April 11, 2014
Multi-Year Regional Competitors Fight for Top 48
By Jaime Freire and Thomas Patton
On Thursday, March 27, Nega Ibarra and Giancarlo Vera Ochoa nervously waited for Dave Castro to announce the final workout of the Open. Sitting in 50th and 52nd place, respectively, they didn’t know…
On Thursday, March 27, Nega Ibarra and Giancarlo Vera Ochoa nervously waited for Dave Castro to announce the final workout of the Open. Sitting in 50th and 52nd place, respectively, they didn’t know…

"I felt weird being in the 50th spot with only 14.5 left, but ... it is always a fight to get in (and) this year the fight just increased a bit more," Nega Ibarra said.

Photos courtesy of Piero Lupino and Jorge Huerta.

CrossFit—and CrossFit competition—has grown tremendously in Central and South America over the last few years. And now, veteran regional competitors have had to fight to make the cut.

Nega Ibarra and Giancarlo Vera Ochoa have competed at the Latin America Regional every year since 2011. For many, their presence in the Athlete Village between regional events felt like a given.

But the 2014 Open’s Latin America Leaderboard threatened to interrupt the trend.

On Thursday, March 27, Ibarra and Vera Ochoa nervously waited for Dave Castro to announce the final workout of the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open. Sitting in 50th and 52nd place, respectively, Ibarra and Vera Ochoa didn’t know what the workout would require, but they knew that they had to do well.

Only the top 48 overall at the end of the five-week Open would be invited to the regional, and the 49th- through 60th-ranked athletes would have to pray for abandoned spots.

Last Chance

When Ibarra heard Castro say the final Open workout would be a descending ladder of 65-lb. thrusters and burpees, she felt relieved. She does not dislike burpees, and thrusters, well, she has respect for those.

“I was trying to stay at ease waiting for 14.5,” Ibarra said. “I try not to put too much pressure on myself, because not only will I not enjoy it, but nerves and fears will definitely play against me.”

Only an hour after the workout was announced, Ibarra started the 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 of thrusters and burpees at CrossFit Unidos in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She did not have any regrets regarding her performance, but it had been a busy day and she knew she was probably not at her best. Thirteen minutes and 46 seconds later, she was done.

She knew her time could stand up to what the other top women in the region would post. Nonetheless, she decided to do it again on Monday.

When she stepped up to the barbell for the second time, she was determined to cut time off of her score. She gave it her all, but finished nine seconds slower than her first attempt.

She relented, and logged her first score. 13:46 was good enough for 64th place in Latin America, which bumped her into 45th place overall.

“I felt weird being in the 50th spot with only 14.5 left,” she said. “But it’s all the same. It is always a fight to get in—this year the fight just increased a bit more, and I will never back off. My students, my coach (and) my friends all help me through each battle, and although at this point I wish there was also a 14.6, this experience of having to fight for that spot is still great.”

Across the region in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Giancarlo Vera Ochoa fought through 14.5 three times in four days.

“I did 14.5 three times to make sure I had the best time possible,” he explained. “First I did 13:16, then 11:49 and finally 11:31.”

He and his brother analyzed each performance and guessed what was slowing him down. With each re-do, he performed the workout more efficiently and with more determination to make the cut for regionals.

“My brother and I analyzed the rest breaks and the rhythm on the thrusters and burpees,” he said. “I was trying to not think about the pain, just to keep moving and be efficient with the movements to avoid reaching muscle failure.”

The first time he attempted 14.5, he mistakenly tried to do the large sets unbroken. The next two times, he broke the workload into smaller sets and attacked them with “explosiveness and good rhythm.”

He never would have done the workout three times if it weren’t for his Leaderboard standings.

“It's a horrible (workout),” Vera Ochoa said. “I feel good with thrusters, but to mix them with burpees is torture for me.”

Fortunately, the multiple attempts paid off.

“Truthfully, I feel OK with how I did. I'm looking at the scoreboard and I believe the time is good,” he said.

With a time of 11:31 on 14.5, he secured 21st place on the workout in the region, and jumped to 37th overall.

The three-time regional competitor said he believes he will be better prepared for the Open next year since he’s going to train for it.

“All of this has served me to realize how I should prepare for regionals and next year's Open,” Vera Ochoa said. “I'm confident I'll make it.”

Making it Count

Ibarra said she is grateful she can return to the regional for the fourth time.

“My dream has always been to make it to the Games. It is a goal that never dies. I want to make it someday at all costs,” she said. “What year, I don’t know, but I dream of standing next to Lindsey Valenzuela in a clean ladder at the Games, of being able to enjoy such a day. I can almost feel it. I know I have the mind and the heart to make it. Probably not this year, and perhaps not the next, but I know I will be there someday.”

Vera Ochoa learned from this experience that one workout could push him off track for regional qualification. With CrossFit competitors moving to Latin America from other regions, and an ever-deepening field of locals as CrossFit takes root in Central and South America, no competitor can feel like a regional spot is guaranteed.

At the end of the Open, Colorado native and Costa Rica transplant Leonidas Jenkins reigned at the top of the Latin America Leaderboard. Vera Ochoa hopes that an American flag doesn’t fly at the top of the regional Leaderboard, as well.

“Our representative (at the Games) should be Latino,” he said. “I want to go to regionals and prove one more time what I am made of and put my country's name on top. That's the only thing in my head right now."