“The clean and jerk is the king of lifts.”
Five-time U.S. national weightlifting champ Donny Shankle wrote that in the CrossFit Journal, and Individual athletes had a royal engagement on Saturday at the CrossFit Games.
The reigning king of CrossFit, Rich Froning, took advantage of an event very much in his wheelhouse to climb back to the top of the Leaderboard, while women’s leader Sam Briggs let a few competitors back into the hunt.
With four starting weights open to them, athletes had 90 seconds to run through a ladder of progressively heavier loads ending at 405 lb. for the men and 250 lb. for the women. Men’s bars jumped up by 10 lb., while the women’s loads increased by 5 lb.
All eyes were on Lindsey Valenzuela, known for her Olympic-weightlifting prowess. But it was Games rookie Amanda Goodman—in last place overall going into the event—who surprised the crowd not only with a successful clean and jerk but also with textbook technique.
Goodman took her time to set up before every lift, bouncing a couple of times at the bottom into her start position and finishing her cleans with fast and high elbows.
The 5-foot, 139-lb. athlete took a deeper breath before her attempt at 225 lb. and struggled slightly to get up out of the bottom of the clean. When she stood up, the crowd roared. And when she made the jerk, it roared again. When she reached the next barbell—230 lb.—she made the entire lift look easier than the previous attempt at 225. Once it was time for 235 lb., Goodman took a little longer to set up. She made the clean and let out a guttural shout before taking in a deep breath for the jerk. When she made it, spectators were on their feet.
Goodman won the event, outlifting expected winner Valenzuela by 5 lb and hitting a PR.
"My previous max was 225 lb.," Goodman said. "I just tried to stay confident and look for the end of the ladder. Beforehand I was sore, and I thought the clean would be hard. The crowd helped."
The 22-year-old added: "You always try to break the ladder. I feel a little bit better (after the win), but there's so many events left."
Despite her impressive performance in the event, Goodman said Olympic lifting is not her specialty.
"It's one of the things I'm better at," she said.
Elisabeth Akinwale, who tied for second in the event with Valenzuela, said she had planned to run the ladder.
"It went about how I expected," she said. "It's hard to know what to expect when your body is tired. Usually the clean is easy for me."
Today, however, it caused her trouble.
"My legs are tired," Akinwale said.
In the past, the 34-year-old has jerked as much as 240 lb.
"But this is a different environment. I was talking with the other girls about this. We're looking at other people's backs, instead of looking at a focal point. There's just so much going on."
When it came time for the men to have their way with the barbells, Lucas Parker was poised to give the crowd a show, choosing an opening weight of 315 lb. He was one of only two competitors to do so. He donned his well-known red singlet beneath his athlete jersey and performed a forearm over forearm yoga-like ritual with closed eyes before each lift.
"In things that require a lot of precision, speed, power and accuracy, you need to have a consistent approach. I try to get into a groove and click back into the hundreds of reps I've done in the past," Parker said. "If you watched Ben Smith, he would pop right into the jerk every time. The one time he didn't, he missed. So I try to stomp the same way, have a similar breathing pattern, shout the same way."
The Canadian made it all the way to 345 lb. before failing to jerk 355 lb. As Parker left his platform, he waived to the crowd, who replied in loving unison.
Parker matched his clean-and-jerk PR and recorded a new clean record with 355 lb.
"I feel good now, after this," said Parker, who now sits in 26th place overall.
As expected, Aja Barto also performed well and tied Parker for first place in the event.
“I knew this would be a strength of mine,” he said. “I was looking forward to this the whole week.”
Some of the top men sought to best Parker’s 345-lb. clean and jerk but failed. Eventually, only Rich Froning Jr. and Jason Khalipa remained on the platforms.
After the “rotate” cue, Froning repeatedly walked right up to the next barbell, set up, cleaned then jerked. It wasn’t until 345 lb. that the weight started to appear heavy, as Froning had a hard time standing up with the clean. Still, he was able to jerk the weight while Khalipa, on the platform behind him, failed at 335 lb.
Then it was just Froning on the floor as the rest of the competitors looked on.
The two-time champ failed on all three of his clean attempts at 355 lb. After the event ended, he said he should have waited longer before his second attempt.
“Live and learn,” he said.
Froning’s clean-and-jerk PR is 370 lb., but said this has been the most challenging Games yet.
“We’ve been run to death, or rowed to death,” he said with a laugh.
Froning finished the event third, but he’s now six points ahead of Khalipa overall, with one event left to come on Saturday.
Interestingly, Froning and his friends will be faced with more rowing as part of a recreation of the very first CrossFit Games event of 2007.
1. Amanda Goodman (235.20)
2T. Elisabeth Akinwale (235.10)
2T. Lindsey Valenzuela (235.10)
Overall leader: Samantha Briggs
1T. Aja Barto (355.1)
1T. Lucas Parker (355.1)
2. Rich Froning (345.2)
Overall leader: Rich Froning