she’d come back up for a third time.
 
“’Oh, shit’ went through my mind,” Briggs said
 
But stand up she did, hitting a PR triple and preserving her chance of qualifying for the Games. The PR earned her third in the event (175.30). After a short celebration, she declined further attempts and just left the bar on the platform, changed her shoes and went over to cheer for Davidsdottir, who was on her way to a second-place finish with 190.20.
 
“It was a big gamble, but it paid off in the end,” Briggs said afterward.
 
Less risky was Briggs's strategy in Event 3: she steadily pushed through 30 burpee muscle-ups in 5:19 and was the only woman to finish under the time cap. Carolina Fryklund and Thuridor Erla Helgadottir tied for second place, notching 24 muscle-up each in seven minutes. Nicola Simpson was fourth with 23.
 
Camilla Salomonsson Hellman, Kelly Friel and Marina Novelli all failed to complete a minimum of three reps and will head to the stands for the rest of the competition.
 
Men
 
It turns out muscle-ups are significantly more difficult after holding big weight overhead. While the gymnastics movement didn’t prove to be a problem for any men, several reported that things just felt a bit wobbly on the rings—even with a two-minute transition between events.
 
Christer Idland, one of the lighter athletes to hit 265 and a few reps at 275 in Event 2, finished Event 3 in 6:11 but wasn’t totally satisfied with the time, partially due to the overhead work.
 
“I was hoping to get it down toward six minutes. The first 10 reps were tough after overhead squats,” he said. 
 
Frederik Aegidius lifted 285 for the win in Event 2 and then lifted a leg in celebration with the heavy load still overhead. He, too, felt Event 2’s presence in Event 3.
 
“The muscle-ups didn’t feel that heavy in training … ,” he said. “Two eighty-five is not that heavy for me, but they were unstable.”
 
Aegidius uses a very narrow grip for overhead squats, and it worked for him. He felt confident he could have hit 315 if the event allowed athletes to choose any load rather than a max start of 255 and subsequent 10-lb. jumps. He said the lifting event definitely forced athletes to lift before they were totally recovered.
 
“I would have liked to have a minute and a half between sets,” he said.
 
With Aegidius the clear victor at 285.30, Mikko Aronpaa and Idland ties for second with 275.20, while Lukas Hogberg, Lacee Kovacs, Bjorgvin Karl Guomondsson and Timmy Thernstrom tied for fourth with 275.10.
 
Mikko Salo had said Event 2 would be challenging for him, and he was right. Once he had 255 overhead, the weight had him shaking, and he didn’t complete his opener until well into the seven-minute session. He looked somewhat better at 265, though he had to fight for 265.30, which was good enough for eighth.
 
More surprising was Salo’s ninth-place finish in Event 3. His 6:01 was well behind leader Marc Ordeig, a 176-lb. athlete who posted an impressive 4:53 in heat 2. Jakob Magnusson was second in 5:05, while Hogberg was third in 5:24.
 
Kovacs led for much of the event but fell to fourth (5:25), though he’s definitely improved since failure on the rings cost him a trip to the Games in the last event of the 2012 Europe Regional.
 
Kovacs’ new gymnastics skills paid off, and the Hungarian now sits first overall. If fans thought Salo would walk away with the Regional and coast into the Games, they were clearly mistaken, and the 2009 champ is in for a fight to the finish.
 
Team
 
With over 60 athletes on the floor, the team competition was a sweaty mass of total fitness chaos as athletes struggled through burpee muscle-ups and overhead squats. The men were first of the rings, leaving the platforms to the women, and the sexes were given two minutes to switch places after seven minutes of work.
 
As always, CrossFit dreams live and die on the rings, and fully 10 teams were eliminated from the competition after failing to perform the minimum six reps of muscle-ups. CrossFit Aalborg and CrossFit Oslo, sitting in 10th and 11th after Event 1, were the most prominent victims.
 
Some female athletes spent an agonizing amount of time trying in vain to negotiation the transition from pull-up to dip, and others tried in vain for about 10 seconds to lock out their elbows before dropping in failure.
 
On the platforms, the fickle overhead squat refused to cooperate with some athletes, while others loaded big weight and looked rock solid in the basement of the lift. 
 
Big numbers started coming up in heat 2, where Team Spartan Mentality’s women stood out with a gaudy 165 on the bar for triples. Drofn Hilmarsdottir hit 165 and went for 175, but she took the worst no-rep of all when her judge flagged her for dropping the bar too soon after standing up for a third time.
 
“I got the three but I was too quick to drop it,” she said. “I was pretty sure I was going to get it.”
 
Her strategy?
 
“Start as high as I dared, where I was sure I would get it.”
 
As for the muscle-ups, they were not an issue for Hilmarsdottir, who stands just under six feet and might not be considered the prototypical gymnast.
 
“There’s one girl on the team who gets tired pretty quickly … ,” she said. “But we didn’t have any issues.”
 
That was an understatement. She and her teammates put up 98 total reps on the rings to take first overall in Event 3, and a sixth-place finish on Event 2 (1105 lb.) put the squad from Denmark in first overall.
 
In the final heat, the loads increased across the board, and the men of CrossFit Malmo the Other Guys opened with a triumvirate of 225s. CrossFit Bath opened lower but finished higher, with all three men locking out with 255 overhead.
 
“We played around with (the workout) twice,” said Ollie Mansbridge. “We kind of knew what we would hit.”
 
Mansbridge actually took a no-rep on his first 225 squat, so he just tacked on three more good ones without resetting. He wasn’t about to waste time for teammates who were planning to go big.
 
“All I could think of was, ‘There’s no way I’m missing the rep,’” he said.
 
Things still went sideways for Bath when they misloaded their bar.
 
“After 225, I put 15 lb. on one side, and another teammate put 10 lb. on the other side,” he said. “Poor communication on our side.”
 
The judge caught the error, but only after the bar was overhead, and Mansbridge, Adam Shackell and Alec Harwood had to waste time with a plate change. Still, all three contributed 255 to the team’s 1,140-lb. total, which was good enough for third in Event 3.
 
Team CrossFit Nordic—featuring individual 2012 Games athlete Numi Katrinarson—was first in Team Event 2 (1,170 lb.), while Games veterans CrossFit Reykjavik were second (1,150 lb.).
 
In Team Event 3, Team Spartan Mentality’s 98 reps were tops, while CrossFit Nordic and Thor were tied for second at 88 reps. CrossFit Reykjavik was fourth with 84.
 
Overall Standings
 
After three events, the overall men’s standings are as follows: Kovacs is in first (11 points), Salo and Idland are tied for second (18 points), and Lukas Hogberg is in fourth (20 points).
 
For the women, Briggs is first (5 points), Caroline Fryklund is second (13 points) and Helgadottir is third (16 points). Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir follows in forth (18 points).
 
In the team standings, Team Spartan Mentality sits in first (9 points), CrossFit Nordic is second (10 points), and CrossFit Malmo the Other Guys is third (12 points). Nothing has been solved yet: four other teams are within six points of third place.
 
Tomorrow, the athletes take on two events, the first a chipper (Event 4) and the second a couplet of deadlifts and box jumps (Event 5).

 

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