June 27, 2022
Four Cinematic Semifinals Moments
By CrossFit
Trying moments and mesmerizing triumphs. Here's a look at some of the greatest displays of fortitude and heart at the 2022 Semifinals.
Trying moments and mesmerizing triumphs. Here's a look at some of the greatest displays of fortitude and heart at the 2022 Semifinals.

From the outside, all may seem calm: the outside of a stadium. The outward demeanor of an athlete.

But under the surface lies surging energy and dynamism — a perfect formula for some of the most cinematic moments in sports.

Here’s a look at what went down under the stadium lights and in the hearts and minds of the athletes as they stared down trying moments and mesmerizing triumphs at the 2022 Semifinals. 

No Rep? No Problem.

By Daisy Lennox

A sudden gasp of surprise spread through the crowd. Fans were overcome with shock, befuddled at the no rep that five-time Fittest Woman on Earth Tia-Clair Toomey had just received. 

And by the look on her face, so was she.

Athletes had three attempts to hit a max load of 3 cleans followed by 2 front squats and 1 jerk in Barbell Complex — Event 3 of the Torian Pro.

Known for her overall strength and work capacity, the Games champion was favored to win the event.

On her second attempt at the complex, barbell loaded at 235 lb, Toomey was no-repped by her judge on her first squat clean. If her attempt was going to count, she would need to hold on to the bar and start the complex over again.

So, Toomey did what Toomey does.

Three more squat cleans — check. 

Two front squats — no problem. 

One jerk — easy. 

Toomey nailed her 235-lb lift, the crowd roaring with excitement at the champion's feat. 

And just when unnecessary — and unexpected — time under tension would drain an athlete’s energy reserve, Toomey came back even stronger. 

On her final attempt, Toomey approached her now 245-lb barbell and made each rep count. 

Three squat cleans.

Two front squats.

One jerk.

The Pat Rafter Arena erupted with cheers and applause for the Australian National Champion, flames shooting out of their cannons in celebration. 

Toomey had just won her third consecutive event of the weekend, and by the look on her face, it wasn’t going to be her last. 

Wells’ Tears

By Melissa Yinger

With seven event finishes inside the top 10, Brooke Wells was having one of the best Games of her career when she took the floor for Event 12, a 1-rep-max snatch, in 2021. Wells confidently dropped under the 190-lb barbell — and then something snapped. 

A collective gasp. Then quiet settled over the Coliseum. 

One man in the stands stood with his hands clasped in front of his heart in a pose that could signify wringing stress or prayer.

Wells was ushered off the floor for medical attention, where she learned what many who saw the lift up close already knew: Her Games were over.

Brooke Wells after Event 12, photo by Charlotte Foerschler
Brooke Wells after Event 12, photo by Charlotte Foerschler

That was in early August. By mid-August, Wells had undergone reconstructive surgery to repair the tears, but her muscles would atrophy for weeks until the sling was removed, exposing a long scar on the inside of her elbow.

With several months of PT sessions  — sessions Wells would say were often more painful than the injury itself — she put in the work, physically and mentally. The payoff came in March with a fifth-place finish in the worldwide Open. 

And again a couple weeks later when she took 13th in the Quarterfinal. 

And yet again during the Semifinal stage as her fortitude held her above the cutline for most of the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge. 

One last workout stood between Wells and Games redemption: the MACC’s Turbo Tunnel, a quick progression down the floor with muscle-ups, front squats, front-rack lunges, and finally, overhead walking lunges. 

This workout would put higher demands on Wells’ elbow than any of the previous workouts from this season. She would need to be unflinching as she faced it.

Rebecca Fuselier was nipping at her heels, and Kelly Clark’s face showed she was ready to go all in on a bid to knock Wells below the bubble.

Clark delivered and came in right behind Danielle Brandon. 

Fuselier crossed the finish line. 

Wells found herself at the back of the heat, holding the barbell aloft with her hopes and dreams. 

She bobbled at the finish line, failing to stand the barbell up on the final step. 

The drop brought her down to 11th place, good for 60 points in the workout. Meanwhile, Clark had made up 36 points on Wells. 

Announcer Sean Woodland voiced what was likely on Wells’ mind as she queued up for the announcement of placements: Was Clark’s final push enough?

It was not. 

When all the scores had been calculated, 2 points separated Wells from dashed hopes. 

“I did it.” 

That was what went through her mind when she heard her name called. 

After “the hardest year (she) ever had training,” Wells was overcome with tears. She fell into the arms of training partner and friend Tia-Clair Toomey.

She was going back to the Games. 


The Comeback’s Comeback

By Brittney Saline

A nearly 30-second break mid-thrusters while the lead moved further and further away. 

A burpee begun on all fours, more than 3 seconds wasted lying belly down. 

An overhead squat that went ass over teakettle. 

This was not the return Ricky Garard had waited four years for. 

Event 1 at the 2022 Torian Pro was a wicked 150-rep down-and-back chipper of overhead squats, burpee box jump-overs, thrusters, power cleans, and muscle-ups with a 1,500-m run smack in the middle. 

Garard hung on all the way to the workout’s back half, just a handful of reps behind Bayden Brown. But he was running on fumes — literally; as we would later learn — and though he managed to finish the event in 6th, the effort looked like it might’ve cost him his soul. 

“The first workout destroyed me,” he said later that day. 

After the horn signaled the end of the 23-minute event, Garard lay writhing on the floor. You might have thought it was over when the oxygen mask came out. 

Garard didn’t. 

Just three hours after being carried off the competition floor by the medical team at the Torian Pro, Garard returned on his own two feet, waving to the crowd as he jogged to his lane for Event 2: 10 rounds for time of legless rope climbs and sprints. 

At first, all eyes were on Jay Crouch and Bayley Martin, who took the early lead with true all-out sprints. But although a 3-ish-minute workout sounds quick, it’s a hell of a long time to sprint — and come the 2-minute mark, Garard hit the gas as the others fell back.

By the time he hit the floor for his final sprint, Garard’s competition was a rope climb behind. He crossed the finish a fraction more than 6 seconds before Crouch for the event win, pumping his arms to the screech of the crowd. 

“It’s been such a long time; it’s still so foreign to be in this environment,” he said of the morning’s scare. “It’s testing me, it’s the biggest challenge of my life. I’ve given everything I’ve got to be here today, and I’m gonna keep fighting to the end.” 

Ricky Garard, Event 2, photo by @benywatson
Ricky Garard, Event 2, photo by @benywatson

An 80-Point Jump

By Kelley Laxton

As the men lined up on their mats awaiting the final event of the Syndicate Crown Semifinal, the crowd had a sense of who would be in contention for the five tickets to the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games. Justin Medeiros sat in first, Jayson Hopper in second, and James Sprague in third. Standing in the ninth lane in Heat 3 was Will Moorad, who sat in eighth place, 80 points behind Sprague heading into the final. No one expected the 33-year-old to make the cut, and commentators were already discussing his appearance in the Last-Chance Qualifier. 

But sending a wave of shock throughout the stadium, Moorad stepped on the gas, establishing himself in the front of the pack early on, joined by Medeiros, Hopper, and Tudor Magda. But as the clock continued to count down toward the 10-minute time cap, the leading pack began to slow down, falling behind one by one — except for Moorad. At 5:43.29, Moorad sprinted across the finish line first, more than 10 seconds ahead of Medeiros. 

But where was Sprague? Minutes passed before Sprague completed his last set of overhead squats, jumping to the finish mat in 8.54.84, good for 24th place in the event. 

The impossible happened.  

Moorad picked up 100 points over Sprague’s 19, making up 81 points. 

As the top five names were called, Moorad and Sprague appeared side-by-side on the jumbotron. 

One athlete would take home the final ticket to the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games. 

Seconds felt like minutes. And then Moorad’s name boomed across the stadium. 

Just 1 point separated him from Sprague in sixth.

Moorad’s eyes settled on his wife’s surprised face. The two of them had weathered a hard year since her breast cancer diagnosis shortly after last year’s Games.

Meanwhile, Sprague’s dad, Patrick, held onto him from the stands. A fellow elite athlete with years of experience competing at CrossFit’s highest levels, Patrick had a good sense of what his son was going through.

But disappointment quickly gave way to a smile for Sprague, whose season is not yet over. 

Sprague will join 29 other men and 30 women in the Last-Chance Qualifier, an online competition that will give athletes who narrowly missed a ticket to the Games one last shot to stand at the final curtain call. 

The 2022 Semifinals produced many moments that broke through the calm, buoyed on heartbreak, hope, or good humor; the athletes awing us with their unwavering strength and resolve. The Games are sure to produce many more of the moments we love.

See you in Madison.

Cover photo by Kieran Kesner

Gifs by Griffin Shaffer

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