Injured CrossFit Games champion Annie Thorisdottir stands at the railing as her friends and rivals complete Jackie’s pull-ups.
“I wish I was out there,” she says with a characteristic smile that’s wistful this year rather than joyful.
A year earlier, another CrossFit Games champion, Mikko Salo, said the same thing while standing on the same spot at the Ballerup Super Arena in Denmark.
“I should be out there,” he said in 2012, looking at the equipment he helped set up as part of the Rogue crew.
Salo set up the equipment this year, too, but he gets to use it this time around.
Also back from injury is Sam Briggs, a British athlete who was sidelined in 2012 but absolutely dominated the Open in 2013 by winning two events and never finishing below eighth worldwide.
In 2013, it’s Salo and Briggs who are the focus at the Europe Regional, where athletes from 15 countries are gathered on Hamlet’s turf to determine the who will go to the CrossFit Games.
Pulling an almost robotic 24 strokes per minute, Briggs was beaten off the rower only by 2008 Olympian Oxana Slivenko of Russia. Slivenko hopped off the erg by about 3:40, with Briggs only seconds behind. But when Slivenko broke on the thrusters, Briggs did not. In fact, Briggs didn’t break on the pull-ups either, smoothly pulling 30 butterfly reps before sprinting to the finish mat in a blazing time of 6:05.
Slivenko’s slide continued as other athletes passed her, including Caroline Fryklund of Sweden and Kristin Holte of Norway. Fryklund’s 6:24 was good enough for second place, and Holte’s 6:31 gave her third.
One of the beauties of Jackie is that men and women perform the same amount of work, and Briggs’ time would have put her ahead of 12 individual men. In total, nine women finished ahead of Stefano Italiano, whose 7:03 marked the bottom of the men’s standings.
After the event, Briggs was happy with her win but knows she’s not in for a smooth ride to the Games—even if Thorisdottir is out of the picture.
“I can’t take it easy,” she said. “I have to go all out.”
Ever the competitor, Briggs wished Iceland Annie was strapped into the rower next to her.
“I’d love to compete with her … . It’s just a shame that last year I couldn’t compete and she had to do it without me,” Briggs said.
She added: “I competed in 2010 and 2011. To miss out a year when you see all your friends … . You want to be there,” she explained. “It’s great to come back and prove that I’m fit enough to be back.”
Thuridur Erla Helgadottir was fourth, and while she hit a PR, she missed her goal of 6:30 by 3 seconds.
“I got a couple of no-reps on the pull-ups,” she said.
When Salo stepped on the floor in the final men’s heat, the energy in the building increased noticeably. The Finn has been a legend since he almost beat fellow star Chris Spealler in the first event of the 2009 Games, but a recent run of bad luck has kept Salo from the spotlight.
At the 2011 Games he was injured in the first event and withdrew from the competition, and in 2012 he was a spectator with a bad knee.
In 2013, Salo leads the Europe Regional after taking but 5:21 to perform Jackie.
But perhaps Salo’s return to form isn’t the real story. Salo might have been victorious, but the level of competition in Europe is increasing: his time was but one second faster than second-place Christer Idland of Norway and two seconds faster than Lacee Kovacs of Hungary. In all, 11 men finished within 16 seconds of Salo, who had three thrusters killed by his judge.
But Salo still finished first, and he actually had no idea Kovacs was gaining on him with butterfly reps as he kipped out his pull-ups one bar over. Salo’s work on the rig is relentless, but he doesn’t use the butterfly technique, and Kovacs was able to make up ground over the 30 reps.
“I didn’t think anything,” Salo said when asked if he knew Kovacs was stalking him. “I just think about my own performance.”
Salo was all smiles after the event—almost giddy—and he showed more excitement than the stoic Finn is known for.
Thinking back to standing outside the barrier last year, Salo said it was “awesome” to be back on the floor.
“That was two years ago the last time I competed,” he said.
He said that the workout went as planned, and while he thinks his time will stand up to competitors in other regions, he believes some will go under 5:20.
But after winning Jackie, Salo revealed his true goal: “I’m here to win.”
In the team competition, the top squads are already separating themselves. In total, only 13 of 30 teams managed to complete the partner Jackie under the time cap, and many male athletes were given less than six minutes to work by partners who struggled on the rig.
In the first heat, but one team finished, but in the final heat, all but two teams were able to complete the workout.
Emelie Smiding and Philip Bengtsson of CrossFit Malmo the Other Guys were the class of the field. With classic Metallica cranking out of the speakers, Smiding’s wild, curly hair whipped back and fourth as if she were in the front row for a live rendition of Master of Puppets. Smiding was off the pull-up bar shortly after the seven-minute mark, handing off to Bengtsson, who finished fourth in the Open and clearly has his eyes set on a trip to the Games with his team.
Bengtsson flew through the reps and posted a time that would have been competitive with the top individual men, and Malmo needed the effort. Their 12:54 was only seven seconds ahead of Team Spartan Mentality. CrossFit Solid was third in 13:37.
After the workout, Bengtsson revealed he had more in the tank.
“Save some for the next workout,” he laughed.
Overall, the men’s standings are Salo first (1 point), Idland second (2 points) and Kovacs third (3 points). For the women, Briggs is first (1 point), Fryklund is second (2 points) and Holte is third (3 points). The team standings find CrossFit Malmo the Other Guys in first (1 point), Team Spartan Mentality in second (2 points) and CrossFit Solid in third (3 points).
the Event 2
combo of a three-rep-max overhead squat and burpee muscle-ups.