The Hunger Games

July 15, 2012


Athletes desperately fight against elimination in Saturday's final event.

It was do-or-die for a host of athletes as the day’s final event rolled up. Only 36 qualified to do it, and 12 of them would be icing drinks rather than muscles at the night when the second ax hit the field.

The final Individual event of the day was announced just 30 minutes before the women took to the stadium for the Chipper that included a new movement: burpee muscle-ups. There was also a new twist on an old favorite: fat-bar thrusters.

The challenge set before the athletes was 10 overhead squats (155/105 lb.), 10 box jump-overs (24/20 inches), 10 fat-bar thrusters, (135/95 lb.),
10 power cleans (205/125 lb.), 10 toes-to-bars,
and 10 burpee muscle-ups. Then the athletes had to go back through the chipper in reverse order, omitting only a second set of burpee muscle-ups.


The 15-minute time cap posed no problem for many of the women in the first heat, with Michelle Letendre finishing first in 8:58.5. The first 10 overhead squats looked easy for the athletes in contrast to the painful-looking final 10 overhead squats, which came at the end of the workout and the end of a long day of competition.

“I knew the difference maker was going to be grip,” Stacie Tovar said after the event. “I wanted to win the heat, but Jenny (Davis) got ahead of me at the end.”

"I really didn't think too much about the time," Davis said. "I really wanted to get all those thrusters unbroken.”

Davis was unable to complete the goal, but with only 10 reps of every movement, Davis said the event was "not too challenging. It was chewable chunks. I thought it was going to be a fun one, and it was."

In the final heat, Valley CrossFit athletes Lindsay Valenzuela, Rebecca Voigt and Kristan Clever took the floor to chants of “Lindsay, Becca, Kristan” from Valley fans.

Annie Thorisdottir began this event in first place overall, with a comfortable lead ahead of second-place Talayna Fortunato. Thorisdottir took an early lead, but Julie Foucher moved ahead on the burpee muscle-ups.

“They were almost like a break,” Foucher said of the burpee muscle-ups. “I would rather have linked them, because (muscle-ups) are a strength of mine.”

Foucher finished the workout easily in first, with a time of 7:43.5. Kristan Clever moved past Thorisdottir to take second place, finishing in 8:10.8. Thorisdottir finished third in 8:15 flat.

“Oh, it was fun," Clever said of the workout. “It was great. It was CrossFit or something," she added with a laugh, paying homage to Rudy Nielsen. The Outlaw CrossFit coach often uses the phrase.

In terms of strategy, Clever said she tried to figure out where she could conserve energy and figure out where she needed to push harder. Clever said she went out too fast because she was having so much fun on the overhead squats and box jumps.

Foucher’s first-place finish moved her into second place overall. After three days of competition, Foucher said she has “different stages of soreness. One thing feels better, and then another thing is sore.”

Going into the final day of competition, Foucher said her strategy is to approach each workout on its own.

“I’m just going to do my very best and see what happens,” she said.


The men then took the stadium as the sun went down and temperatures cooled. The breeze did not dampen the mood of the spectators, who roared as the first men’s heat walked to their barbells. Phillip Kniep won the first heat, finishing in 9:08.

This event was an important one for Ben Smith, who entered the workout in 13th place. He took an early lead in his heat, clearing the box on his box jump-overs, rather than stopping on the top of the box. The crowd chanted out Smith’s last 10 overhead squats as he finished in 7:37.4.

Smith said it was the type of workout where you need to “keep a good pace and keep moving.” He described the workout as one that required 90 percent. He stuck with his plan to try to go unbroken and push through the cleans.

“I wanted to get in there and have a good workout,” Smith said.

Smith was optimistic about going back through after burpee muscle-ups.

“I liked the way back. I could see the end. There were just some bars in the way,” he said with a smile.

Chris Spealler and Numi Katrinarson did well enough to hang onto the 23rd and 24th spots, earning them a place in Sunday morning’s first workout—the details of which are unknown.

In the final heat, Froning took an early lead, with Matt Chan and Jason Khalipa close behind. On their second time back through the cleans, training partners Dan Bailey and Rich Froning faced each other as they worked through their reps.

Chan entered this workout in third place overall. He picked up speed on his way back through the chipper and finished the workout in second place with a time of 7:24 flat, a score that moved him into second place overall. He was beaten to the finish by Jason Khalipa, who came in just a moment earlier at 7:22.1.

Chan said the chipper was quintessential CrossFit with its mix of barbells and gymnastics. His strategy was to do everything as unbroken as possible except for power cleans.

After finishing in 10th place at the 2011 CrossFit Games, Chan said he spent the year with a “bigger emphasis on weaknesses than ever before.” Those include running and long workouts.

“That triathlon normally would have scared the crap out of me," Chan said.

He said he spent the year focused on CrossFit and not “nonsense,” which he describes as continuing to train movements you're good at instead a being a well-rounded CrossFitter.

He also did a lot of doubles and triples three days out of the month and “paid close attention to recovery and nutrition.”

Froning won his first event of the competition with 7:06 flat, which gave him an

88-point lead over second-place Chan (652 points) in the overall standings. Kyle Kasperbauer is in third place (609 points), followed by Jason Khalipa in fourth (576 points). After a slow start, the big bear from NorCal is gaining momentum as he shakes of his signature slow starts.

The athletes will face two mystery workouts tomorrow, with only the top 18 moving onto the final workout of the 2012 CrossFit Games.