Latin America is done playing kid brother.
As the stands in the Chimkowe Event Center in Santiago, Chile, trembled under the weight of scores of bellowing spectators—and one small drum corps—it was clear CrossFit is fully-grown below the equator.
Just five years ago, you could count the number of Latin American affiliates on one hand. Today, the region boasts nearly 500 from more than 17 nations.
Some athletes, like Reebok CrossFit St. Thomas teammate Jessie Murphy, traveled thousands of miles to compete with the fittest in Latin America. She spent an entire night on a plane two days before Day 1, stretching her hamstrings with a mobility band at the airport gate.
Murphy said “mobilization, Tiger Balm and Z-Quil” was her strategy for staying fresh during the 10-hour flight.
As the region has grown, so has the competition. Only nine teams competed at the 2012 Regional in Cali, Colombia; this weekend, 26 will vie for the podium.
For the past two years, Team CrossFit 7 Mile has dominated the regional competition, not only winning the single team spot at both the 2012 and 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games, but also taking first place in 12 out of 13 combined regional events for those years.
However, the powerhouse from the Cayman Islands disbanded this year, leaving one question in its wake: Which team will be the next to represent Latin America in Carson, California?
Last year, 23 out of 29 teams in Latin America received a DNF on Event 3, after failing to complete the minimum work requirement for the burpee muscle-ups.
Today, teams needed to prove once more that each athlete could fly on the rings. But this time, a failure to finish the work meant a time-capped score plus additional penalties for reps left on the floor, instead of falling from the Leaderboard altogether.
The rule was a lifeline: no teams were able to complete all of the work within the 16-minute time cap.
However, it was Cygnus CrossFit in the second heat that came closest with a time of 16:09.
"Our team has really strong girls, so, our good scoring is thanks to them,” said a spokesperson from the team.
As predicted, the muscle-ups were the dividing factor in this event.
In all heats, teams’ first males cut through the 15 muscle-ups easily, breaking them into two sets. However, fatigue caught up in the clean and jerks. What should be lightweight for regional-level competitors (135 lb.) reduced many competitors to singles.
Team Cygnus knew muscle-ups could be their undoing, so they went with a plan.
They sent out their strongest players first, who ate through their reps quickly leaving as much time as possible for their later women to push through the sets of 12 and 9.
Cygnus’ first male was first to the bar in in his heat. Though Reebok CrossFit St. Thomas passed them briefly when its second woman finished her muscle-ups, it was Cygnus’ strategy that saved it.
Rather than waste time getting no-repped, when the team’s final woman began struggling on the rings she dropped to the ground and ran to her bar. It meant more time to finish the rest of the work, and a smaller penalty.
“We did this event individually with all the transitions, so were really sure that we were going to succeed,” said a Cygnus CrossFit teammate.
Event 1 Results
1. Cygnus CrossFit (16:05)
2. Hangar 193 Brazilian Hurricane (16:08)
3. Reebok CrossFit PTY (16:09)
Team Events 2 and 3
After the morning’s relay, teams had to put weight, followed by their feet, overhead in the 11-minute whirlwind containing the second and third team events: a one-rep-max hang snatch and a handstand walk for distance.
With only eight minutes and two attempts per athlete to post a team total, teams had to balance ambition with caution.
In early heats, many athletes went out too hot, missing lifts that should have been easy.
The big weights came out in Heat 4, a race between team BIGG Friends and team TTC Panama.
Its men matched each other nearly rep-for-rep, with the first men opening with 155 lb. each. The weight went up like a PVC pipe.
As the bar got heavier, the reps got messier. At 225 lb., TTC Panama’s third man snatched the bar too far backward, and had to back-step to catch it. But catch it he did, and the race continued.
With 30 seconds left on the clock, team BIGG Friends’ final man took his turn at 225 lb., risking precious seconds to chalk up and adjust his wrist wraps. He bent down and gripped, deadlifted the bar and paused. With five seconds left, he pulled and dropped, pausing for a split second before standing, victorious.
But team BIGG Friends is more than just strong.
Today, they proved they had both prowess under the bar and finesse on their hands, logging a full 430 feet on their hands after six minutes had passed.
As teams walked, the arena floor looked like a parade of toddlers, tentatively padding along single file as their teammates beckoned them take just a few more steps.
While teams who were strong under the weights struggled with false starts or gave way to momentum just halfway down the floor, CrossFit BIGG never relented.
Their technique was varied. One woman padded down the floor slowly, taking wide steps on her arms with legs splayed in the air.
In the final minute, a man from CrossFit 506 tried to make up for lost ground, shooting out like a rocket and hoping momentum would carry him. He tumbled just short of 80 feet.
Meanwhile, the final male from CrossFit BIGG teetered toward the stands.
With five seconds to spare, he course-corrected and made three wild steps over the end, bringing CrossFit BIGG to the spotlight for the first time in Day 1.
The team has only been practicing handstands for two weeks, making the win all the more sweet.
"We were really excited,” said a CrossFit BIGG Friends teammate. “We do have one girl on our team who is a gymnast so she taught us.”
Event 2 Results
1. BIGG Friends (920 lb)
2. TTC Panama (885 lb)
3. Altair CrossFit (830)
Event 3 Results
1. BIGG Friends (430)
2. CrossFit 506 (330)
3. Reebok CrossFit PTY (310)
1. BIGG Friends (7)
2. Reebok CrossFit PTY (10)
3. Cygnus CrossFit (19)
After three events, team BIGG Friends leads the teams of Latin America with seven points, followed by Reebok CrossFit PTY and Cygnus CrossFit with 10 points and 19 points, respectively.
While today’s events largely showcased individual skill, tomorrow’s couplet of thrusters and rope climbs in Events 4 and 5 will test teams’ ability to think and act as one.
Both team BIGG Friends and team Reebok CrossFit PTY were top-10 Open finishers. Will the Open’s top teams show top skills in teamwork, too?