October 21, 2013
The Rise to the Top
By Nicole Evans

"The depth of the women’s field is really growing ... Each year brings a new class that's pushing the level of performance higher and higher, but big names have been able to stay near the top.” ~Justin Bergh, General Manager of the CrossFit Games

Camille Leblanc-Bazinet at this year's Games

Kara Webb at this year's Games

Michele Letendre at this year's Games

Recently, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet was asked about the alleged controversy surrounding her and Michele Letendre, regarding the upcoming CrossFit Invitational. When the roster was announced for Team World, some felt Letendre deserved the spot instead of Leblanc-Bazinet.

“I just don't think there is a controversy really, since I placed top 10 the last three years, except this year,” Leblanc-Bazinet said in the video. “So, I think that if you look at the average of all the previous years, and how consistent I am as an athlete, I think there would be more controversy if I didn't make it.”

Others disagree. Some spoke out on the Games site, citing Letendre’s higher finish at this year’s Games.

Questions popped up on the CrossFit Games Twitter feed: “Was Michele busy? What about Michele Letendre? I’d rather see Michele there.”

The Invites

Deciding who will be invited to compete involves methodical statistical analysis, dating back to previous years of competition.

Although fans chose to pit Letendre against Leblanc-Bazinet, the closer race was between Letendre and Kara Webb, explains Justin Bergh, General Manager of the CrossFit Games.

“For all the invited athletes, we take a very careful look at their performances in the Open, Regionals and Games, even in previous seasons,” Bergh says. “Samantha (Briggs) and Camille are consistently in the top 10 or above, regardless of the stage of competition. It was a close call to choose between Kara and Michele, though. Both are incredibly fit and each would have been a big contributor for (Team World). When you looked at their head-to-head performances, though, particularly at the Games over the last two years, Kara was the obvious choice.”

Webb was “ridiculously excited” about being chosen for Team World and isn’t bothered by the controversy.

“I think people try to make controversy about anything and everything these days,” she says. “I can't keep up with all the whining everyone is doing … but all I know is that Michele and Camille are both great athletes and either of them would have done their country proud on Team World. (CrossFit) HQ knows what they are doing, and if they all put their heads together and decided Cami was the woman for the job, then I support that.” 

Choosing whom to invite gets more difficult each year, Bergh says.

“The depth of the women’s field is really growing. There used to be a significant gap between the top couple athletes and the rest of the field. That's not the case anymore,” he says. “Each year brings a new class that's pushing the level of performance higher and higher, but big names have been able to stay near the top.”

Comprehensive Ranking

“Instead of just taking the top finishers from the Games, the teams were selected by comparing past performances in standardized programming from recent years. Namely, how they performed in the Open, Regionals and Games for the last three seasons,” CrossFit explained in a Comprehensive Ranking for CrossFit Games athletes.

Comparing Letendre and Leblanc-Bazinet may come naturally with their many commonalities — they are high-level athletes, French Canadians and often are similar in athletic ability and competition standings. But when compared via the comprehensive ranking, Leblanc-Bazinet is far ahead of Letendre.

Leblanc-Bazinet has competed in the last four CrossFit Games, taking ninth in 2010, eighth in 2011, sixth in 2012 and 16th in 2013. In the qualifying stages leading up to the Games, she is always dominant. This year, she took second worldwide in the Open (fifth in 2012, 12th in 2011) and won the Canada East Regional (second in 2012, first in 2011, fourth in 2010).

Letendre has competed in the last three CrossFit Games, taking 25th in 2011, 24th in 2012 and 13th in 2013. In the qualifying stages leading up to the Games, she has beaten Leblanc-Bazinet only once (first at the 2012 Canada East Regional).

Per event, the two athletes often finish within seconds of one another, but when you look at their track records as a whole, Leblanc-Bazinet takes the cake.

Comparing Webb and Letendre makes for a closer race.

Webb finished this year’s Games in 12th, while Letendre took 13th; Letendre took second at this year’s Canada East Regional while Webb won the Australia Regional; in this year’s Open, Webb took 13th overall besting Letendre’s 14th. And at the 2012 Games, Webb (nee Gordon) came in 19th while Letendre finished in 24th.

Addressing the Controversy

Letendre’s response is positive.

“I would have loved to be a part of that experience, but I can't control who they invite ... Hopefully I can make the roster at the next Invitational, but until then, I just have to keep working hard and dig deeper,” she says.

Despite the debate surrounding the two, the women have been known to be friendly in competition, and Letendre supports Leblanc-Bazinet as she heads to Berlin.

“Camille is an excellent athlete with amazing talent,” she says. “She has definitely shown consistency in the past years and there is no reason for controversy … There will be other opportunities and I have no doubt that she will make her team proud.”