March 14, 2014
Going Heavy in the Big Easy
By Andréa Maria Cecil
“Ever year is a different journey to get the right athletes to the regionals. There’s common elements, but it’s certainly not predictable.”
“Ever year is a different journey to get the right athletes to the regionals. There’s common elements, but it’s certainly not predictable.”

“Ever year is a different journey to get the right athletes to the regionals. There’s common elements, but it’s certainly not predictable.”

For several seconds he smiled, staring at the floor, searching for the appropriate words.

The first workout of the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open was “fun” and “accessible.” The second signaled that it was time to get to work. And the third?

“The work’s continuing,” said Dave Castro, Director of the CrossFit Games, hours before he unveiled Open Workout 14.3 before a live audience at CrossFit NOLA Downtown in New Orleans.

With his quintessential wide smile that hints at mischief, he added: “You need to show up again.”

The workout still would be fun and accessible, but “you gotta earn it,” Castro said on Thursday afternoon.

The Guessing Games

As she stood in line for an order of beignets at Café du Monde near the banks of the Mississippi River, Alessandra Pichelli made her predictions. Before Talayna Fortunato and Camille Leblanc-Bazinet faced off in 14.2, speculation spread that the workout would include pull-ups since both athletes possessed gymnastics prowess. And so it did.

“I was trying to think (about) what it would be,” said Pichelli, following nearly every statement with her patented innocent giggle.

Perhaps a triplet or a strength event. Maybe thrusters.

“I’m good at thrusters, but I don’t love them,” she said.

She added: “I really hope for no burpees or toes-to-bar.”

For her part, Stacie Tovar was envisioning a heavy barbell.

She threw out ideas as she stretched inside a conference room at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans outfitted with a small Rogue pull-up rig, plyo boxes, barbells, bumper plates and two rowers.

Seven minutes of burpees would be bad, she ruminated. Besides, Castro wouldn’t program that for a live event; that would be “boring to watch.”

Then she paused and added: “But he doesn’t give a fuck, right?”

No. He doesn’t.

On Thursday night, Castro revealed 14.3: an eight-minute AMRAP of ascending deadlifts—both in reps and weight—and 15 box jumps, making for the third consecutive couplet of this year’s Open. The weight gets as high as 225 lb. for the women and 365 lb. for the men.

After a long eight minutes, Pichelli was victor—despite incorrectly loading the bar in the third round.

“Expect things to go wrong,” advised the 27-year-old Pichelli, a former collegiate rower, after the workout.

She added: “The race is won at the end.”

Tovar, meanwhile, hadn’t done herself any favors with a heavy deadlift workout on Monday that also included burpees.

After the live event, the 29-year-old said she was hoping for sizable weights, but not in the fashion of 14.3.

“I didn’t want deadlift-heavy,” she said with a defeated smile.

Then, she added: “I’m not gonna lie, I was a little tired today.”

After a couple of days of being “amped” while trying to take in the sights of the Big Easy, she said she felt like she wasted energy.

As long as she isn’t too sore, Tovar said she would have another go at 14.3.

A Special Guest

Although spectators arrived to see Pichelli and Tovar face off, they received a surprise when New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton strolled into the affiliate sans introduction shortly before the workout began.

The crowd erupted. And the traditional chant every native New Orleanian knows—football fan or not—began thundering through the box: “Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?”

The coach discreetly waved and took a spot just beyond the competition floor, behind most of the cameras.

“These fans here in this city are just passionate about sports and especially the Saints,” Payton told CrossFit Media. “But I wanted to be sure it was about the athletes.”

When he took a seat on the floor for The Cool Down Q-and-A that followed the live announcement—and gave Pichelli a congratulatory fist bump—fans broke out into the “Who dat?” chant once more.

Payton said the ambiance was electric.

“You could definitely feel the adrenaline and how it would affect the athletes,” he said.

Payton, a CrossFit athlete of three years, described CrossFit as a “welcoming community that a lot of people may not expect.”

Simply Unpredictable

After the match-up, Castro expressed confidence in the workout’s design.

“They didn’t hit the final weight,” he said of Pichelli and Tovar. “That’s good."

He added: “The loading is right for the females. We’ll see how it plays out for the males. Like I said, I don’t think anyone is going to finish it, but if someone did, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

If the 2014 Open were a story, of sorts, Games General Manager Justin Bergh said it would be simple and straightforward.

“Ever year is a different journey to get the right athletes to the regionals,” he explained. “There’s common elements, but it’s certainly not predictable.”

About the Author: Andréa Maria Cecil is a CrossFit Journal staff writer and editor.