Rain is running off the gigantic Richmond Oval through decorated channels running down the sides of the building. The water babbles over the aboriginal carvings and through concrete gutters to find its way among the bulrushes in collection pools sitting beneath the elegant sweep of an enormous artistic net called a “Sky Lantern.”
The peace along the Fraser River in Richmond, Canada, is nonexistent inside the cavernous Oval, once home to the speedskating events of the 2010 Winter Olympics. For the third year in a row, the Oval will host the Canada West Regional, and the stakes are again high in 2014. With only two CrossFit Games spots available in each category, the podium isn’t good enough in Richmond. These thoroughbreds have to place.
On the men’s side, last year’s Games athletes, Lucas Parker and Tyson Takasaki, face a host of eager challengers. Jonathan Gibson won the Open after taking 31st at last year’s regional, Brent Fikowski was sixth in Australia last year and finished second in the Open, and Joe Scali went team in 2013 but took third in the Open. All are looking to head to California.
Parker said the field is far more advanced in 2014.
“Everyone’s level is elevated,” said the thoughtful Parker, who might as well be stroking his giant red beard as he talks. “From year to year, we learn to suffer more … so you could say the field is elevated.”
Scali trained all year to get stronger and laughed to see pistols, strict handstand push-ups and muscle-ups show up.
“The funny thing is I dropped out last year to go team because I thought I wasn’t strong enough … and then I get all these gymnastics. It’ll be very interesting,” he said.
He’s particularly looking forward to Event 3.
“I really like Nasty Girls to begin with, so I like the twist on that,” he said. He noted that pull-ups and overhead squats—Event 7—are his weaknesses.
On the women’s side, Canada West will send two rookies to the Games, with 2014 competitors Heather Gillespie and Erin Light out with an injury and a pregnancy, respectively.
Perhaps most interesting of all, a pair of Individual athletes already have tickets to the Games. Jolaine Bloom took third in the 40-44 Division of the Masters Qualifier after taking third in the Open, and the former gymnast might be looking to double dip. Nancy McKeage took 17th in the 40-44 Division after finishing 27th in the Open, and she’s using the regional as training for the Games.
She said she’s feeling pretty relaxed about the three-day tune-up.
“Especially when the handstand push-ups came up, I was like, ‘No pressure whatsoever,’” she said.
While she isn’t looking forward to strict handstand push-ups—“I’m a kipper”—she’s a fan of the programming overall.
“I like that there’s gymnastics in them, and I like that they’re longer,” she said.
The rest of the field doesn’t have the luxury of guaranteed Games spots, and competition will be fierce. Strong Open athletes and perennial regional athletes Jayde Quilty, Whitney Darchuk, Emily Beers, Chelsea Miller and Taryn Romanowich will be clawing for spots.
And then there’s Erica Livett. Thirtieth in the Open, she’s back to regionals again after a third-place finish at the Oval in 2013.
But in Canada West, third only gets you a “Proven” T-shirt, and you can bet she’ll be looking to stand one box higher on Sunday night.