Call it a British Invasion of another sort.
After years of dominance by Nordic affiliates, the United Kingdom produced the Open’s top two teams, Team DC (Dragon CrossFit) and CrossFit Bath. Both would be looking to do what fellow Brit Sam Briggs did in 2013: win the Europe Regional.
While CrossFit Bath came close to securing a Games spot in 2013, a 16th-place finish on the final event cost the team a chance to compete in Carson, California. They’ll look to avoid that mistake this year and put a Union Jack somewhere on the podium.
Indeed, the top of the Open Leaderboard no longer reads like a list of the members of the Nordic Passport Union. Denmark, Sweden and Iceland have a strong presence, to be sure, but the top 10 includes the aforementioned teams from the U.K., as well a squad from France and a Swiss crew. Teams from Russia and Italy can also be found on the roster among the Norwegians and Finns.
But for the teams, the road to the Games has traditionally gone through Iceland and Sweden, and CrossFit Sport, Team Tegen and Team CrossFit Nordic aren’t about to step aside.
In regionals contested in Week 1, only 19 teams could complete Event 1, and nine of them came from the North Central Region. Earlier on May 16, six teams were under the time cap in Australia. In Europe, only two squads were able to finish the couplet of muscle-ups and clean and jerks.
It was Iceland’s CrossFit Sport—including former Games athlete Thuridur Erla Helgadóttir—that rose to meet the British challenge in Event 1. The squad finished in 11:25, first by almost two minutes.
For many teams whose athletes struggled with muscle-ups, the event involved a lot of strategy. Competitors could fail no more than three muscle-up attempts before being moved along and taking a penalty, so each muscle-up had increased importance as it became clear many teams would not complete all the reps. Spend too much time resting between attempts on the rings and teams risked leaving the easier clean and jerks on the table.
Team Butcher’s Garage took eighth with 16:08. The Danish crew had practiced the events ahead of time to get a plan in place: score as many reps as possible on the rings, then fail quickly and get to the barbell to ensure all reps made it on the scorecard before the 16-minute cap.
“We knew that the hardest part would be to get the last female through, so we played it by that strategy,” Nicolai Mainz said.
“We got one muscle-up for the last female athlete … . At about the two-minute mark, we yelled at her to move on,” Mainz said.
In Heat 3, many of the top teams struggled, including CrossFit Bath, who took ninth. Team DC had its own challenges when Chloe Williams started to grind out long, arduous reps on the rings before hitting failure. Amid the chaos of athletes and judges, she waved her arms between reps to let her teammates know how many failed reps she had.
Williams didn’t expect to be fast on the rings, but she thought she’d get through.
“We were going to rest and complete it,” Williams said.
Missed reps aside, DC finished tied for third with 16:03. While the team wanted to make a statement as the top seed, DC was happy to take third in the first challenge.
“It’s not a strong WOD for us,” Andy Edwards said. “There are workouts further in the weekend where our strengths lie.”
“The best is yet to come,” several team members echoed.
Team Event 1 Results
1. CrossFit Sport (11:25)
2. KultureFit—CrossFit Toulouse (13:05)
3. Team DC (16:03)
4. Team Tegen (16:03)
For some team members, the Event 2/3 combo was a test of skill. For Jesper Olsen of CrossFit by the Mill, it was a test of raw power.
The tall 32-year-old looks every bit the Viking and moved big weight with seeming ease. While 200-lb hang snatches were fairly common in the first two heats, Olsen went right to 235 for his safe first lift, and he drilled it. He whipped under the bar with lightning speed and was rock solid at the bottom of an ass-to-grass squat no judge could question.
When Olsen jacked the weight up to 255 for his next attempt, his form didn’t change, and he had the bar overhead in a flash. Olsen said he’s slightly better from the ground—264 lb—and wanted to match his PR from the hang at the regional.
“I went in on an easy one and then just go for my best again,” he said.
Olsen’s teammates, however, were only able to tack on an additional 570 lb, putting the CrossFit by the Mill in 19th.
The top numbers came from CrossFit JST, who threw a total of 995 lb. overhead. CrossFit Sport followed up an Event 1 win with second in Event 2, and CrossFit Basel and CrossFit Stodin tied for third.
To date, only Europe and Latin America failed to see a team above 1,000 lb., but all around, the lifting was very fast and very smooth in Ballerup—further proof of the vast improvement in snatching prowess since Jeff Leonard won the max-snatch event at the 2009 CrossFit Games with a rather rugged pull of 240 lb.
Sandro Curami of Reebok CrossFit Louvre set the tone early in Heat 1 of Event 3. He walked the entire length of the floor and crashed over onto the finish mat before rising to roar with his teammates.
After the event, Natalie Lahoussine interpreted for the French athlete.
“He had tried it in practice but did not know if he could get the whole length. He was pissed off with the snatch, so he got the anger,” she explained.
Mads Buuge of CrossFit Aalborg took a tough no-rep but 10 feet from the finish line when he stepped out of his lane, but his younger brother, Morten Buuge Christensen, finished the entire length only moments later. Aalborg’s efforts were good enough for 10th.
First went to the ninjas from CrossFit Turicum, who walked 90 feet more than any other team. The Swiss sextet used the effort to pull into third at the end of Day 1. CrossFit Sport and Team Butcher’s Garage tied for second.
If the United Kingdom was the best bet to challenge the Nordic teams at the beginning of the day, it looks like the Swiss have given up their famous neutrality to enter the battle for a Games spot. Both CrossFit Turicum and CrossFit Basel are in the top five after three events.
Team Event 2 Results
1. CrossFit JST (995 lb)
2. CrossFit Sport (980 lb)
3. CrossFit Basel (970 lb)
3. CrossFit Stodin (970 lb.)
Team Event 3 Results
1. CrossFit Turicum (585 feet)
2. CrossFit Sport (495 feet)
2. Team Butcher’s Garage (495 feet)
1. CrossFit Sport (5)
2. Team Butcher’s Garage (15)
3. CrossFit Turicum (22)
4. Team Tegen (22)
5. CrossFit Basel (26)
6. Team CrossFit Nordic (27)
7. Team DC (28)
8. Team Spartan Mentality (28)
9. Team CrossFit Copenhagen (29)
10. CrossFit Bath (31)