CrossFit Games Director Dave Castro likes surprises. Or at least he likes to surprise athletes.
At the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games, they met the Banger. In 2013, they flipped the Pig. We’ve seen the Worm, the Snail and the Slug, all of which were first introduced at the Games. But never has a new implement first appeared at the Regional level—until now.
Making its CrossFit competition debut in Team Event 1 and Individual Event 3 is the CrossFit StairStep and Incline Mat, a padded 3-by-7-foot wedge inclined to a height of 1 foot, 4 inches and connected to a 4-step staircase. Among other things, the events required athletes to traverse the obstacle via handstand walk.
Castro revealed the apparatus in an Instagram post on April 25.
“Teams and individuals you have been warned,” he wrote.
Athletes sprang into action.
Many, like Dex Hopkins and Amanda Hardeman, constructed makeshift obstacles using stacks of bumper plates, boxes or jerk blocks and plywood planks. Others, including Nicole Holcomb and Taylor Streid, took field trips to gymnastic centers, stacking several thin mats against brightly-colored wedges to practice the skill amid packs of tumbling children. Leaving nothing to chance, James Lancaster built a tidy replica, which he christened “Mr. Ramp.”
Challenge accepted Mr Ramp. Haha it’s been hard but I’ve always been a reps guy. • That first video is me talking to the ramp at the end letting it know I’m about to throw it across the room. • #relentlessheart #relentlessmind #relentlessfaith • #lordjesusgivemepatience #🙃 • #crossfit #crossfitgames #roadtoregionals
Others selected less conventional means of practice.
Dylan Martin built a “sketchy” backyard death trap from a pallet, bumper plates, some tractor tires and plywood. At the top of the stairs, the whole thing buckled like an earthquake scene in a movie starring The Rock.
The announcement forced some athletes to get out of their comfort zones. Mandi Newsome had been looking forward to handstand walks; after all, with a background in gymnastics, she felt steady on her hands. The problem was she had never tried to handstand-walk up, only around.
Like others, she fashioned a ramp out of wedges and wood. She spent five days practicing before she made even one successful crossing.
“When I got on it I was very disheartened,” the 27-year-old said. “It was a reality check, for sure.”
So she worked.
“I was at the gym morning, noon and night—I joked with my coach, I’m like, ‘I’ll just get a sleeping bag and (sleep) on the obstacle because I’m literally living on it,’” she said.
When she faced the obstacle on the Regional floor in Event 3, she had a few falls and a couple false starts. But more importantly, she also had seven successful walks, taking 25th in the event and ending the day in 22nd overall.
“My coach always says, ‘Choose your scope,’” she said. “And to us that means you can choose to look at it one way and say, ‘Look, this sucks,’ ... or you can look at it as an opportunity, not only to conquer it and grow but to become a better athlete and show 'em what you learned.”
“You gotta evolve as an athlete at some point,” she added. “As frustrating as Castro can be, (athletes are) walking out of here saying, ‘I'm still not fond of you, but you did make me better.’”
For complete placement details, visit the Leaderboard.