Open for Business
At 9 a.m., the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games were officially underway. The sun was out, the fans were on, and the turf was glistening.
Ten men and 10 women in the 65+ divisions stood on their black lifting platforms, cinching their weight belts, breathing deep, calming themselves. At the call of “go,” 20 masters athletes took their turn at the Olympic Total in North Park.
Karen Dawkins — a 65-year-old Games rookie and former British Weightlifting Champion — took it in for a moment from her position in Lane 10. She lifted while her coaches, family, and friends shouted encouragement from the sidelines.
When the 6 minutes were up — 3 for a max snatch and 3 for a max clean and jerk — Dawkins, who moved 200 total lb, hit a personal best with an 88-lb snatch.
There was no time to waste as Test 2, Farmers Field, started immediately. As the competitors made their way through the test of farmers carries, burpee Pig jump-overs, wall-ball shots, and rowing, the announcer urged on the competitors, just as a coach in the gym would.
Day 1 is off to a good start for Dawkins who took third at 15:35.
“Up early at 5, having my porridge and breakfast,” Dawkins said after collecting her breath. “Collected by my coach at 7:15. Warming up here. I can’t believe it. This was not supposed to happen; I was supposed to be here next year. This is all new and all fun.”
Snatches at 68
There were just 10 seconds on the clock, and Silvana Volpe had already failed two attempts at the 85-lb snatch.
It was the heaviest the 68-year-old had lifted in years — still, she’d done it during Semifinals; she knew she had it in her.
“I really wanted that lift,” Volpe said. “And I was ticked off.”
She rolled the bar back in place, set her grip, and yanked as the final seconds ticked away. The barbell shot over her head — where she caught it in a wobbly split stance and an ear-to-ear grin.
“I knew that if I just picked it up with even two seconds, I could go for it,” she said.
Volpe started CrossFit eight years ago at 60. She’d been a runner, but when her knees began to hurt, her daughter suggested she try CrossFit.
“You’re absolutely crazy,” Volpe told her. “I can’t do 100 pull-ups.”
She made the CrossFit Games three years later — the first of three appearances so far.
“But it turns out as you stick with it, you can do all that,” Volpe continued.
“Well, not everything — I still can’t do a bar muscle-up.”
Dancer Double Feature
When Sam Dancer stepped onto the platform for Olympic Total in North Park today, fans knew they were in for a show. But they never expected a double feature.
Dancer’s long been known for his strength. At the 2014 Games, he deadlifted 655 lb as part of team CrossFit Conjugate Black; two years later, he won the deadlift ladder at The Ranch in Aromas, California.
Olympic Total called for no deadlifts, but Dancer — competing in the Men’s 35-39 division — is no slouch with a barbell, no matter the lift. He opened with a tidy 245-lb snatch and finished with a close call at 280 lb, scuttling to the edge of the platform to control a runaway catch. His subsequent 335-lb clean and jerk made for a total of 615 lb and a tie for second place (first went to Ioannis Papadopoulos, who lifted 670 lb total).
If fans were hoping for a little more razzle-dazzle, they had only a minute to wait. Test 3 began 60 seconds later: a down-and-back chipper of farmers carries, burpee Pig jump-overs, wall-ball shots, and rowing.
The men moved in a throng down the field at North Park, over the Pigs and under the Rogue Zeus rig. But when they turned around for the second half of Farmers Field, one athlete emerged for a solo return trip — Dancer finished the final carry before anyone else had begun it, and the man known for his muscle snatched his first event win.
“I have traditionally been a bigger, stronger guy, and I’ve worked really hard to kind of redefine myself and refine myself into being a little bit more well-rounded,” the 36-year-old said.
After rounding out Day 1 with a second-place finish in Helen, Dancer sits in first overall.
Not a bad way to start the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games.
“I love to compete and I just feel like I was made to be out there,” Dancer said. “It's where I feel like myself the most.”
Ty Jenkins went three-for-three in test wins on Day 1, setting an aggressive pace in the Boys 16-17 division.
With 1 round left in the day’s final event — Helen — his streak was in jeopardy but it was all part of his plan. That’s the advantage of being a two-time CrossFit Games champion.
“Our strategy out of the gate was to make every round faster,” Jenkins said. “I didn’t look at the clock to see if I did, but I kept picking off kids each round. Then I knew at the end it was just going to be, try to have a clean run with no no reps.”
Jenkins did hear the dreaded "no rep" in his final round on one of his kettlebell swings, but he was able to push through to edge out Kyle Muckleroy and Gustavo Pusch each by 1 second.
“My first year when I got no reps, I kind of freaked out,” Jenkins said. “Being year three, I have that experience, I know what to expect; if you get a no rep, you just keep moving. Being frustrated with it gets you nowhere.”
It’s often been said that CrossFit is the only sport where the loudest cheers are for the last to finish — and it’s true whether you’re talking about the noon class at your local affiliate or the NOBULL CrossFit Games.
We cheer because we know. We know what it feels like to fight fatigue and muscle failure or a rep that just won’t. And we know the rewards of perseverance — the sweetest victories are often the battles we come closest to quitting.
So we don’t let each other quit.
Genevieve Tidwell certainly didn’t look like she wanted to quit, but if she had thought of it, the crowd at North Park would have put a stop to it.
The 42-year-old adaptive athlete — Tidwell competes in the Women’s Upper Extremity division — had finished all but two reps of Helen: 3 rounds for time of a 400-meter run, 21 kettlebell swings, and 12 pull-ups.
But the last two just wouldn’t come.
Kip after kip, she heaved toward the bar — and fell short. Meanwhile, her competitors disappeared across the finish line down the field.
Two minutes remained before the 18-minute cap.
Tidwell took a moment to rest and re-chalk. She stepped back up to her block, and the crowd’s murmur grew to a rumble — then a rallying cry — as Tidwell finished the work with two big kip swings and two mighty pulls, crossing the finish with 1:29 to spare.
Pictured in cover photo: Elia Del Olmo