July 18, 2013
From Asia, With Love
By Akshay Mathur

“I want the team to finish in the top half and go back knowing that we’ve all learnt something.”

Asia has never seen such a close fight to make it to Carson, Calif. 

With both Team CrossFit Asia and CrossFit Misawa having battled it out until the third and final day, they were tied at the number one spot at the end of Event 6, with the winner of the weekend’s final event taking it all.

“I knew Misawa was going to give us a run for our money. The last event would be a challenge with Dan (Hershey) coming out of the gates like the thoroughbred that he is. It was a fun challenge,” says Christen Wagner, 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games competitor and CrossFit Asia team captain.

Interestingly enough, both teams originate from the same military base in Okinawa, Japan, with Jamie Light, head coach for CrossFit Asia, having also coached two of Team Misawa’s athletes.

“We are friends with the athletes from Misawa – two of their team members came from our gym,” Light says. “We knew they were coming to win, not just participate, and that they were extremely capable.”

Putting the team together

Light was keen to assemble the most well rounded team for the Asia Regional.

“Instead of building a team of specialists, we wanted the most balanced athletes, with limited weaknesses,” Light says. 

The team consists of husband and wife pair Brent and Tara McCall, and Sam Johnson – all officers in the U.S. Armed Forces — along with schoolteacher Kristen Arnold and Naoya Arasaki, a local Okinawan resident.

The team came together just a few months before the Regional competition and trained hard to balance strength with endurance and gymnastic skills. They quickly realized the key to a winning team was to have strong women, and with Wagner at the helm, that was not a problem.

“We all have pretty big engines, especially the women,” Wagner says. “They are our strong suit.”

The Regional

Their pre-Regional preparation bore fruit immediately, when Brent and Tara crushed the competition in the team Jackie event.

“Brent and Tara had done this workout before, and beat their practice time by about 25 seconds on the day, which placed us in the top three in every region that had already gone through the event. We were extremely confident about taking this event,” Wagner says.

Event 2 did not go in their favor, but the team kept channels of communication open and managed to keep their head above water for Day 2.

“My intent was to give everyone what they needed to hear between workouts. I tried to calm and focus those who were nervous, and reinvigorate those who were discouraged. We would meet in the evening to discuss all the positives and the areas where we needed to improve,” Wagner says.  

The team knew Event 5 would hurt them, but that didn’t stop them from going hard.

“We knew we would take a hit on the deadlifts and box jumps, but working on high-rep box jumps through the year just isn’t worth the payoff,” Light says.  

Fatigue set in quickly during Event 6, where the Johnson–Arnold partnership just could not keep up with Team Misawa, who ran away with the event, setting up the exciting finale.

Wagner is no stranger to victory, but this one was different. CrossFit Asia crushed Misawa by almost 45 seconds in Event 7 to take the Regional crown.

“I just screamed with joy. It felt really good to have won this with five other people with me to experience the victory,” Wagner says.

Preparation for the Games

The athletes are looking forward to getting onto American soil and competing at the Games.

“We are not making this trip just to get some cool gear. Our goal is to break into the top half of the teams and show the world what Asia is capable of doing,” says Wagner, who as a U.S. Marine, has recently been transferred back to the United States.

The last few weeks have been crucial for the team’s training, with the Games rapidly approaching.

“We really need to plan for what we know we’ll see,” Light says. “No one predicted the bobsled last year, but you can predict weightlifting, gymnastics and sprinting. And that’s what we’re training for.”

Wagner is very confident about a solid performance at the Games, and is clearly determined for her and her teammates to go home with an invaluable lesson or two.

“There is nothing like competition to point out your weaknesses and focus your training for the next year,” she says. “I want the team to finish in the top half and go back knowing that we’ve all learnt something.”