It’s tanning weather in Denmark. The hill outside the Ballerup Super Arena is crammed with fit Europeans who’ve forsaken the trendy three-quarter-length compression tights of 2012 to roll up their board shorts and get some color on pasty but muscular thighs.
Those legs are definitely going to get some work today, when athletes will be forced to go long and go heavy. After three Day 1 workouts of about seven minutes, individual athletes were first faced with a chipper of 400 reps, including 100 dumbbell snatches. Teams treated the event as a sprint chipper where each athlete did 120 reps.
The afternoon forecast calls for sports bras and awkward sunburns, as well as the first couplet of the competition: heavy deadlifts and box jumps.
After three heats of sweat-soaked attempts, not one of Europe’s fittest men could finish Event 4. Marc Ordeig came the closest, hitting 88 snatches before the horn sounded.
If you want to be the king, you have to beat the king, and in the fourth heat Lacee Kovacs made his case for the crown. He led Mikko Salo from start to finish, and while Salo has always been strong in long events and chippers, Kovacs was stronger today.
Kovacs finished the pull-ups at 9:20, almost a minute faster than Salo. On the dumbbells he rattled out fast sets of 10 with relatively long breaks between. Holding the Finn at bay, Kovacs was always about 10 reps ahead. At 50 reps, he looked like he might have redlined, but he shook it off and pulled through to enjoy a painful stagger to the final mat. His time of 22:02 was seven seconds faster second-place Salo, and Mikko Aronpaa finished in 24:34.
Lukas Hogberg just missed being the fourth the complete the workout, touching the mat just beyond the 25-minute mark via a dramatic diving somersault that had the Swede’s supporters screaming.
The contrast between Kovacs and Salo is stark. The former is a pure brawler. His pull-ups are occasionally awkward and mistimed, but they’re still fast. His heels rise up off the ground as he rolls onto his forefoot for pistols, but the reps come fast and easy. His face contorted into a grimace, Kovacs usually looks like he’s on the verge of cardiac arrest. Salo, on the other hand, is the model of robotic consistency and stoicism. His reps all look the same. His face is blank as he puts his back into the labor. He moves with precision and control.
And yet Kovacs is faster and has now opened up an eight-point lead over Salo, perhaps signaling a changing of the guard in Europe.
Aronpaa did the workout in training and was faster, completing it in 23:08—but he was quick to point out that it wasn’t judged to Regional standards.
“It’s harder here,” he said. “I have to do every rep extremely clean.”
To shave some time, Aronpaa actually removed his weightlifting shoes—considered helpful with pistols—to get lower to the ground for snatches.
“Smaller range of motion,” he explained. “It’s like 2 centimeters.”
Indeed, 2 centimeters on 100 reps is a full 2 meters less if you want to do the math.
Aronpaa, a Games competitor, is slowly climbing back into the mix. He sits seventh with 42 points, and he’s feeling good going into Event 5.
“It feels pretty good,” he said of his body. “I thought it would be much worse. I feel pretty good. I’m good to go.”
Aronpaa’s time on Event 5 in 2011 was around five minutes, and while he’s hoping to knock time off the total, he’s prepared for a fight.
“Two years ago we were more fresh going into it the workout,” he said. “I hope I’ll improve.”
Sam Briggs is like a giant cloud moving across the sky: she doesn’t look like she’s moving very fast, but she never changes pace, and all of a sudden she’s standing across the floor on the finish mat. Rich Froning Jr. is much the same. Both athletes seldom look rushed or bothered; they just move through the reps mechanically, never resting for more than a few seconds.
Briggs continued her dominant run at the Regional by winning her third event, and this one was never in doubt. She led from start to finish, using five sets to knock off the wall-balls. On the pull-ups she was consistent with sets of five, sometimes logging five butterfly reps and other times tacking a single kipped rep to four butterflies.
Briggs finished 200 reps under 10 minutes, with only Caroline Fryklund anywhere near her. Fryklund was a member of Sweden’s gymnastics team and managed to make up a bit of ground on the bar and the pistols, but Briggs had no trouble with the gymnastics work despite her long levers. Fryklund entered the pistols about 40 reps behind and picked up three or four reps along the way, but the event was clearly over when Briggs hit the snatches.
The only one on the snatch mat for a solid amount of time, Briggs used hip extension and impressive upper-body strength to move the dumbbell with an easy muscle snatch. When Fryklund arrived second, she was soon in danger of being overtaken by Thuridor Erla Helgadottir and Kristin Holte.
But no one could catch Briggs. In fact, she was the only female to finish under the time cap of 25 minutes. Her 22:46 is impressive and will no doubt be a target for other athletes, including Lindsey Valenzuela. Briggs and “Venezuela” are currently locked in a trans-Atlantic blood feud
, though Briggs admitted this morning that she’s sending the SoCal athletes her times via text message.
If Briggs is getting close to locking down first place and a trip to the Games, Fryklund is making a strong play for second overall.
Fryklund said the snatches were the most challenging aspect of the grueling chipper.
“I was really tired in my back,” she said.
She said she had not taken the entire event for a test drive but had done a scaled version in training.
“I tried it out last weekend and I did 100, 80, 60, 40,” she explained.
She added: “The chest-to-bars were harder today than when I practiced them at home.”
With 100 tough snatches in front of her and 300 reps behind her, Fryklund took the dumbbells as they came.
“I had no plan about the numbers … ,” she said. “I tried to get a big set in the beginning. I knew they would be tough for me.”
The floor at the Super Arena looked like a Risk board with the teams from various nations plotting out their strategies for the chipper.
It turned out Event 4 wasn’t about the fastest but rather the slowest.
In the first heat, an athlete from CrossFit M1 destroyed the 120 reps in about 4:30—including 30 unbroken chest-to-bar pull-ups—and the team had two members through in 7:42. CrossFit Louvre French Invictus Team was even faster and had two members through in 7:21. But neither team completed the workout under the time cap. CrossFit Louvre left 27 reps on the floor, while M1 left 31, meaning the burden of responsibility in Event 4 falls on the female athletes bringing up the rear.
In all, only 10 of the remaining 20 teams finished the event under the 25-minute time cap.
The final heat was hotly contested from start to finish, with CrossFit Nordic, CrossFit Reykjavik and Thor making lanes seven, eight and nine smoke.
Games competitor Numi Katrinarson ran the table for CrossFit Nordic and was finished in just over four minutes. Thor and Reykjavik were close behind, but after about 17 minutes of work, it was the last female athlete of each team who had to fight for the win, and all had a shot.
Lined up on the mats three across, the females raced through their dumbbell snatches separated by only a few reps. Thor’s last athlete pulled a “final rep” and started sprinting for the finish before being called back by the judge. He demanded one more rep, and she gave it to him—but the error almost cost Thor the win.
Thor’s athlete touched the mat at 17:53 to take the win, and Nordic’s Jenny Jacobsen was hot behind her in 18:05. Third went to CrossFit Reykjavik—last year’s top team—was third in 18:13.
Sveinbjorn Sveinbjornsson of Thor competed in the 2009 CrossFit Games and was key to clearing the Vikings out for the shield maidens to do their work.
“We did one trial before and took every split time and planned so that we had the least amount of gap,” he explained.
More strategy: “We decided the last one because she was so fast on the dumbbell snatches and slower on the wall-balls and pull-ups, so she would close the gap on the dumbbell snatches.”
Katrinarson’s team took a different approach: “The order was me first because I’m most experienced, and Jenny last because she has the second most experience.”
Katrinarson did the final workout of last year’s Regional with his engagement ring tied to his shorts, and he confessed after the workout—which included burpees—that his fiancée woudn’t marry him if he had lost it. Last year’s care for the bling paid off, and the likable Finn married Elin Jonsdottir off the CrossFit Reykjavik squad to improve the Nordic team.
Katrinarson is still getting used to competing as a team—and husband.
“I’m not used to it,” he said. “Actually, I need to get better at it. I just go too nuts.”
After four events, Kovacs sits atop with the overall men’s standings with 13 points. Salo is second with 21 points, and Hogberg is third with 25 points. Kovacs was near the top of the leaderboard last year before taking 26th in Event 5, and he’ll no doubt be looking to avoid a similar implosion this year.
On the women’s side, Briggs is a clear first (6 points) and is pulling away from Fryklund (second with 15 points) and Helgadottir (third with 22 points). Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir, who was second last year, is but a point out of third (fourth with 23 points).
In the team standings, Nordic is in front (12 points), while Thor is second (13 points). CrossFit Bath is third (17 points) and will be looking to pull a Briggs and break the Scandinavian dominance of European CrossFit.
This afternoon, individual and team athletes take on the first couplet of the competition, a classic 21-15-9 prescription of heavy deadlifts and box jumps.