There might be anarchy in the U.K.
In a shocking finish to the Europe Regional, defending CrossFit Games champ Sam Briggs finished fourth and did not qualify for this year’s Games. She won three events, but a poor score in Event 2, the handstand walk, cost her dearly. She fought back to fourth, but an eighth-place finish in the final event ended her reign.
Annie Thorisdottir, sidelined by injury in 2013, took the overall win, and she’ll be joined in California by Bjork Odinsdottir and Kristin Holte.
Europe will send three male rookies to the Games: Jonne Koski, Lukas Högberg and Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson.
Five regions had sent women up against Event 6, and no one had finished the 450 reps. Ruth Anderson Horrell had set the event record earlier on May 18 in Australia by getting back to the rower and pulling 19 calories before the 21-minute mark.
Briggs dominated the long hundreds event at the 2013 Regional and was expected to do very well in Event 6, a long there-and-back chipper many referred to as “the 50s.” At the end of Day 2, Briggs had said she hoped to win the event, and she would need a victory in Event 7 to give herself any shot at taking a Games spot.
Event 6 was really nothing more than a chance for Briggs to show how great she is. She was the class of the field by far and moved with speed through the reps. She started pulling away from the field on the first round of deadlifts and never looked back.
The event hinges on ring dips, and Briggs had little trouble with them, pumping out sets of five and six before going to doubles and singles in the late stages. The second set of wall-ball shots flew by, and she was with done 50 deadlifts before anyone else touched a barbell.
The second set of box jumps, however, was sluggish.
“I wanted to try and push it more in the box jumps in that second set—I had nothing,” Briggs said.
She added: “I wanted to complete it.”
Still, she was able to get back to the rower under 20 minutes and chewed up as many calories as she could. She left only 22 on the monitor and set the event record, besting Anderson Horrell’s 21:31, which came earlier in the day.
Briggs was expected to win, but her trip to the Games remained uncertain. Kristin Holte, who had the same number of points as Briggs going into the event, stayed close to the champ by finishing second.
“I’m very happy. I was almost able to keep pace with Sam. She’s the fittest woman on Earth,” Holte said.
She continued: “I like the long ones. I knew this was my kind of workout.”
The result put Holte only one point behind Briggs, who sat fourth with one event left. Oxana Slivenko, in third going in, struggled on the long event and the wall balls in particular. She took 18 points and slid to sixth—most likely out of contention.
The big winner was Annie Thorisdottir, who took third in the event and moved into first overall. Iceland Annie carried a five-point lead into the final event after Bjork Odinsdottir took ninth in Event 6 but jumped up to second overall when Caroline Fryklund foundered to 12th in Event 6 and dropped to third overall.
Holte was looking forward to the final event—“It suits me well”—and planned to do the pull-ups in sets of 30, 20 and 14.
And the overhead squats?
“Unbroken, of course.”
Event 6 Results
1. Sam Briggs (21:22)
2. Kristin Holte (21:51)
3. Annie Thorisdottir (22:02)
It wasn’t really about who won the event. It was about who didn’t. Sort of.
Before the event, most knew Briggs, sitting in fourth, needed to do well to get back to the Games, but she also needed the athletes around her to falter. Her best shot was to win the event and let the chips fall around her, and the worst scenario saw Holte finishing first and jumping past her in the standings.
The pull-ups created a wave of bodies undulating across the rig, and while Holte wasn’t able to stick to her 30-20-14 plan for pull-ups, she was close. She finished 64 reps first.
“I got a little out of rhythm,” Holte said.
The change of plans didn’t matter. She locked the bar overhead for squats just as Thorisdottir, Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir and Bjork Odinsdottir got to their bars. Holte said she had no idea how close Davidsdottir—who had snatched the bar—and Odinsdottir were, but she sprinted for the finish mat alone, with the others following a few seconds later.
All eyes shifted to Briggs, who had been slower on the pull-ups and had missed a push press to get the bar overhead. A missed fifth rep in the bottom of the squat sealed the deal.
“I had to give it everything, but unfortunately my right wrist went on the ring dips in the workout before, so that wasn’t ideal for the overhead-squat stuff,” Briggs said as scores were still being calculated. “Messed up twice. I don’t know where that stands me now, but I’ve given everything for these last three days, so it is what it is.”
Holte also wasn’t sure if her effort had been enough.
“I don’t think so, but if it is, I can’t believe it. If it is not, I did my best,” she said before the final results were in.
Once she was informed that she was third, she was stunned.
“I don’t think I believe it still. This is a dream come true. I can’t believe I’m going to California,” she said.
Thorisdottir, who won every Europe Regional from 2010 to 2012, finished fifth in the last event and once again planted Iceland’s flag on top of the podium. She’ll compete in the Games after a year off due to injury.
“It means everything to me,” she said of returning to the Games. “I’ve been so bummed out that I was not able to compete last year.”
But this year wasn’t without its challenges. A back injury sidelined her from competition in 2013, and this year she suffered a tear of the medial patellar retinaculum two days before Open 14.5.
“With my back, I expected everything to be fine. With my knee, I was really nervous,” she said.
She added: “I just want to get in some quality training.”
Event 7 Results
1. Kristin Holte (2:09)
2. Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir (2:11)
3. Bjork Odinsdottir (2:13)
CrossFit Games Qualifiers
1. Annie Thorisdottir (30)
2. Bjork Odinsdottir (35)
3. Kristin Holte (38)
A there-and-back chipper with 50 ring dips as the turnaround, Event 6 featured a 21-minute cap that had foiled all but four athletes across five regions.
After rowers moved the heavy air inside the Super Arena for about two minutes, Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson was first to the box jumps, followed closely by the rest of the field.
Athletes used a number of techniques to get over the box. Frederik Aegidius used a slalom technique to cycle reps very quickly, while Numi Katrinarson used a sort of kneeling spin that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a B-boy competition.
Gudmundsson retained his lead through deadlifts and wall-ball shots but then relinquished it to Jonne Koski, the 19-year-old overall leader who flew through the ring dips.
At one point, the top four overall—Koski, Aegidius, Lukas Högberg and Gudmundsson—were the only ones on the wall-ball shots while their rivals flipped about on the rings like fish on hooks.
Koski held his meager advantage for a few reps but soon gave way to Högberg, who had a large fan club in attendance.
“I suck at deadlifts,” Koski said after the event.
Both the Finn and the Swede looked as if their legs were full of sand on the first set of box jumps coming home, but they soon gained momentum, and Högberg stopped jumping with a good chance to finish the workout. Only a horrid 50-calorie row stood between him and completion.
The 206-lb. athlete strapped in and started pulling for all he was worth, with the much smaller Koski joining him shortly after.
Maintaining perfect hair throughout like a Swedish Garrett Fisher, Högberg hauled into the dock with just enough time to unstrap, run to the finish line with arms raised and then assume the sweat-angel position at 20:51.
Koski was second, and Matt Rodwell was third, posting 21:12 in an early heat.
If the Leaderboard was a mess before the event, it was very clear afterward. Koski stood 13 points ahead of Högberg, who looked poised to qualify for the Games in second. Gudmundsson moved up into third. The event’s biggest casualty was Aegidius, who took 12 points and slid to fourth, five points back of another trip to the Games.
Koski, as stoic as mentor Mikko Salo, wanted to finish the workout but was pleased with the result, especially with regard to the overall leaderboard.
“I paced myself so I wouldn’t let anyone get past me except Lukas,” he said.
Evert 7, he said, suits him just fine: “Perfect. Everything is good.”
He said he didn’t have a plan in place for the pull-ups and would let his hands make the decisions.
“Go on feeling,” he said. “If my grip says I need to break it, then I break it. If I don’t, then I won’t.”
Event 6 Results
1. Lukas Högberg (20:51)
2. Jonne Koski (21:08)
3T. Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson (21:25)
3T. Elliot Simmonds (21:25)
If the women’s competition went down to the wire, the men’s competition finished as expected, with no movement among the top three on the Leaderboard.
Benjamin Massey had logged 2:05 in an earlier heat, but both Koski and Gudmundsson took it down to claim their Games spots. Högberg finished sixth but retained his second-place overall ranking via tiebreaker.
Koski had taken the floor wearing a backwards baseball cap and a T-shirt that said “Mikko who?” in a friendly jab at his mentor, Salo.
Koski was actually behind Gudmundsson when he got to the barbell, but he was far faster in the squats and hit the mat first, using his thumbs to point to the question emblazoned on his shirt.
“It’s kind of a joke … . We in Pori (Finland) like humor like this,” Koski said.
The 19-year-old surprised many—but not Salo—in opening up an 18-point lead. He said he plans to work on deadlifts and address some iron before he goes to California.
“Heavy weights, definitely,” he said.
He added: “I’m not so great moving heavy weights yet, but I have eight weeks’ time to get better.”
Working with the 2009 CrossFit Games has champ taught him a lot, he said: “Being humble and just staying calm while you’re doing the workout.”
The young Finn certainly proved he’s an apt pupil, and he’ll look to continue the Finnish tradition of “sisu” at the Games.
Event 7 Results
1. Jonne Koski (2:01)
2. Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson (2:04)
3. Benjamin Massey (2:05)
CrossFit Games Qualifiers
1. Jonne Koski (40)
2. Lukas Högberg (58)
3. Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson (58)