InstaGames: Day 4

August 6, 2017

Mike Warkentin

Today we crown the Fittest on Earth. 

Mat Fraser is bringing the hammer down again, and he's swinging harder this year. After 10 events, Fraser has collected 850 of a possible 1,000 points, compared to 810 at this point last year. His 174-point lead is 14 points ahead of last year's record pace, and the gold medal is clearly his to lose on the final day of competition.

On the other side, a pair of athletes is doubling down in an attempt to turn the CrossFit Games crown upside down in 2017. Tia-Clair Toomey and Kara Webb are just 14 points apart, and both hope to become the first woman from Down Under to win the Games. Sara Sigmundsdottir and Annie Thorisdottir—54 and 60 points back of first—represent Iceland's best chances for a third consecutive Games win, though defending champ Katrin Davidsdottir still has an outside shot with 110 points to make up.

The Fittest on Earth will be named at about 6 p.m. tonight.

Tia-Clair Toomey leads at the start of Day 4

9 a.m., North Park

At least a few athletes are looking forward to catching up on "Game of Thrones" when the Games end. To keep things light, I asked a host of competitors which character they would play on the show. 

* Tim Paulson—Tormund Giantsbane—"He's just too fun."
* Patrick Vellner—Bronn—"He doesn't take anything too seriously. He's just really good at what he does."
* Tommy Vinas (assigned by coach Will Trujillo, who said Vinas looks like Jaime Lannister but is better suited to another role)—"He'd be one of the drunken soldiers."
* Jeff Patzer—Tyrion Lannister—"Because he's so damn sassy."
A surprising number of athletes haven't seen the show, so I went to Ygritte herself. I asked Emily Abbott if she wanted to change the character she'd assigned herself earlier on social media, and she declined: "Jon Snow still knows nothing." She spent the next five minutes assigning roles to the Fittest on Earth.
* Patrick Vellner (reassigned)—The Night King.
* Brent Fikowski—A White Walker.
* Katrin Davidsdottir—Sansa Stark.
* Emily Bridgers—Arya Stark—"She's fiery."
* Sara Sigmundsdottir—"A White Walker queen if there was one."
* Sam Briggs—The Hound—"She's usually banged up but she's savage anyway."
* Whitney Gelin—Brienne of Tarth.
* Cody Anderson—Tyrion Lannister.
* Annie Thorisdottir—Daenerys Targaryen.
* Tennil Reed-Beuerlein—Lyanna Mormont.
* Mat Fraser—Ramsay Bolton—"It seems like he's a ruthless mutha-fucka."

10 a.m., North Park

One of the signature events in Madison doesn't come with allergy medication, but perhaps it should. Competitors throughout the heats were coated with hay, looking much like muscled scarecrows after Madison Triplet. All in the Games, the top women said. 

You could almost see more hay than uniform on Kristi Eramo, who might have benefitted from a dust mask as she worked to take 10th. 

"A couple of times I took a big inhale right at the bottom of the burpee and I sucked some hay in. ... I realized, 'Don't do that again,'" she said.

Kristin Holte, who took second, pointed to a sea of small wounds on her shins.

"All the small ones, they're from the hay."

She took the farm rash in stride: "You get dirty, but it's the CrossFit Games. ... You just have to work hard no matter what the conditions."

Like Eramo—whose lane was on a crack between stacks of bales—event winner Sam Briggs said the course was a factor in the event even if it didn't slow her much. Briggs said her hand actually went right through a deteriorating bale late in the event, perhaps lowering the obstacle for the males to follow. 

"Did you see how much hay was on the floor? They should put another height on for the guys."

Sam Briggs on her way to winning Madison Triplet
Thuridur Erla Helgadottir with the Curd during Madison Triplet

10:30 a.m., North Park

Step Brothers, Part 35:

Patrick Vellner: "I could see you closing every lap."

Fraser: "Yeah. So did I."

The two finished second and third, separated by just over 2 seconds. Ricky Garard took the win in Madison Triplet. Vellner said he made sure to keep an eye on Fraser throughout lest he make a move and allow his slight lead to evaporate. 

"I'm not an idiot," Vellner laughed. 

The Canadian said the women definitely rounded the corners of the top of the bales for the men, but that slight advantage was cancelled by the debris pile in the burpee area.

Vellner said he sucked down some hay but "you can cough it out on the run."

Patrick Vellner
Anna Tobias and Lauren Fisher hopping over the hay bales in Madison Triplet

2:30 p.m., Coliseum

It's another first for the Games: 2223 Intervals requires athletes to buy in before logging reps. Climb a rope twice, rip on the SkiErg, work on overhead squats—then rest, rinse and repeat. 

Annie Thorisdottir is well aware of Greg Glassman's comments on intervals in the foundational article "What Is Fitness?" and she's no stranger to work:rest ratios. 

"People usually use it in their training programs to become fitter because it works," she explained. 

She loves the format because it tests recovery during events instead of between events. 

Stacie Tovar also uses intervals regularly and said the format is actually refreshing as the Games wind down.

"Knowing that you have that minute rest is super comforting when you're 12 workouts in," she said. 

Chyna Cho noted that the break didn't actually feel like rest at all. You know what she means.

"The intensity is up and you have very little time to bring it back down."

Lauren Fisher during 2223 Intervals

3 p.m., Coliseum 

Mat Fraser is going full Froning and logging event wins late in the competition. Fraser's won three of the last four events to wrack up a monstrous 210-point lead and make the final a formality. 

The thing is this: Fraser doesn't even need the points. He's just setting records. He now has more first- and second-place event finishes than Froning, and he could actually take the last event off. But he won't.

During the announcement of Fibonacci Final, Fraser turned to Josh Bridges and pounded his chest. He likes the final challenge. A lot. 

If you want to solve the Fibonacci sequence, brush up on mathematicians of the Middle Ages and start adding.

If you want to beat Mat Fraser, sign up for the Open in 2018 and start training. He's got 2017 locked down.

Mat Fraser with the chest bump after the announcement of Fibonacci Final

6 p.m., Coliseum

Tia-Clair Toomey said winning the CrossFit Games is better than making it to the Olympics—"Ten times better. Like 100 times better."

In one of the closest finishes ever, Toomey, ahead of Kara Webb by just 6 points going in, raced her countrywoman to the finish with the Games on the line. Webb beat Toomey by the smallest of margins, but it wasn't enough, and Toomey took the title by 2 points. 

Standing on the finish mat before Dave Castro's announcement, Toomey received a hug and a message from Davidsdottir, who finished fifth: "She just said she was proud of me and I deserved it," said Toomey, who didn't know she had won. 

Crying tears of joy in the warm-up area, she said she's thrilled to be the first champion from Down Under: "We're really proud to be Aussie."

Davidsdottir was sad but resilient after her two-year reign ended.

"I know what it's like to hear my name called, and I know what it's like to hear someone else's name called. ... It will be tomorrow morning that we start planning for next year."

Kara Webb has battled injury and illness for years at the Games and never managed to make it to the podium despite high hopes. After finishing second in 2017, she now thinks the adversity was all part of the master plan. 

"I (believed) before I came here that if I ever made it, I was supposed to make it, and everything in the lead-up was part of the process. ... This wouldn't be as sweet if I hadn't had all that other stuff."

Webb likened the feeling to buying something with money that was earned, not gifted. 

Annie Thorisdottir, third and standing on the podium for the fifth time, was asked if she might retire from individual competition after this year.

"You never know. This might be my last year, yes." 

She said she would make that decision later and confirmed that the Affiliate Cup definitely interests her.

"I've never been on a team, and I would like to be on a team at some point," she said. She added that she'd love it if that squad included boyfriend and Games athlete Frederik Aegidius.

Overall, she said the 2017 competition was simply wonderful: "I felt just so happy this year at the Games."

On the men's side, Mat Fraser utterly dominated the field to win by 216 points—a new record. He becomes only the second man to win multiple Games championships. Brent Fikowski of Canada improved on last year's fourth by taking silver, and Ricky Garard of Australia was third.

Mat Fraser, two-time Fittest Man on Earth
Tia-Clair Toomey, Fittest Woman on Earth

7 p.m., Coliseum

Fikowski—who stood taller on the podium than Fraser despite a lower step—said he knows he's the great hope for those over 6 feet.

"I love all the support from all the tall CrossFitters," the lanky Canadian laughed. 

On a serious note, he said he's worked hard to eliminate weaknesses, and he was especially happy to see improvements on cleans and handstand push-ups.

"I just continued to work on the things that held me back last year. ... I was extremely prepared for this weekend."

Fraser couldn't decide which Games title is sweeter—"I love 'em both"—but he's made a list of things that didn't go according to plan, and he has his sights set on 2018:

"I'm thinking about it already." 

Mat Fraser lunging his way to victory
2016 Fittest on Earth Katrin Davidsdottir passes the torch to Tia-Clair Toomey in 2017

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