Mikko Aronpaa and Candice Ford lead after the first day of competition, but others aren't far behind.
Emotions were running high heading into today’s events, and all eyes were on the top two favorites: last year’s winner, Michael Mogard and three-time Games athlete, Mikko Aronpää. However, as the morning progressed, there were a number of unexpected surprises from the field.
In the early heats, two competitors emerged from obscurity with successful 250 lb. hang squat snatches. The first was former Israeli Army combat fitness officer Zohar Lipkin of CrossFit Kfar Saba, and he was later matched by Istanbul’s Utku Tuncer of CrossFit 34.
The two previously unknown competitors set a tough weight to beat for the men in the final heat.
When Michael Mogard, Mikko Aronpää, Tanner Shuck, Eric Carmody, Ben Thompson and the rest of the region’s top men took the floor, the noise level at the KBS 88 Sports World arena went through the roof.
Aronpää was conservative from the start, with a clear plan to play safe with the weights.
“My plan was to start at 225 lb. and work up towards 245lb. The goal was not to miss any lifts at all,” Aronpää said.
Mogard, on the other hand, opened with 235 lb. before moving up to 255 lb. and ending confidently with 265 lb. Apparently, Mogard’s weight choices were affected by what the other top competitors were lifting.
“A little bit depended on what the other guys were lifting, and once I saw Britton and Rank go with 265 lb., I knew I had a little more in the tank,” Mogard explained.
Mogard’s final snatch was successful, putting him in a tie for first on the event with John Britton.
“It wasn’t a PR, but relative to the field, I am happy with the lift,” Mogard said. “I am trying to win the entire competition, not just a single event.”
It was a tightly contested event, with a tie at 265 lb., another tie at 250 lb., and a five-way tie at 245 lb. rounding out the top of the Leaderboard.
To everyone’s surprise, Shuck decided to withdraw from the regional citing an injury. Shuck had entered the regional as the top seeded man, after winning the Open in the region.
"I hurt my knee and I think I could have gone on, but I feel if I continue it will be detrimental to my long term career. I will be back next year, I'm sure of that," Shuck said.
Event 1 Results
1T. John Britton (265 lb.)
1T. Michael Mogard (265 lb. )
3T. Utku Tuncer (250 lb.)
3T. Zohar Lipkin (250 lb.)
5. Mikko Aronpää (245 lb.)
5. Eric Carmody (245 lb.)
5. Phil Hesketh (245 lb.)
5. Youngmin Kang (245 lb.)
5. Taylor Rank (245 lb.)
Two minutes after setting their one-rep max hang squat snatch, the competitors advanced to kicked up onto their hands for the max distance handstand walk.
It was here that Shingo Moromasa of Chikara CrossFit displayed his strong gymnastic abilities with a strong finish across the 345-foot marker.
Thompson, who also favors such movements, finished in second with a distance of 265 feet.
Aronpää, after a conservative start to the regional, walked across the 100-foot competition floor once, and came close to crossing it a second time before he lost his balance and fell at the 190-foot marker.
Event 2 Results
1. Shingo Moromasa (345 feet)
2. Ben Thompson (265 feet)
3. Joon Hwan Heo (260 feet)
The second half of the day began with the spicier version of Nasty Girls, an event confronted by mixed feelings from the competition floor. The larger athletes knew they would face a harder time with these high volume gymnastics movements that favor the quicker and more agile of the lot.
Interestingly enough, the 200-lb. Aronpää and 165-lb. Thompson took center stage, trading first and second place throughout the first round. Tailing them was Ant Haynes, who is new to the region, and Eric Carmody, keeping within five reps of the leading athletes.
The crowd was kept on their toes as athletes exchanged leads in the later rounds of the workout. It the end, it was Eric Carmody that emerged from behind with a surprise win finishing at 8:11. Aronpää and Thompson ended with 8:31 and 8:28 respectively, much to Thompson’s surprise.
“When I saw Eric, I didn’t know where he came from! But I knew I had to catch him. I made the push but he was already a few seconds ahead,” Thompson said. “To be honest, I was gaming it off Mikko. If I kept him on my tail, stayed ahead of him by one rep I could always make the push. But he had a very fast round two and I knew I had to pick it up.”
At the other end of the room, Michael Mogard found himself in unfamiliar territory, as he was one of the last few athletes to come off the rings. Mogard ended the round with a time of 9:37, clinching seventh overall in the event.
“This is a testimony that the competition within the region is getting stronger. I could not hang with Speedy (Thompson), Carmody and Aronpää. I originally planned on running between the stations but the pace was too quick and I could not keep up. I am looking forward to coming back on Day Two with a win in Event 4,” Mogard said.
A hometown favorite, Young-Jun Kim of CrossFit Chiwoo, stood out during Heat 3 with a decisive heat win in 9:08, which would be good enough for 5th across all heats. Like always, he competed with his signature cheerful disposition.
“In the past four years I’ve competed, I’ve seen so many angry and stressed out faces. All that has led to is injury and pain. I try to keep a positive attitude throughout,” Kim said.
Event 3 Results
1. Eric Carmody (08:11)
2. Ben Thompson (08:28)
3. Mikko Aronpää (08:31)
1. Mikko Aronpää (18)
2. Michael Mogard (22)
3. Utku Tuncer (22)
4. Zohar Lipkin (23)
5. Eric Carmody (26)
6. Phil Hesketh (27)
7. Shingo Moromasa (34)
8. Young-Jun Kim (35)
9. Ben Thompson (38)
10. Ates Boran (38)
With the absence of the 2013 women’s champion Nicole Tainatongo, the region’s single qualifying spot has nobody defending it.
The crowd did not have to wait long to see heavy weights on the snatches. Hannah Mitchell, noticeably calm and collected before each lift, began loading her barbell with 145 lb. and seamlessly lifted it above her head into a squat position before confidently standing up to the huge cheers from the crowd. Mitchell went on to lift 155 lb. before ending with a new personal record of 160 lb. She drew roars from the crowd with a victory dance at the end of her last lift.
“My focus was on my hips – drop under and stick it. If you have confidence on the lift, it will be hard to mess up. This is my thing and I am glad I hit every rep. Oh, and the dance. I am known for dancing and completely making a fool of myself when I hit a personal record. That is what I love,” Mitchell said.
Elsewhere in the field, there were high hopes on Crystal Sullivan, an American Weightlifting Open qualifier. Taking the crowd by surprise, Sullivan failed her first lift at 135 lb., shifting the focus to Yuko Sakuyama and Candice Ford, both of whom succeeded in their first lift attempts at 135 lb. and 145 lb. respectively. Following that, Ford and Sakuyama strategically paced themselves through the change of weights, keeping in mind the score to beat in order to take the lead.
“After seeing Hannah (Mitchell) open with 145 lb. I spoke to Ben (her husband) and tested it once; it felt good, so I went with it,” Ford said, admitting her change in strategy to keep up with the competition.
Ford loaded her plates at 160 lb. after a successful lift at 155 lb., and Sakuyama tried to play catch up at 155 lb.
Both women dove under the bar swiftly, but narrowly missed a final lockout to extend fully with the weight.
Sullivan, however, went on to surprise the crowd with a successful jump from the failed 135 lb. to 155 lb., securing her for second in the event.
“I had hoped to make an attempt at 160 lb. but I didn’t get there. Not today,” Sullivan said.
Event 1 Results
1. Hannah Mitchell (160 lb.)
2T. Candice Ford (155 lb. )
2T. Crystal Sullivan (155 lb.)
4. Yuko Sakuyama (145 lb.)
Going into the event, Ford and Sullivan were top picks given their gymnastics background. Much to the delight of the crowd however, Sakuyama took an early lead taking big strides despite her small frame. She eventually faltered at the 85-foot marker, giving way to Ford, who was following closely behind. Upon successfully completing her first ever 100-feet walk unbroken, Ford was alone on the competition floor and had already sealed a win on the event. The next best women—Moe Sakio, Sakuyama, and Carrie Freestone-- had all fallen at 85 feet.
Intent on making a statement however, Ford went on to attempt her second trip back across the floor. With the crowd rallying behind her, cheering her every step, she made it to the 70-foot marker before eventually faltering.
“On my second trip back, all I was thinking about was that my hands were burning! And I still had to do muscle-ups later! But overall I am really happy, this was way beyond my personal record,” confessed Ford who admittedly came into the regional feeling unprepared compared to the previous four years.
Event 2 Results
1. Candice Ford (170 feet)
2T. Moe Sakio (85 feet)
2T. Yuko Sakuyama (85 feet)
2T. Carrie Freestone (85 feet)
5T. Crystal Sullivan (75 feet)
5T. Loriedana Ballesteros (75 feet)
Not long after the shoulder intensive hang-snatch and handstand walk, the women of Asia had to deal with Nasty Girls V2.
Juria Maree started out strong and kept her lead till the very end of Heat 1, beating the rest of the women comprehensively. Muscle-ups, again, were the cause of her rather dominant performance. She managed to string three at a time, while the rest had to rely on singles.
Heat 2 proved to be less one-sided. Loriedana Ballesteros started out strong, moving through her pistols with ease. The muscle-ups slowed down the CrossFit Osan athlete, allowing both Moe Sakio and Mi-jung Choi to overtake her during the muscle-ups.
Choi and Sakio got the biggest applause from the Korean and Japanese audience members, as they swapped between first and second place throughout the event.
“I was keeping an eye on the girl (Choi) in the lane next to me. I noticed she had the same pace so I wanted to keep close,” said Sakio, who finished only two seconds behind Choi.
Yuko Sakuyama, who stands at 152 cm tall and weighs 125 lb., defied her rather diminutive stature and jumped impressively to the rings, much to the shock of the crowd. The petite athlete had very little choice though, considering that Marlene Andersson was chasing her closely.
Andersson paced herself throughout the workout and slowly crept past Sakuyama owing to her flawless muscle-ups, which she often stringed, five in a row.
While Sakuyama tried to keep up by executing her pistols as fast as she could, Marlene was simple too agile in her gymnastics.
Andersson finished the workout almost two and a half minutes before Sakuyama could plant her feet on the finish mat.
“I knew my pace as I’ve tested these workouts before, so I didn’t want to burn out chasing Sakuyama. The only thing I told myself was to not fall,” said Andersson, the eventual event winner who went on to cheer other athletes following her finish.
Event 3 Results
1. Marlene Andersson (10:05)
2. Yuko Sakuyama (12:45)
3. Laura Apollonio Bergen (14:22)
1. Candice Ford (8)
2. Yuko Sakuyama (8)
3. Crystal Sullivan (11)
4. Marlene Andersson (16)
5. Vanessa Fung (21)
6. Laura Apollonio Bergen (22)
7. Katherine Althoff (26)
8. Moe Sakio (28)
9. Jennifer Scott (29)
10. Carrie Freestone (30)
As Day 1 draws to a close, the leaderboard is littered with names both familiar and unfamiliar. In a region where the event standings are usually relatively predictable, this year’s competition proves to be exceptional.
“The girls this year are really fierce! I’ll have to bring my all to keep up with them,” commented crowd favourite, Marlene Andersson. And indeed, the athletes will have their work cut out for them this weekend.