June 1, 2012
The Canada East Comeback
By Chris Cooper

The Canada East Regional provided two exciting stories in both the men's and women's competitions.

Fans at the Canada East Regional were treated to two made-for-primetime stories -- one in the men’s competition and one in the women’s.

Michele Letendre

The duel has been repeated so often, with the same results, that many thought it was a foregone conclusion: Camille Leblanc-Bazinet would take Canada East, followed by Michele Letendre.

At the 2011 Canada East Regional, Leblanc-Bazinet won five of six events. Letendre fought among the top five, finally earning the second seat to the Games through consistency, rather than dominance.

Through the 2012 Open, Leblanc-Bazinet rolled on, winning three events and finishing 2nd in the other two. Those were won by Letendre, of course.

Worldwide, both were in the top 10. Leblanc-Bazinet sat in 5th, and Letendre, her CrossFit shadow, was ranked 7th.

At the Canada East Regaional, Leblanc-Bazinet won Diane by one second, and Event 2 by six seconds – both with Letendre breathing down her neck. In Event 3, Letendre took 1st place.

Leblanc-Bazinet, surprisingly, didn't finish 2nd, but fell to 4th place in that event. Pushed to her lowest finish in a CrossFit Open or Regional event in years, Leblanc-Bazinet charged through Event 4, finishing 1st by nearly a minute over Letendre. By Saturday night, Leblanc-Bazinet was in the lead, but only by a single point.

Event 5 was the Snatch Ladder. Wearing knee sleeves and a belt, Leblanc-Bazinet strode confidently to the floor, and moved smoothly through each bar power snatching most of the bars. Letendre, moving through the bars one spot ahead of Leblanc-Bazinet, gave a whoop and a cheer at each lift as the bars got heavier. The fans in the bleachers amplified her joy, and showered boisterous praise on her from the bleachers.

At the 165-pound bar, Letendre missed her first lift. With a single hesitating glance back at the bar, she rushed to her rope and started to pound out double-unders, achieving 20.

Then it was Camille's turn. The bar flew overhead, but she missed the catch. She didn't look to her rope, she looked to her chalk instead. She dusted her hands. She walked back to the bar. She set her grip. She pulled. With the bar at her knees, the timer went off. Letendre had won the event by due her her 20 double-unders.

Leading with 8 points to Leblanc-Bazinet's 9, Letendre knew the last event of the day would decide who was top in the region. When asked if she thought she was making her familiar opponent nervous, she replied, “I hope so, because she makes me nervous!”

On the final event, neither athelte had trouble with the deadlifts or muscle-ups. Only during wall balls did Letendre started to pull away. She had already walked the length of the floor with her dumbbells before Leblanc-Bazinet finished her toes-to-bars. When Leblanc-Bazinet reached her on the box jumps, Letendre had several in her pocket. She marched to the rings, linked her three muscle-ups together, celebrated for a brief second, and turned to cheer for Leblanc-Bazinet.

Note: In Event 6, Letendre dominated, setting a new world record – later taken away because all of the women’s' bars were loaded incorrectly.

Matt Lefave

While the race between the women was tight from the opening gun, Matt Lefave didn't appear to be a threat at all. Finishing 38th in the first event, “Diane,” Lefave faced a barrier that was almost insurmountable. Though he had been finishing “Diane” in 5-6 minutes in practice, he did not even get to the round of 9’s within the allotted 9 minutes when it counted. A comeback seemed physically and mathematically impossible to everone by Matt Lefave.

Lefave roared back to win Event #2. He finished a close second in Event 3, and third in Event #4. Great scores, but Jeff Larsh still enjoyed a large cushion between his second-place rank and Lefave's third-place spot. What's more, Larsh was far and away the heaviest snatcher in the group, giving him a huge advantage for Event 5.

During warmups, Jeff Larsh nailed some big numbers. When the time came, though, he faltered, achieving only a 215lbs snatch – a good 50lbs less than his max. Lefave had a PR 225, jumping immediately to the skipping rope and notching 26 double-unders...just in case.

A potential comeback was an exciting possibility on Sunday afternoon, but the possibility seemed remote. Lefave would have to beat Larsh by at least 8 places to tie for second overall. It was in Lefave's best interest for others to do well.....as long as he did even better.

Lefave stayed out front through the muscle-ups. He stayed thereon the wall ball. He moved quickly with the heavy dumbbells, but seemed to be slowing on the box jumps. With every second meaning the potential difference between a ticket to Carson and a long car ride home, Matt Lefave practically ran his dumbbells back to the rack, dropped them midstride, shook his arms, and linked the last three muscle-ups. Then he left his fate to the mercy of the clock...which expired before Larsh could finish.

Not until all the scores were entered would Lefave find out that he had done it: a massive comeback, from 38th to 2nd. Tied for points with Jeff Larsh, and each holding one event win, LeFave would squeak through on his next-best score – a second place, to Larsh's third place score. Every single rep, every second, had counted. You can't count anyone out.