InstaGames: Day 2

August 4, 2017

Mike Warkentin

Day 2 is underway. 

Mathew Fraser's seconds have put him in first.

In 2016, Fraser won just a single event but collected an incredible seven second-place finishes as he laid waste to the field in the 10th edition of the CrossFit Games. In 2017, he's up to his old tricks: He took seventh to open the competition but grabbed second in both Cyclocross and Amanda .45 to open a 14-point lead over Jonne Koski, who is returning from a 2016 injury with a vengeance. 

Fraser will be wearing red and white today as the leader, and if all goes to plan he'll accessorize with a little gold on Sunday.

On the women's side, a "retired" former Games champion is locked up with a 2016 Olympian who's done with silver medals.

Sam Briggs and two-time podium finisher Tia-Clair Toomey both hold 262 points after three events, and they'll be looking to break the tie on Day 2.

They're trailed by Jamie Greene, who's making an impressive rookie debut after taking third in the Affiliate Cup with CrossFit Yas in 2016.

Day 2 is on deck, and the pressures is on. Falter and go home with only free jerseys, thrive and take home a big prize.

Mat Fraser

9:45, O-Course 

Rain has the athletes scrambling in the warm-up for Sprint O-Course. Top times are expected to be just over a minute, but athletes will be outside in the cool weather for far longer.

"I was not prepared for this," said SoCal's Lauren Fisher.

She's layering sweats over tights and throwing two sweatshirts over a tank-top jersey. Her secret base layer: the full-sleeve compression crop top issued to the athletes.

Regan Huckaby forgot her compression gear but will embrace the Midwest climate by scorning sleeves like a Green Bay Packers lineman in a sub-zero playoff game at Lambeau Field. 

"Sun's not out but the guns are coming out for sure."

Masters athletes told Huckaby the cargo net is slippery and "basically a legless rope climb."

While Fisher plans to limit risk by playing it safe at the top of the cargo net, Huckaby will be aggressive if workout standards still allow her to flip over the top.

"My ass is flippin'," she smiled.

"I've got to take a risk."

Mat Fraser, James Newbury and Holden Rethwill

10:45 a.m., O-Course

It's cold and wet—and awesome—at the obstacle course.

Signage is threatening to blow away, cameras are in plastic bags and the Fittest on Earth are taking shelter inside the scoreboard. At least they were until two staff members were assigned to keep them out of the only shelter on the field. You'll suffer the elements today, boys. 

The men, up first today, are saying the conditions are hardest on the hands.

"Everyone's hands are frozen," said Patrick Vellner, still smiling like a true Canadian. "We've been standing out in the cold for 45 minutes."

Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson said his hands are cold, too, but the Icelander is of course fine with cold.

"This is good," he said.

Tennil Reed-Beuerlein

12:30 p.m., O-Course

What does an obstacle course have to do with CrossFit? A lot, according to female competitors.

"You've got to be prepared for anything. ... There's definitely a lot of skill transfer," said Chyna Cho.

She pointed to rope climbs as an obvious movement that helped her on the rope-to-rope transfers today, and she noted that upper-body pulling strength was critical on the cargo net. Also essential: grip strength for the monkey-bar work. 

Not to be forgotten are balance and accuracy—which she struggled with. She joked that her balance training is essentially shifting around when struggling to stabilize a heavy snatch.

"I definitely need to work on that more."

Overall event winner Tennil Reed-Beuerlein had a simple summary of the skills needed to navigate the obstacles.

"Honestly, this course right here is just about being an athlete."

Patrick Vellner

12:45 p.m., O-Course

Patrick Vellner barely made it out of the semifinals. In a heat full of falls and errors, he came from behind to win.

"You have to reset. ... You can't stand around," he said of his comeback. 

In the final, he went error-free and was a no-doubt winner.

He said the elements definitely affected the competition.

"It changes the test. We played with it when it was nice out. ... You still have to adapt."

Alethea Boon

1 p.m., O-Course

Just like the men, the women are finding Sprint O-Course is a different beast when it's cold and wet. Athletes also weren't allowed to flip over the top of the cargo net as they were during practice, necessitating strategy changes for some, including Katrin Davidsdottir. 

She said other aspects of the course were more challenging.

"The monkey bars are slippery," she explained. 

After she won her heat in the first round, she was going to change her strategy.

"I need to be a little less tentative," she said.

As you might think, the defending champ from Iceland is loving weather today, even if many of her peers pulled a penguin and huddled together for warmth after the opening round.

In perhaps the best non-competition moment of the Games so far, Valerie Voboril, Emily Abbott, Annie Thorisdottir, Alethea Boon, Kara Webb and others stayed warm by cutting both a rug and the tension when the Outkast hit "Hey Ya" dropped while scores were being tabulated. 

Davidsdottir, who stayed focused well away from the dancing penguins, said there was still "room for improvement" after Round 2, particularly on the cargo net and monkey bars.

Strategy for the final: "Be smart and go."

She did exactly that but couldn't beat Reed, who took the win.

Mind if I warm up my hands? Kristi Eramo, Bethany Branham and Jessica Griffith

3:15 p.m., Coliseum

Mat Fraser added a bit of extra pressure before he even stepped on the floor. Ducking out of the athletes corral, he whipped over to a bar loaded with 245 lb. just beside the entrance. He quickly ripped it and stood it most of the way up before dropping it and sprinting to get back in the line of competitors waiting just behind the curtain.

Fraser nailed 273 with authority, but the heaviest opening lift of the last heat went to Fikowski, with 280. The tall athlete, if you recall, missed qualifying for the Games by one spot in 2014 at the Canada West Regional. The nail in his coffin? The final set of 8 overhead squats at 205 lb.

Then he stuck 286 to tie Fraser's best opening-round lift. 

In the next round, Fikowski made 291, but it cost him a bar to the crotch.

"I hit the tip really hard."

He added: "Usually it means it's a good lift. It means I'm really extending.

It was indeed a good lift, and he followed it up with 300. After dropping it, he pointed at the crowd at "some random guy. That's going to be a sick Instagram video."

If you are Random Guy Who Filmed Brent's PR, tag him and CrossFit. We'd all like to see it.

"My strategy was to fuckin' win, and that didn't change," Vinas said after the first round. He came close, but the win went to Fisher, who stuck 306.

Garret Fisher

4:30 p.m., Coliseum

Tia lifted 182.4 lb. (82 kg) in the Olympics, and her PR was 200.2 (91 kg). She beat that tonight—after completing three other events in two days. And on a 20-second clock. And while training for general physical preparedness rather than absolute strength and power.

So what's up with that?

"I can't even express how different it is on the platform," Toomey said, who noted that the atmosphere was amazing. 

"I wasn't as nervous as I was in the Olympics. ... You just absolutely want to rip the bar."

Her countrywoman, Kara Webb, was initially awarded second in the event for her 203-lb. lift. Noted for her strength, Webb said everything went perfectly even though she didn't win. 

"The day that I don't win a lifting event I've done something right in training," she explained.

Oddly enough, Alessandra Pichelli was thought to take first with a lift that looked unbalanced. After the event, it was discovered she had accidentally mis-loaded one side of her bar. She dropped back to second and tied with Toomey. 

Guess what, Kara Webb? You won.

Kara Webb during 1RM Snatch

6:45 p.m., Coliseum

Mat Fraser won the workout, but Jonne Koski was the biggest winner. The young Finn jumped from fourth to second and grabbed 18 points more than third-place Ricky Garard.

Koski withdrew last year due to injury, and if you know anything about the classic Finnish attitude, you know he was probably more disappointed than his stoic demeanor reveals.

"It was tough for me to get back from the injury. ... I have high goals every time I compete," he said.

He knows he'll have some bad events over the next few days, so he isn't getting too comfortable in second just yet, but he's also looking forward to strongman gear and handstand walks tomorrow. He's reserved and realistic, but he's quietly confident about his potential.

"I know I can win the CrossFit Games."

Jonne Koski during Triple-G Chipper

7:45 p.m., Coliseum

Careful observers might have noticed a staff member quietly tightening all the nuts on the Assault Airbikes in the warm-up area while Triple-G Chipper was going down. 

Just after the event ended, Games Director Dave Castro announced a final event: Assault Banger. Games athletes are used to surprises, but this one didn't require a lot of strategy. It's just hard, fast work.

That suited Sara Sigmundsdottir just fine even though she hasn't used a sledge, and she's never swung an axe.

"We don't have wood in Iceland because there are no trees," she laughed.

Lack of experience doesn't bother the powerful, aggressive athlete. She's planning to go hulk and smash some stuff. 

"Just hit it as hard as you can. Don't think. Just do."

9 p.m., Coliseum

Whenever athletes are forced to use new or uncommon equipment that's not available in the warm-up area, they have to get creative.

Preparing for Assault Banger, Patrick Vellner and Noah Ohlsen did ball slams. Garard did single-arm kettlebell swings. Koski swung a piece of PVC. Ben Smith advised everyone to get some gloves because the handle vibrates and stings the hands like getting sawed off with inside heat on the baseball diamond.

When the athletes got on the field, it was a dog's breakfast of strokes. Some looped long while others tiny tapped. George Sanchez set the best time of the day early on, Brent Fikowski redeemed himself with fourth, Jonne Koski faltered to 33rd and fell off the podium, Ohlsen said he "surprised the shit" out of himself with third, and Fraser logged 20th—his worst finish since 23rd in the second event in 2016. Garard stayed steady with seventh. 

"That was hard," Wells said in the warm-up area."

Kirsten Pedri agreed: "It's grip and then when I was walking off the floor my hamstrings were dying," the winner of Heat 1 said.

Briggs—a former firefighter who's used similar devices—won the event with ease but Emily Abbott won the award for best quotes.
"I'm really just good at doing grunt work. That's what I did on the ranch growing up. ... I tried to imagine someone's face I really hated. ... No, I just used my existential self-loathing."

George Sanchez during Assault Banger

9:30 p.m., Alliant Energy Center

Mat Fraser was pulling away—then he logged his worst finish since the second event in 2016. 

Still, a year after winning the Games by 197 points—the largest margin ever—Fraser is now 68 points ahead after 7 events and 2 days.

Ricky Garard and Brent Fikowski are holding the other podium positions, and the leaderboard is the United Nations of Fitness, with six different countries represented in the top 8—somewhat unusual for the men's competition. 

On the women's side, Sara Sigmundsdottir  has planted Iceland's flag back on top of the leaderboard and will look to defend it for two more days. She's got just 4 points over second-place Tia-Clair Toomey, while Tennil Reed-Beuerline is third. Defending champion Katrin Davidsdottir is in a small hole 48 points back of the leader in sixth. 

Day 3 awaits.

Overall Standings 


1. Mat Fraser 

2. Ricky Garard

3. Brent Fikowski


1. Sara Sigmundsdottir

2. Tia-Clair Toomey

3. Tennil Reed-Beuerlein

InstaGames articles are updated throughout the day with selected posts from CrossFit's social-media accounts. For instant analysis from the competition floor, post-event athlete commentary, and spectacular photos and videos, follow CrossFit and the CrossFit Games on Instagram.