When you’re a recent CrossFit Games champion, you aren’t expected to compete at regionals. You’re expected to dominate.
Last year at the Games, Sam Briggs showed she was far and way the class of the field and won her first CrossFit Games title by 99 points. She’ll be expected to return to the Games in 2014, but this year’s Europe Regional won’t be the cakewalk it was in 2013, where she won four events, collected only 13 points and cruised to Carson well ahead of second-place Caroline Fryklund.
In 2014, Briggs will go up against Annie Thorisdottir in Denmark in one of two regionals featuring past champs locking crowns. If the Rich Froning-Graham Holmberg matchup in the mighty Central East is exciting, Briggs-Thorisdottir is electrifying at 220 V: the two women are the only ones to stand atop the CrossFit Games podium since 2011.
On the men’s side of the Krone, the Games spots are very much up for grabs. Last year, Europe sent four men to the Games after past champ Mikko Salo took second to Lacee Kovacs, but both are out this year, the former due to sickness during the Open and the latter due to a shoulder injury. Fourth-place Mikko Aronpää is living in Asia now, leaving only Danish prince Frederik Aegidius standing beside 2012 Games athlete Numi Katrinarson.
While many consider the women’s competition a formality, the men’s remains a mystery.
Events 1 & 2
The hang snatches and a handstand walk tested the individuals first, and it was a Heat 1 athlete who used the two events to climb to the top of the Leaderboard.
Filip Yang Fisker of Aarhus CrossFit in Denmark lifted 265 to tie David Carlsson for first in Event 1, but it was his Event 2 performance that had fans at the Ballerup Super Arena screaming.
When other athletes looked tentative or hesitant before the handstand walk, Fisker looked almost like a sprinter coiled into the blocks, and he kicked up as soon as the event started. With even steps and a very consistent pace, he employed a small leg kick to generate some momentum on each step.
Fisker’s first length took 29 seconds, and his second took only slightly longer, allowing him to rest his shoulders. Length 3 took 37 seconds. Fisker cruised to victory by 100 feet and set the worldwide event record in the process.
In a weird turn of events, the top men’s heat was almost anticlimactic after Fisker’s performance. In the snatch, it was between Lukas Högberg and Jakob Magnusson. Högberg opened higher and made larger jumps, but the two ended up with the same score when Högberg missed his attempt at 275 after he slid his knees under the bar too soon when he started the pull.
Magnusson, who had been solid at 240 and 250, weathered a small jump forward with 260 and stood up to complete the lift. To his right, Games athlete Aegidius was sluggish with 255 and missed behind.
“I knew that in the second lift I had (250 lb.), so I went for a safe lift, then a ‘risky safe’ lift,” Magnusson laughed. His final effort at 260 was a PR by 5 lb.
No one was going to touch Fisker’s handstand walk, though Europe sent more men to 120 feet or more than any region in Week 1. A total of 25 men got at least one length, and five got two.
Notable was Numi Katrinarson, a 2012 Games competitor who went team in 2013. He fell right before the finish mat for a score of 120 but did not complete the length. Head judge Karl Steadman was brought over for a quick conference, and he upheld the call to Katrinarson’s disappointment.
Magnusson was slow but completed a length, rested, and then started chugging back across the stadium.
“I felt pretty good. I got down the lane to the finish mat, so I knew the way back would be the hardest, so I took my time,” said Magnusson, who scored 190 feet.
Poor skill—and even modest skill—on the handstand walk was punished harshly in Europe, and after two events, the top of the men’s Leaderboard was a surprise to everyone.
Event 1 Results
1T. David Carlsson (265 lb.)
1T. Filip Yang Fisker (265 lb.)
3T. Lukas Högberg (260 lb.)
3T. Jakob Magnusson (260 lb.)
Event 2 Results
1. Filip Yang Fisker (380 feet)
2. Jonne Koski (280 feet)
3. Will Kane (270 feet)
After two short events, athletes ripped into Event 3, a middle-distance workout that’s a variation of the original Nasty Girls.
Marc Ordeig set the early pace with 8:35, and three men in the final heat were on pace to beat it.
In the first round, Högberg, Katrinarson and Aegidius danced through the pistols with speed, hit the muscle-ups unbroken and moved the barbells without difficulty.
Högberg started to pull away despite his size, giving his toe a small tug in the bottom of each rep and mowing down the pistols without breaking pace. He increased his lead throughout the second round, and he was first to the rings in the third. That gave him enough time to take his longest rest of the workout before cycling six muscle-ups. Katrinarson and Aegidius were on the rings at that point, but Högberg was in no danger. He completed the last rep, played to the crowd on his way to the bar, and popped 10 cleans from hips to shoulders to stop the clock at 7:49.
Katrinarson was 27 seconds behind, with Aegidius 12 seconds behind him.
In celebration, Högberg did a bit of an abbreviated airplane spin before throwing up his biceps and flashing a grin to the large crowd at the Super Arena.
Aegidius, an experienced Games veteran who is dealing with a shoulder injury, used the event to put himself in third place overall.
“I kind of knew I would be able to do well … . I have short, stumpy legs,” he said. “I got beat by two guys who should have been slower than me proportion wise.”
He’ll be looking to track down Viktor Långsved and Jonne Koski. The latter finished fourth in the Open and is a protégé of the great Mikko Salo, who was watching from the sidelines. Aegidius knows he’s in for a fight.
“I would say it’s almost more competitive this year,” the veteran said of the regional.
He added: “The way these events are planned, there’s a big risk for competitors to fall outside the top 10.”
Event 3 Results
1. Lukas Högberg (7:49)
2. Numi Katrinarson (8:07)
3. Frederik Aegidius (8:19)
1. Jonne Koski (16)
2. Viktor Långsved (26)
3. Frederik Aegidius (27)
4. Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson (29)
5. Lukas Esslinger (30)
6. Jakob Magnusson (35)
7. Lukas Högberg (40)
8. Christer Idland (44)
9. Numi Katrinarson (47)
10. Flip Yang Fisker (48)
If we fail at the margins of our experience, we should shine when standing on the bull’s eye.
Oxana Slivenko did just that.
A former world record holder in the snatch (123 kg. at the 2006 World Championships), Slivenko was expected to win Event 1, and she did so in emphatic fashion.
Slivenko, who won the European Weightlifting Championships almost exactly 13 months ago in Albania, beat all other women by 30 lb. and would have placed 33rd on the men’s side.
The Russian opened with 190, hit 205 and declined to take her third attempt, choosing instead to change her shoes for the handstand walk. Demonstrating the technique you’d expect from an Olympic silver medalist, she pulled from just above mid-thigh and snapped under the bar in the blink off an eye. It never wavered overhead.
After the event, she said would have targeted 220 had she chosen to lift again.
“I could do it, but I chose not to do it to save energy,” she said.
In the regionals contested in Week 1, success in Event 1 was sometimes linked to success in Event 7, and that could make Slivenko a factor on Day 3 if she can avoid the poor scores she was awarded in last year’s hundreds and rope-clean events.
It’s a shame when someone snatches 175 and some members of the crowd don’t even notice, but that’s what happened when Caroline Fryklund nailed 175 right beside Slivenko to take second. But all eyes were on Fryklund in the handstand walk, as the former gymnast completed almost three lengths and was the only woman working toward the end of the interval.
In the final heat, Sam Briggs gave everyone a small shock when she missed her 145 opener forward. She missed two attempts in last year’s overhead-squat event to give the crowd a scare, and she laughed when she was asked what went through her head after the miss in 2014.
“Just stay calm, and in my head, ‘Failure is not an option.’ Then I just went and hit it,” she said.
Briggs finished with 165 lb. but took 26th on the handstand walk, putting her in 14th place after two events—unfamiliar territory for the champ.
Near Briggs, Annie Thorisdottir and Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir battled on the platforms. Iceland Annie, back from a year off due to injury, locked out 150, 160 and 170 lb., bringing the bar from the low hang in sharp contrast to Slivenko’s shallow pull. And if there were a few shivers in the bottom of the lifts, Thorisdottir still had energy left to offer her signature smile to the crowd at the top.
Davidsdottir made 155 and 170, but a loopy bar path seen on the early lifts showed up on her final attempt, and the bar arced away and then back to fall behind.
“It was a hard pull, so it went behind me,” she shrugged. “It was easier than I thought to pull it up.”
Davidsdottir and Thorisdottir faced off again in the handstand walks, and it was Davidsdottir who came out on top. She used quick steps and very short rest to complete three full lengths plus 45 feet to set the overall event record—men and women.
She said she had done three lengths in practice before, and she kept an eye on her competition in an event she knew she could take.
“I made sure I was ahead of the other girls,” Davidsdottir said.
Event 1 Results
1. Oxana Slivenko (205 lb.)
2. Caroline Fryklund (175 lb.)
3. Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir (170 lb.)
3. Annie Thorisdottir (170 lb.)
Event 2 Results
1. Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir (405 feet)
2. Annie Thorisdottir (360 feet)
3. Caroline Fryklund (330 feet)
What started as a three-way race between Davidsdottir, Bjork Odinsdottir and Briggs turned into a runaway win by the 2013 Games champion.
As previous Regionals have shown, the event ain’t over until the third round of muscle-ups, and it was no different in Europe. Odinsdottir was able to keep pace with Briggs in the first and second rounds, but when Briggs swung through seven unbroken muscle-ups in the third round, she locked up first place. The barbell presented no problem to her at all, while her rivals broke their muscle-ups into sets.
Briggs stepped on the finish mat at 7:44, well ahead of Odinsdottir. Davidsdottir fell back to sixth (10:01), and it was Slivenko who took third.
Perhaps the greatest story of the event was Thorisdottir’s knee. Injured on a 100-kg jerk a few days before she completed Open Workout 14.5 in San Francisco, Calif., Thorisdottir has been unable to squat since she competed against four other Games champs in the thruster-burpee workout that closed out the Open. Thorisdottir’s coach, Jami Tikkanen, said the injury is a tear of the medial patellar retinaculum.
“A couple of days ago, we were uncertain if she would compete,” Tikkanen said.
He added: “She’s done tremendous with what’s going on.”
Thorisdottir started strong in the workout but fell off the pace after Round 1 and ended up tied for sixth (10:01). The two-time Games champ broke up her muscle-ups quite a bit, but she said it was the one-legged squats that were trouble.
“That sucked. The first 50 were OK,” she said.
Thorisdottir said she consulted with a specialist who told her no further damage would occur if she took the floor this weekend.
“It will heal on its own, which is why I’m letting myself compete,” she said.
Thorisdottir would like to be in first but is happy to be in third given the circumstances.
“I can’t complain,” she said. “Obviously, I enjoy winning. I’m happy with what I was able to get out of myself.”
Overall, Briggs is somewhat back into shape after Event 3, though ninth is not where she’s used to sitting. She knows she’s in a fight and noted that all the top-10 athletes are very strong in Europe.
“It’s always good to compete,” Briggs said. “Not just with Annie. Everyone else has come back this year and upped their game. It’s not just a battle between me and Annie.”
The Leaderboard agrees: Briggs is currently 21 points out of the final spot in the CrossFit Games.
Event 3 Results
1. Sam Briggs (7:44)
2. Bjork Odinsdottir (8:21)
3. Oxana Slivenko (8:34)
1. Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir (10)
2. Caroline Fryklund (10)
3. Annie Thorisdottir (11)
4. Bjork Odinsdottir (14)
5. Oxana Slivenko (15)
6. Marianna Tzourtzek (24)
7. Kristin Holte (28)
8. Anna Hulda Olafsdottir (30)
9. Sam Briggs (32)
10. Emelie Smiding (36)