May 17, 2014
Europe Update: Day 2
By Mike Warkentin
Briggs claws back but needs a big Day 3 to get back to the Games.
Briggs claws back but needs a big Day 3 to get back to the Games.

Briggs claws back but needs a big Day 3 to get back to the Games.

It’s been a long time since Sam Briggs had to look up on the Leaderboard.

On May 16, Briggs took 26 points on Event 2; in 2013, she took 13 points across all seven regional events. At the end of Day 1, she had 32 points and sat in ninth.

The deficit isn’t a death sentence, but the defending Games champ could ill afford another slip-up if she wanted to finish in the top three. She needed strong performances to pull herself near the podium on Day 2, and she rose to the challenge. But with five events down, she’ll need the athletes ahead of her to falter even if she wins the last two.

The men’s picture started muddy and finished only marginally clearer. Jonne Koski retained the top spot and added a few points to his lead, but several athletes still have a shot at a Games spot.


Event 4

Call Event 4 a present to Kristin Holte and her country on Norwegian Constitution Day.

The crowd at the Super Arena is far larger than it was last year, and it rose to its feet as the top women took the floor. The atmosphere in the hot, muggy arena was electric, with most eyes on Briggs. If Briggs didn’t do well in this event, the chances of reaching the podium would be very slim, indeed.

Most of the women chose to do smaller sets on the first set of handstand push-ups, though Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir did 21 unbroken.

“They were stricter on handstand push-ups than I normally do them,” she said. To compensate, she had to do them “super strict” to make sure the reps counted with her judge.

Despite varying strategies on the wall, 10 of 12 athletes were squatting at the same time in the round of 21. Strategies varied here, as well. Oxana Slivenko, a weightlifter who lists her back squat PR at 374 lb., broke the sets early and often but was able to keep pace mostly because she opened each set with a smooth, easy squat clean.

Briggs motored through the burpees with the speed she showed in Open Workout 14.5, and she was first back to the wall. She broke the 15 handstand push-ups into sets of four, three, three, three and two but came off the wall behind Holte and Slivenko. The latter at times used a sort of hand-release technique for handstand-push-ups, presumably to take some of the load off her arms for a brief moment before the rep.

Briggs is simply faster at burpees and gained ground quickly once again, but Holte made short work of nine handstand push-ups and had her squats done before Briggs reached her bar.

Holte gave her supporters a brief scare when she almost missed a grinding rep in the sixes, but she managed two sets of three and was home free at that point.

Briggs pulled in for second, with Davidsdottir third. To close out the event with a CrossFit tradition, all athletes huddled around Saara Laaksonen to cheer her to the finish mat just under the time cap of 20 minutes.

Briggs did what she needed to do and pulled herself closer to the podium. After Event 4, she was eighth with 34 points, but third is still a long way away, and the defending champ will need a strong showing on Event 5 to have any chance of returning to Carson.

Thorisdottir, who is dealing with a knee injury, showed no ill effects during the squats. She finished seventh in the event and sits second overall.

Though the picture is becoming clearer, the standings are still very much in flux, and much can change if a top athlete struggles in Event 5. Davidsdottir, who sat atop the Leaderboard after four events by only 13 points, noted legless rope climbs are very challenging for her.

“This next event will be really tough for me,” she said. That’s my true test for the weekend.”

Event 4 Results
1. Kristin Holte (9:52)
2. Sam Briggs (10:17)
3. Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir (10:32)

Event 5

Fewer than 30 female athletes completed Event 5 in Week 1 of regionals, but 21 athletes Down Under were able to finish all the rope climbs and sprints on Day 2. In Europe, the number of finishers was 16—including Sam Briggs, who badly needed to do well in the event.

Briggs did more than well, winning the event by 38 seconds and setting an event record in the process with a blistering time of 4:31.

Thorisdottir shot off the line to start the event, but Briggs was close behind her and never changed pace throughout. The Brit used a leap and her long arms to quickly and smoothly scale the rope without a kip. Jogging back and forth at a brisk pace, Briggs shook out her arms and didn’t hesitate to jump back on the rope when she arrived. She was in no danger of failing.

Briggs barely looked to break a sweat in absolutely dominating the event with impressive upper-body strength.

The race for second found Caroline Fryklund and Slivenko pacing each other with the latter using short, choppy pulls to get up the rope. Slivenko had hit failure in the rope-climb event in 2013, and she’s obviously greatly improved her skills in the last year. She was deadly efficient on the rope and finished her final sprint only six seconds back of Fryklund, who finished second. The margin was actually somewhat closer, but Slivenko forgot to move her marker to the finish mat, which cost her a few seconds but nothing more.

Perhaps most notable of all, Davidsdottir, the overall leader going into the event, hit a wall on her eighth climb. She had said this event would be difficult for her, but when she started failing rope climbs, she looked utterly defeated, sitting on her knees underneath the rope.

When Briggs saw the Icelander’s despair, she literally sprinted across the floor to help her. That sort of encouragement is common in CrossFit, but Briggs is fighting for a Games spot, and Davidsdottir was holding one. There could be no better result for Briggs than for Davidsdottir to slide down the Leaderboard.

And yet Briggs actually set her watch, told Davidsdottir to wait longer between attempts and timed her rest. As Davidsdottir paced down her lane in anguish, Briggs encouraged her and was joined by Thorisdottir.

Ultimately, Davidsdottir failed several additional attempts and couldn’t add to her score. She left the floor in abject misery in 24th place and could be seen sobbing on her knees in front of a chair while other athletes comforted her.

When asked why she so actively encouraged a rival standing between her and the Games, Briggs was blunt: “Because I would not like to get to the Games because someone else has messed up.”

With Davidsdottir’s failure, Fryklund took the overall lead via tiebreaker, as she and Annie Thorisdottir both have 22 points. Slivenko is in third, just one point behind, and she holds the tiebreaker over Bjork Odinsdottir, who also has 23 points. Briggs sits fifth, 12 points back. She’s still far from the podium, though she took only 3 points today and clawed back into contention.

She said her plan for tomorrow is “to do the same.”

She added: “I’m by no means safe yet. Hopefully I can win the 50s and put up a good score in the last WOD. You never know what can happen.”

Holte also has 35 points but is in sixth via tiebreaker, and Davidsdottir is in seventh.

On the women’s Leaderboard, all that is certain at the end of Day 2 is that there’s a logjam in the standings and seven athletes have a shot at only three CrossFit Games berths. Briggs is in the mix, but she’s far from a lock for the podium.

Event 5 Results
1. Sam Briggs (4:31)
2. Caroline Fryklund (5:09)
3. Oxana Slivenko (5:15)

Overall Standings
1. Caroline Fryklund (22)
2. Annie Thorisdottir (22)
3. Oxana Slivenko (23)
4. Bjork Odinsdottir (23)
5. Sam Briggs (35)
6. Kristin Holte (35)
7. Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir (37)
8. Anna Hulda Olafsdottir (60)
9. Emelie Smiding (60)
10. Martina Barbaro (62)


Event 4

Jordan Wallace set the early pace in Event 4 with 11:21 out of Heat 2. It was atop the Leaderboard for only one heat, and Steven Fawcett used 10:28 to bump it down about 20 minutes later. Fawcett’s time in Heat 3 was spectacular and actually would have taken first in Canada West, South East and Latin America.

In the final heat, overall leader Jonne Koski led from start to finish and increased his lead throughout, mainly on the handstand push-ups, though he was steady on the squats, as well. He got further and further ahead, leaving Frederik Aegidius and Lukas Högberg to decide who would take second in the heat. When he completed all the reps, Koski was able to top Wallace’s time, but no one could touch Fawcett’s number.

In the undercard, Aegidius and Högberg went back and forth throughout the event, with Aegidius gaining time when Högberg failed a handstand push-up in the round of nine. Surprisingly, he didn’t have to rest long before he recharged enough to keep going.

“I was trying to push my limits … . This was a hard workout for me because I’m very big,” Högberg said.

In the round of three, the Swede and the Dane were dead even in a sprint to the barbell after coming off the wall. Aegidius landed his squat clean, while Högberg fell backwards, giving Aegidius the edge as the crowd roared. Högberg, as before, recovered quickly and finished the workout to remain in the top five overall.

“I was like, ‘I got him, I got him, I got him,’” Högberg said. “When I got up to the bar, I was more tired than I thought in my head.”

Overall, he’s very happy with the way the weekend is going. In fifth place after five events, Högberg wants to go to the CrossFit Games, and he’s looking forward to tomorrow’s events, though he’d like another run at the handstand walk from Day 1.

“I fucked up,” he said with a broad smile.

Indeed, Event 2 contributed 36 points to his total of 46.

Event 4 Results
1. Steven Fawcett (10:28)
2. Jonne Koski (10:58)
3. Jordan Wallace (11:21)

Event 5

On the men’s side of Event 5, the fireworks happened in the early heats.

Matt Rodwell put up 3:40 in Heat 1, and it stood up for second place. The best race was in Heat 2, where Eiríkur Baldursson raced Liam Hogan. Baldursson scored 3:42, good enough for third, while Hogan actually beat Elijah Muhammad’s 3:33 Week 1 record by one second. Sadly, Hogan didn’t get the honor of holding the record because Rory Boyden had lowered the number to 3:29 earlier in the day in Australia.

In the final heat, Lukas Esslinger went out to an early lead but was tracked down and passed by Högberg and Will Kane in the latter rounds. Högberg looked to have the heat locked down after a fast final climb, but Kane threw on the afterburners in the sprint and managed to move his marker to the finish mat a second ahead of Högberg to take fourth.

Koski was 19th in the event—his only finish outside the top 10—but retained the top spot, holding a 12-point lead over Aegidius, who has two points on Högberg.

Koski has been training with Mikko Salo for about 10 months, and the 2009 CrossFit Games champ said Koski can beat him “in some workouts, definitely.”

Salo said the young Finn’s success rests on two attributes.

“He’s overall good technically. He’s got a good engine,” he said.

Salo wasn’t surprised to see Koski at the top, though Koski didn’t target the top spot.

“I knew I could be top three,” Koski said.

The 19-year-old Finn has a few points to play with, so his plan for tomorrow is conservative: “Just try to stay in the top 10 on both workouts.”

If he does, he’ll very likely be heading to California in July.

Event 5 Results
1. Liam Hogan (3:32)
2. Matt Rodwell (3:40)
3. Eiríkur Baldursson (3:42)

Overall Standings
1. Jonne Koski (37)
2. Frederik Aegidius (49)
3. Lukas Högberg (51)
4. Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson (53)
5. Lukas Esslinger (58)
6. Numi Katrinarson (65)
7. Viktor Långsved (72)
6. Will Kane (85)
8. Steven Fawcett (89)
10. Christer Idland (89)