The crowd had more than doubled by the start of the individual events on Day 1 of the 2014 Australia Regional.
Spectators made the most of the opportunity to get close to the action with new floor-level access set up at this year's competition.
Competitors and spectators were eager to see whether 2014 would see the dominant trio of Rob Forte, Chad Mackay and Brandon Swan head to the Games for a third year in a row (a fourth Games attendance for Forte and Mackay).
While other athletes had been touting Ben Garard and Khan Porter as serious threats to the long time favorites, Matt Reilly was also going to be one to watch after a third-place finish in the Open.
The competition for podium positions was even fiercer in the women's division with six Games qualifiers in the field: Ruth Anderson Horrell, Pip Malone, Kara Webb, Denae Brown, Amanda Allen and Amy Dracup. The group headed into the regional ranked first through sixth.
The 2013 qualifiers, Anderson Horrell, Webb and Malone were looking to repeat last year's success, however, the rest of the field were determined to claim their place on the podium.
Allen has already secured a ticket to the CrossFit Games after a dominant performance in the Masters Qualifier in the 40-44 Division, but she was looking to earn a place in the individual division.
Brown was equally driven and would be fighting for the chance to actually get to Carson. After qualifying for the Games in 2012, the unaffiliated athlete selected to decline the invitation after finding out she was pregnant.
Dracup finished fourth at the regional last year despite having diverted her training efforts to Olympic lifting for the preceding season. She entered the competition this year with a full 12 months of dedicated CrossFit training making her an even more formidable competitor.
The event record was equaled early in Event 1 with Will Edgar snatching an impressive 285 lb. and no one getting close to taking first place from him.
“That’s not a PR for my snatch, but it is for the hang so very happy with that,” he said.
The snatch event brought a few surprises with one of the Australia Regional favorites, Dean Linder-Leighton, choosing to open at 245 lb. but failing to record a single successful lift. He ended up with a score of 0 for the event and sat with his head in his hands for the remainder.
Second place for the event went to Swan who successfully lifted 275 lb., 10 lb. more than intended.
“I accidentally PB’d. I meant to put 10 less than that on the bar but it’s funny how the brain works isn't it,” he said.
Mackay was noticeably cool, calm and collected and took third with a solid 260-lb. lift.
The current 10th fittest man in the world, Mackay attempted 280 lb., which is his personal best, but said he leant too far back and didn’t keep the bar close enough to be successful.
“There is no rush. I know I have two whole minutes to make that lift. What I'll do at training is change the weights and then have about one minute rest, so I just treat it like another training session," he said. "I think I have to focus a little bit more and not let anything around me worry me. I have a job to do."
2013 Australia Regional champion Forte tied for fourth in the event with a 255-lb. lift.
“Usually weightlifting isn’t (a strength of mine), but I think just having those three lifts eliminated a lot of people that would normally beat me. I didn’t hit the biggest weight, but I wanted to hit all three lifts,” he said.
After a controversial 2013 season, Garard came into this year’s regional with plenty to prove. He successfully opened at 215 lb. before missing an attempt at 235 lb.
For his third and final attempt, Garard chose to up the weight to 240 lb, which he also missed.
The event was marred with a possible injury to Zach Morton-Adair when the bar tipped backwards and he failed to let go. Luckily he was fit enough to compete for remainder of the day.
Event 1 Results
1. Will Edgar (285)
2. Brandon Swan (275)
3. Chad Mackay (260)
When it came time to hit the handstand walk, some of the big boys proved they were as strong on their hands as they were on the bar with Kiwi pair Aaron James and Kevin Manuel proving excellent, with Manuel storming to 275 feet.
“I’ve always enjoyed it, I've been walking on my hands since I was a little kid,” he said.
Crowd favorite and three-time Games athlete, Chris Hogan, who did well at the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games in a similar event, powered down the stadium for 275 feet, which put him in third place overall after two events.
The two standouts of Event 2, however, were Forte, who took second with 280 feet, and Swan, who claimed victory with an impressive 290 feet.
“The best thing for me to do is be consistent. It's what got me to the Games two years ago. If I can be top five for each event, I'm on the right track,” Swan said.
Event 2 Results
1. Brandon Swan (290)
2. Rob Forte (280)
3T. Chris Hogan (275)
3T. Kevin Manuel (275)
Nasty Girls V2 separated the field even further, but every man was able to complete the event inside the 16-minute time cap.
Kieran Hogan set the time to beat in the first heat with a dominant performance.
Hogan went unbroken on everything except his second round of hang cleans and stepped onto the mat in a time of 8:35.
No one in the second heat would even come close, before Patrick Fitzsimons put on an impressive show in the third heat to post the first sub-eight minute time of the day with 7:58.
Michael Roach and Brendan Clark also pipped Hogan from the top three before the final heat took to the floor.
From the outset, Garard looked set to claim his first win of the regional after a less-than-ideal start to the weekend with two failed snatches.
However, after consistently pulling away from the competition in the pistols–a movement he is very dominant at–Garard came unstuck with just one muscle-up remaining.
This made room for Porter, who had steadily chipped away at the movements, to steal first place with 7:40, which was more than 10 seconds faster than second-place finisher Forte.
But Porter wouldn’t say the event was fun, per se.
“Fun is one way you could describe it. I like that sort of stuff, ones where you can just keep moving,” he said.
“I would have liked to have gotten that last sent of hang cleans unbroken, but I did what I needed to do to get the win. I’m happy with that,” he added.
Forte crossed the line 12 seconds later after breaking up his hang cleans.
“My feeling determines my pace and how I break it up. I knew four of us were close and I knew I had to pick it up in the last round. I went quicker on the pistols, ran to the muscle-ups and then last set of hang cleans I had to break them up,” he said.
After breaking the final set of cleans into singles, Garard crossed for third place in the event, and tied for third place overall, in a time of 7:58.
But the competition for third was close, with Swan and James Newbury in close pursuit.
Swan crossed for a time of 7:59 and Newbury, who would have been close to taking third place save tripping over his own barbell, crossed in eight minutes flat.
For what very much appeared a one-horse race after Garard approached the final set of muscle-ups with a strong lead, it rapidly became a breathtaking competition.
The event could have been anyone’s in the final 30 seconds, but it was Porter’s firm grip on the bar that secured him first place with just one break in the final set of hang cleans.
Forte held onto the barbell as long as possible, breaking the final set of hang cleans just once before catching his final hang clean in a full squat before dumping the bar and racing for the mat.
Swan and Forte finished the day firmly in the top two positions, with their next closest competitors 21 points behind on the Leaderboard.
One of the biggest questions heading into Day 2 will be whether or not Mackay can recover from his 16th place overall. Despite a second-place finish in Event 1 with a 260-lb. hang snatch, a 22nd-place finish in Event 2 and a 32nd-place finish in Event 3 saw Mackay slip down the Leaderboard closing the day 28 points behind the top three.
Event 3 Results
1. Khan Porter (7:40)
2. Rob Forte (7:32)
3T. Patrick Fitzsimons (7:58)
3T. Ben Garard (7:58)
1. Brandon Swan (8)
2. Rob Forte (8)
3. Chris Hogan (29)
4. Brendan Clarke (31)
5. Kevin Manuel (33)
6. Khan Porter (40)
7. James Newbury (40)
8. Aaron James (41)
9. Ben Garard (42)
10. Michael Roach (44)
The final heat of the women brought the big guns onto the floor–both literally and figuratively.
Two-time Australia Regional Champion and current 11th fittest in the world, Webb, claimed victory in Event 1 with a 185 lb. lift after opening at a whopping 175 lb.
“The plan changed when I got out there. I was going to open on 170 lb. but they didn’t have the 15-lb. plates so I couldn’t make 170, so I started on 175 and then we started differently,” Webb said.
“I hit what I wanted to hit with 185 lb. so I thought stuff it, I’ll just go balls out and see what happens. It was close, but it wasn’t close enough,” she added.
The entire heat lifted impressively with Malone showing her style with a massive 175-lb. snatch.
Both ladies loaded the bar up for a third lift, Webb attempting 195 lb. and Malone 185 lb. and both came close, getting under the bar with impressive speed but unfortunately neither was able to stand it up.
Anderson Horrell displayed the composure that comes from experience, nailing all three of her lifts to finish on 165 lb.
“That wasn’t quite where I wanted it, but I was happy with the snatch because I was quite nervous about it,” Anderson Horrell said.
“I really had to calm myself down, because I forgot to put a 10-lb. plate on one end, so I had uneven weight," she added. "Then the adrenaline started to kick in, and I really had to calm myself. The weightlifting competitions I’ve done paid off.”
Allen, the oldest woman in the field was unsure about the pound to kilogram conversion and hit an accidental PR on her second lift with 155 lb.
“The worst thing was getting the first lift on the board, after that there's no pressure,” she said.
"My second lift was meant to be my third lift, but I was clueless about the pounds. I failed the third lift, but I was never planning to pick that bar up," she added.
As expected, the final heat brought by far the biggest lifts. However, Heat 1 saw the fourth-biggest lift with Tamarind Robinson snatching 160 lb.
In a similar vein to the men’s event, one lifter failed to put a score on the board with Madeleine Jacques failing every attempt at 105 lb. as she didn’t hit full depth on any lift.
Event 1 Results
1. Kara Webb (185)
2. Pip Malone (175)
3. Ruth Anderson Horrell (165)
Event 2 saw a surprising result for the usually solid Webb who failed to complete one length of the floor for an 11th-place finish.
Allen was the dominant force on the floor, walking a total of 270 feet, smashing even Stephanie Ortiz who took second with 235 feet.
"I love handstand walking! I never did it until I started CrossFit, so I don't know where that handstand walking ninja came from,” Allen said.
Allen’s performance on the handstand walk put her in second position overall heading into the dreaded muscle-ups, historically Allen’s kryptonite, in Event 3.
Malone, who has a strong history of gymnastics having competed on the international stage, took fifth, but it was enough to put her at the top of the Leaderboard after two events.
The handstand walk proved tricky for many of the female competitors, with false starts and interesting techniques a regular occurrence.
Those athletes with a gymnastics background performed better, with household names like Anderson Horrell failing to make the first lap.
Lindsay Vaughn, who tied for third place in the event with almost two complete laps walked on her hands, was one athlete who saw the benefits from her gymnastics background.
“Yeah, I'm very happy with that! I used to be a gymnast so I was hoping to do well,” she said.
Event 2 Results
1. Amanda Allen (270)
2. Stephanie Ortiz (235)
3T. Denae Brown (230)
3T. Lindsay Vaughan (230)
The female competitors of the Australia Region showed what they were made of with four women breaking the event record.
After a disappointing end to Event 2, Webb proved why she has been the regional champion two years in a row with a commanding performance to break the event record by over a minute in a time of 7:10
Unlike the men, who all managed to complete the work in the allotted time, a large number of female competitors were still breathing heavily as the clock ticked over to 16 minutes.
As in previous years, muscle-ups proved the difference for athletes.
Few women struggled with the power cleans or pistols but many found themselves stuck on the rings.
In the first heat, Angela Hudson was unable to progress beyond the rings, but in true CrossFit fashion spent more than 14 minutes trying.
She wasn’t the only one to struggle though.
Carly Menzies spent the better part of 13 minutes working her way through the seven repetitions.
The first heat was won at the backend of the second round when Evelina Dalecki pulled away for a lead she wouldn’t relinquish, to finish with a time of 11:50.
"I knew I could do the pistols pretty much unbroken, and then just needed to stick to my muscle-up pace,” she said.
With each heat, the times got progressively faster with Vaughn winning Heat 2 in a time of 10.04, despite Ortiz making it to the rings first every round.
“I was really excited for (the third event). One-hundred fifty pistols, not my thing, but the muscle-ups, I love. I always know that if there’s a workout with muscle-ups, I can jump ahead a little bit,” she said.
Heat 3 saw the first woman break the 10-minute barrier with Jamie Green taking an early lead to finish more than a minute in front of second place in a time of 9:37.
“(The third event) was hard, but not that hard. The pistols suited me because I’m quite short,” Green said. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow because of all the gymnastics stuff. I’m a former gymnast. It’s better than heavy (events) for me, because I struggle with that."
But it was the final heat that lifted the atmosphere even more, bringing the crowd to their feet as the top 12 athletes took to the floor.
Webb started with a point to prove after her performance in the handstand walk, falling just shy of the end of the first lap.
Brown, Dracup and Malone took an early lead on the pistols, popping up down like their quads were springs but it was Dracup who was first off the first set of muscle-ups.
It was the pistols, however, where Webb made her move, picking up the pace and making it back to the rings first.
From that point on, none of the other women were in with a chance of catching her as Webb continued to pull away from the field.
Webb was absolutely dominant in the event, which put her back in first place on the Leaderboard after finishing in a time of 7:10.
Brown followed her onto the mat almost 40 seconds later, with Jessica Coughlan, who had quietly gone about her business, sneaking her way into the top three.
“Amazing! I'm absolutely gobsmacked, that, yeah, very proud of myself, but a little bit emotional,” Brown said.
Dracup rounded out the four event-record breakers with a finish time of 8:14.
“Denae was next to me and went out pretty hard, so I was just like, stay with her, stay with her, but keep enough for a strong finish. But her pace was a little bit too fast. When I got to the barbell, I had to break it up more than I planned,” she said.
Allen, who has failed to qualify for the last two CrossFit Games as an individual after struggling with muscle-ups, finished the event in 11th with a time of 11:05.
“I was about a minute off what I expected,” she said.
“I’ve repeated that just under 10 minutes in training, but that’s OK. Muscle-ups and I have had a rough ride in the last few years, so everything now I’m looking forward to,” Allen added.
While many competitors will be pleased to have handstand walks out of the way, tomorrow's events will present new challenges. With their arms burning from the first day's fatigue, individuals will tackle strict handstand push-ups in Event 4 and legless rope climbs in Event 5.
Event 3 Results
1. Kara Webb (7:10)
2. Denae Brown (7:48)
3. Jessica Coughlan (7:58)
1. Kara Webb (13)
2. Denae Brown (13)
3. Pip Malone (13)
4. Amanda Allen (22)
5. Ruth Anderson Horrell (22)
6. Stephanie Ortiz (27)
7. Jessica Coughlan (27)
8. Amy Dracup (30)
9. Lindsay Vaughan (32)
10. Vicki Webber (34)
CrossFit Athletic, CrossFit Active and Tropic Thunder set themselves apart from the rest of the field this morning, finishing the day with 5, 7 and 8 points, respectively.
Despite being very strong teams, Schwartzs CrossFit Melbourne and Reebok CrossFit Frankston finished Day 1 with significant ground to make up if they want to finish on the podium at the end of the weekend, trailing the third-place finishers by 16 points.