Many who went out fast and shone in the deadlifts were soon left behind as the handstand push-ups took their brutal toll.
As the morning fog swept away from the beach, over 200 athletes from around Australia and New Zealand made their way into WIN Stadium for Day 1 of the Australia Regional.
Amongst their foam rollers and pre-packed paleo meals were their hopes and ambitions to be crowned Australia’s Fittest and secure their ticket to the Home Depot Center in July.
The training was done, and there were some lingering questions in the air. Will Amy Dracup go back to back as Australia Regional Champion? Will Chris and Kieran Hogan be the first brothers in the world to qualify for the Games? Will fan favorite Jason Haywood finally put his experience to use and qualify for the Games for the first time?
The last eight weeks culminated into Event 1 where handstand push-ups became the defining factor. Many who went out fast and shone in the deadlifts were soon left behind as the handstand push-ups took their brutal toll.
1. Chris Saliba: 2:18
2. Josh Bromley 2:37
3. Jordan Bender: 2:57
As the clock ticked down, the athletes were formally introduced to Diane. The deadlift/handstand push-up couplet provided a perfect combination of endurance, strength and strategy that challenged many. Not one of the top 20 qualifiers finished in the top three.
Jordan Bender took the early lead after winning Heat 2 in a time of 2:57, which would eventually be the third best time.
It was Heat 3, however, which was the fastest overall. Chris Saliba, who finished the Open 33rd place, won in a time of 2:18. However, despite his strong performance, the 32-year-old was already playing down his chances of qualifying for the Games.
“My goal was to get 1st in that, because that is pretty much the only workout I am going to do well in so it was really just a personal goal,” he joked. “The rest of the competition is just survival for me.”
Josh Bromley finished 2nd in the heat, while last year’s Spirit of the Games winner, Brendan Clarke finished further back with a time of 3:25 taking 10th overall.
Heading into Diane, last years Games qualifier Chris Hogan said he had “butterflies in his stomach” and was hoping for a sub 3-minute time.
“I’m pushing for 2:50 because that’s my best time, and I’m hoping the crowd will get me over the line,” he said.
Unfortunately for Hogan, he didn’t reach his goal, struggling through his heat in a time of 4:39, to finish 22nd overall. But the veteran wasn’t letting his performance get him down and had already tuned his attention to the next event.
“I really like Event 2; it plays to my strength more and it’s a bit longer, so it should be good for me,” he says.
The crowd was on their feet to cheer on Rob Forte, Kieran Hogan and Chad MacKay as they walked out for the final heat. But none of the big names managed to beat Saliba’s time, with Brendan Swan winning the heat in 3:06 to finish 5th overall.
Rob Forte’s 3:17 has him sitting in 7th position, while Chad MacKay’s sits in 17th overall, and Kieran Hogan in 12th spot.
1. Rebecca Eastwell: 3:09
2. Denae Brown: 3:32
3. Kara Gordon: 3:46
Before the competition had even started, the women’s division was almost cut in half with 24 athletes choosing to compete in the team competition instead of the individual. In the end, only 36 competitors would compete, meaning there’d be three heats instead of the normal six.
In the first, Justine Beathe led from start to finish to beat Rochelle Hoskins in a time of 5:10. Three competitors, however, failed to make the nine-minute cut-off, and it was clear just how hard the handstand push-ups were proving to be.
Mother of five, 44-year-old Megan Smith won Heat 2 in an impressive time of 4:28, showing everyone that age has nothing to do with performance. Meanwhile another three athletes failed to make the cut-off. Yet again, the handstand push-ups were the deciding factor.
The final heat had all the big names, with Amanda Allen, Rebecca Eastwell and CrossFit Schwartz girls Amy Dracup and Denae Brown all competing. In the end it was Eastwell, who claimed victory, upsetting the favorites in a time of 3:09. Denae Brown finished in the2nd place spot with Amanda Allen back in 4th.
“I was aiming for top ten and I came 4th so I’m super happy,” the 41-year-old South Australian said.
The big surprise was Amy Dracup, who finished the event in 10th place overall.
While she might have walked off disappointed, it was all smiles for Eastwell, who won her first Regional event ever.
“Yeah it was pretty good, I’m happy for it to be over and done,” she said. “From here I’m just trying to get through each one (events).”
1. Schwartzs CrossFit Melbourne: 5:31
2. Reebok CrossFit Gold Coast: 5:44
3. Southern CrossFit: 5:46
It’s fair to say the hardest part of the team workout was getting used to the partner deadlift. Teams had to change weights on the barbell, and perform each rep together. This was especially difficult for partners with different heights.
The first heat was won by CrossFit Victoria in a time of 6:25 to leave them in the 6th place spot overall. While no team failed to make the 15-minute cut off time, many were close, with the final set of handstand push-ups proving very difficult for both men and women.
Reebok CrossFit Gold Coast took out Heat 2 in a time of 5:44, which would eventually be the second best time overall. CrossFit Brookvale were a further 25 seconds behind, leaving them in 8th place.
In the final heat CrossFit Schwartz showed everyone that their performance in the Open was no fluke by posting the fastest time of 5:31. It was always going to be tough to beat CrossFit Newcastle, who had individual qualifier Linda Thomas on their team, but Schwartz eventually overtook them in the second set of deadlifts and streaked away for a comfortable victory in the end. Southern CrossFit finished the heat in the 2nd place spot and now sits 4th overall.
However, the biggest cheer of the heat was not for the winning team, but rather the losing team. CrossFit Norwest were struggling in the final round with both movements until the crowd got behind them, cheering on every rep until they crossed the line.
When asked about their performance CrossFit NorWest competitor Libby Wescombe said, “The handstand push-ups get to you and then you gas, but the audience is great and when we heard them start cheering that really spurred us on.”
The performances not only showed how hard the first workout was, but also typified the real spirit of CrossFit, and set the tone for the weekend ahead.
Now all attention is drawn to Event 2. Will we see Amy Dracup come back from her defeat in the first event? And how will surprise leader Chris Saliba perform?