May 31, 2015
Meridian Individual Report: Day 3
By Mike Warkentin
Koski, Sigmundsdottir are masters of the Meridian.
Koski, Sigmundsdottir are masters of the Meridian.

Koski, Sigmundsdottir are masters of the Meridian.

Copenhagen, Denmark—The first Meridian Regional is in the books, with the Europe Region providing nine of the 10 athletes who qualified for the CrossFit Games.

Technically, all qualifiers are from Europe, though one calls United Arab Emirates home and came through the Africa Region.
 
Jonne Koski made a return to the top of the podium at the Ballerup Super Arena, while Sara Sigmundsdottir, a distant 12th in 2014, took over a spot long held by someone named Briggs or Thorisdottir.
 

MEN

 
The coolest cat in the venue needs to “calm down.”
 
At least that’s what overall leader and noted stoic Jonne Koski said after leading for most of Event 6 before getting passed. Steven Fawcett and Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson moved past Koski late in the event, and he fell to third in the final heat—fourth overall in the event. Mitchell Adams had set the best time of the day (11:30.7) in Heat 2.
 
“This was supposed to be my best event ... . I tried to go too fast and got too many no reps,” Koski said.
 
The Finn had the early lead but put little distance between himself and his closest rivals. Both Fawcett and Guðmundsson were hot on his heels as Koski cruised through the first row and then cranked out unbroken butterfly chest-to-bar pull-ups with his chin snapping sharply upward at the top of each rep.
 
Moving to the pull-up bar almost in unison in the final round, Koski, Guðmundsson and Fawcett kipped to unbroken sets before setting their hands on the risers for the handstand push-ups. Koski broke first, but the others followed suit, and it was Fawcett who needed the least rest to complete the reps. His effort was about 12 seconds too slow to take first, but second gave him his best event finish of the weekend and allowed him to start getting comfortable in third overall.
 
Lukas Högberg and Filip Yang Fisker—both larger athletes—suffered in the event. But only one dropped a spot on the overall leaderboard. Högberg fell to fourth, but Fisker’s 22nd still allowed him to hold onto fifth, with Phil Hesketh 6 points behind. Hesketh lost a tiebreaker at the Asia Regional last year and gave the lone Games spot to Eric Carmody, so he’ll be looking to take a run at Fisker in Event 7.
 
Högberg got caught in the vicious cycle of missed handstand push-ups in his final round. He hit total failure late in the set of 9 and then received 2 no reps for falling away from the wall. Each time, he danced around on his toes, shaking his arms like a fighter before trying again. He finished with just over a minute remaining to take 14th—his worst event finish this weekend.
 
Barring unforeseen events in the final test, Koski, Guðmundsson and Fawcett look like Games locks, though all are slightly smaller athletes who will be forced to tackle heavier barbells in quick succession in Event 7.
 
Koski said he needed to get stronger at last year’s Europe Regional, and he reported that mission has been accomplished.
 
“I’ve actually gained over 10 kg to my clean PR,” he said.
 
Event 6 Results
1. Mitchell Adams (11:30.7)
2. Steven Fawcett (11:42.4)
3. Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson (11:47.1)
4. Jonne Koski (11:57.8)
5. Ates Boran (13:27.1)
 
 
Strategy is not needed for Event 7. Athletes searching for top scores simply have to do 15 unbroken muscle-ups as fast as they can before racing through five bars. And it’s not enough to clean all five: You have to clean them very quickly, stand up instantly and then hop over a bouncing bar that has felled several competitors.
 
The final event was Koski’s time to shine once again. First off the muscle-ups, the bars didn’t slow him at all, and he stopped the clock at 1:20.8, just off the record time of 1:17.9 set by Games qualifier Ben Garard in the Pacific Regional. If Europe was once dominated by a Finn named Mikko Salo, the Meridian Regional now belongs to Koski, who’s the first male to repeat as champion at the Ballerup Super Arena.
 
Past Games reps Högberg and Guðmundsson will also be returning to prove their fitness.
 
“The goal was to finish in the top five. I would be disappointed if I didn’t make it. Finishing in second place after Koski is amazing,” Guðmundsson said. “Last year, he dominated the (regional) by far, but I feel like I’m catching up a bit.”
 
Högberg, bloodied—literally—but unbroken was relieved to be going back to California in fourth place.
 
“Everything has been really rough for me this weekend, (but) the only point is for me to get there,” the courteous Swede said, forgoing congratulatory handshakes to protect large tears on his palms.
 
This year might be remembered as the rise of the British, as Fawcett scored third and Hesketh used last-event heroics to bypass Fisker and take the last spot. Fisker was among the first to offer congratulations to Hesketh.
 
“Fucking close,” Fisker said with a shrug and a smile that showed how athletes should handle disappointment.
 
Hesketh had been pacing the floor looking nervous minutes earlier, unsure of whether he’d be competing in July. He said he was indeed aware of where others were as he raced to finish third in the event, and he noted the distraction almost cost him when he forgot to hook-grip the first bar.
 
“I made the mistake of looking around. I told myself I wasn’t going to do that. The first couple of bars were a blur,” he said.
 
Not lost on Guðmundsson was the crowd that buoyed the athletes to push just a little bit harder in each event.
 
“In 2013, I was here the first time. It’s been so fun to see how the sport is growing,” he said.
 
Event 7 Results
1. Jonne Koski (1:20.8)
2. Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson (1:22.9)
3. Phil Hesketh (1:24.9)
4. Frederik Aegidius (1:25.9)
5. Alec Harwood (1:26.9)
 
CrossFit Games Qualifiers
1. Jonne Koski (616)
2. Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson (589)
3. Steven Fawcett (514)
4. Lukas Högberg  (513)
5. Phil Hesketh (496)
 

WOMEN

 
It’s a slippery slope, as they say.
 
Kipping handstand push-ups tested women at the regional level way back in 2011, and they reappeared in 2012 and 2013. By 2014, competitors were expected to do strict handstand push-ups. In 2015, strict deficit handstand push-ups were on the agenda.
 
As expected, top athletes didn’t bat an eye at the deficit work, while others were completely derailed by it. About 15 percent of women have been able to complete the event at five previous regionals, and 19 percent of Meridian’s females reached the finishing mat.
 
Athletes such as Sigmundsdottir and Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir motored through some unbroken sets, but others had to settle for paced singles and had little chance of getting through all 5 rounds under the 16-minute time cap.
 
In Heat 3, Anna Fragkou was the first to finish the event, but the top heat would be running at records rather than simply trying to log all the reps.
 
Davidsdottir and Mikaela Norman were first off the row, but Norman settled for slow handstand push-ups while the Icelander went unbroken. Davidsdottir had about a 16-second lead coming off the rower in Round 2, but she settled for 2 sets while Sigmundsdottir mowed down the work at the wall to pull into the lead. She didn’t look back.
 
Coming off the row in Round 4, Sigmundsdottir had opened a 33-second lead over Davidsdottir, and she went unbroken again, clearly setting her sights on the best time in the world—13:19.0 by Kari Pearce. She took a significant lead into the final round but wasn’t able to go unbroken. Regardless, the short breaks were all she needed, and she was able to get to the finish mat at 13:00 flat for a new record.
 
Behind her came Davidsdottir and Thuridur Erla Helgadottir, as well as Kristin Holte, who had passed Annie Thorisdottir on the final set of handstand push-ups. Thorisdottir received several no reps for letting her feet get wider than her hands. After the event, a teary, disappointed Thorisdottir got a big hug from boyfriend Frederik Aegidius.
 
A smiling Holte was thrilled with her fourth-place finish.
 
“That was like a 2-minute PR from training,” she said. “My goal was to finish it.”
 
Beaming, Holte said the entire weekend has been above expectations. She now sits fourth overall, just 3 points behind Thorisdottir.
 
“I’ve been doing a lot better than in training—all of the workouts,” she said. “I PR’d everything. I just love the competition, the crowd.”
 
The crowd absolutely deserves mention. The large, boisterous crew at the Super Arena has filled the place with energy reminiscent of the Tennis Stadium at the StubHub Center. Event organizers have reported ticket sales are well up from last year—in the neighborhood of 25 percent higher on some days—and the ticketholders have shown up to scream.
 
“It’s awesome,” Holte said of the atmosphere. “I haven’t seen anything like it.”
 
Event 6 Results
1. Sara Sigmundsdottir (13:00.0–event record)
2. Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir (13:53.5)
3. Thuridur Erla Helgadottir (14:00.5)
4. Kristin Holte (14:13.9)
5. Annie Thorisdottir (14:54.8)
 
 
Call it the dominance of the ’Dóttirs.
 
Four Icelandic women will represent the Meridian Regional at the CrossFit Games, with one Norwegian adding a slightly different flag into the mix.
 
Thorisdottir might have won the Open, but Sigmundsdottir got revenge at the regional, putting in a dominant performance that left little doubt she’ll be a contender in Carson.
 
Despite finishing third in the Open worldwide, Sigmundsdottir didn’t feel like she’d walk away with a win in Denmark given the tests in front of her.
 
“I just thought the other girls were so good and it wasn’t a possibility. I was just aiming for fifth place,” she said.
 
She noted the handstand walk in particular made her think she’d be in more of a fight for a Games spot. While Event 3 did provide her lowest finish—ninth—she finished no lower than fourth in any other event, and ninth was a far better result than 32nd, a score she earned with a short 35-foot handstand walk in the 2014 Europe Regional.
 
“I worked hard on the gymnastics,” she said of the dramatic improvement. “I worked hard on my weaknesses … weightlifting, my technique and everything. Being more efficient.”
 
In the final, she took second in 1:31.7. All eyes were upon the smiling Icelander even though Oxana Slivenko was eating barbells for dinner in Lane 1, slightly obscured by the banners on the barrier. The sprint event with heavy loads was perfect for the Olympian, and she moved the plates with ease, though she didn’t figure into the race for the Games spots.
 
Sigmundsdottir used an unbroken set of muscle-ups and five speedy cleans to close out her competition, and the crowd roared its approval of the champion.
 
Davidsdottir, 13th in the final event but second overall, found redemption after she fell apart here in 2014. She said she felt “accomplished.”
 
She added: “It’s been a long year ever since I didn’t make it. … I put in the work every single day.”
 
Far from breaking her, she said last year’s failure was present in her mind every day, driving her to work harder.
 
“It motivated me to be a better athlete,” she said.
 
With emotion on her face and fire in her heart, the athlete grudgingly said she’d take a few days off before refocusing on the Games.
 
Thorisdottir, unaccustomed to third, said it was refreshing to compete straight up after being banged up last year.
 
“It wasn’t as mentally stressful to go through the events … . I do feel like I underperformed this year at regionals, which I’m not happy with.”
 
Specifically, she said she needs to implement an “easy fix” on her rope-climb technique, but she also pointed to conditioning.
 
“I need to work more on my engine—something I always do before the Games,” she said. Event 3, in particular, highlighted the need for more suffering in training, she said.
 
With Thorisdottir no longer reigning the regional, the weight of expectation moves to Sigmundsdottir, who’s more than ready for it.
                                                           
Of being the top seed from a tough regional, she said, “It’s going to be a lot of pressure, but I’m good with pressure.”
 
Of that, there is no doubt.
 
Event 7 Results
1. Oxana Slivenko (1:26.8)
2. Sara Sigmundsdottir (1:31.7)
3. Thuridur Erla Helgadottir (1:33.0)
4. Elia Navarro (2:10.7)
5. Hjördís Óskarsdóttir (2:12.7)
 
CrossFit Games Qualifiers
1. Sara Sigmundsdottir  (629)
2. Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir (591)
3. Annie Thorisdottir (588)
4. Kristin Holte (581)
5. Thuridur Erla Helgadottir (574)