Who's Got Big Balls?

July 14, 2012


Individuals wrestle with monster med balls to close out Friday at the Home Depot Center. 

Individual men and women closed the first day of the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games with a short but sweet couplet of heavy medicine-ball cleans and parallette handstand push-ups.


Kevin Simons, who has not placed high in any event thus far, won Heat 1 with a time of 7:40.8.

Medball-HSPU called for 3 rounds for time of 8 medicine-ball cleans at 150 lb., a 100-foot medicine-ball carry, 7 parallete handstand push-ups, and a 100-foot medicine ball carry. Worth 100 points, the workout had a 10-minute time cap.

Simons didn’t take first place easily. The lead also rotated among Yurii Hanson, Jeremy Meredith and Jon Pera throughout the workout. In all heats, competitors often stalled badly on the third round of handstand push-ups.

Simons plan, he said, was to pace himself.

“Not push so hard that I was gassed,” he said. “Short sets, short rest.”

With a strongman competition under his belt a few months ago, Simons said the heavy med-ball cleans were no problem.

“I’m feeling better,” he said, referencing his earlier performances. “I needed this workout.”

Seven men in the heat didn’t finish within the time cap.

Jason Khalipa, the 2008 CrossFit Games champion, stole the show early in Heat 2 but lost it as he struggled on the wall. The packed stadium came to his aid, roaring with his every attempt, but watching him fail to lock out the several times. Khalipa finally locked out his last handstand push-up and the crowd erupted as he carried the med-ball back to finish the workout. He finished in 8 minutes, which would drop him to 10th place when all heats were complete.

In the same heat, Albert-Dominic Larouche passed Khalipa and ended up winning the heat with a time of 6:15.8.

Five men in the heat didn’t finish within the time cap.

In Heat 3, Dan Bailey, Chase Daniels and Austin Malleolo were vying for a first-place finish. The race made for a tight — and exciting — spectator event.

On the final set of handstand push-ups, Bailey and Daniels were nearly rep for rep, but it was Bailey who pulled ahead as Daniels struggled at the wall with a movement that he said has been a weakness.

Daniels said his strategy was to keep his back flat and keep good form on the med-ball cleans so he wouldn’t tire himself out for the unforgiving handstand push-ups.

Although he tried to pace it, the movement caught up with him, he said.

“The last round killed me,” Daniels said.

Three men in the heat didn’t finish within the time cap.

The final heat of the day comprised the top 12 men overall, including Rich Froning, Graham Holmberg and Chris Spealler.

Pat Burke had a strong start, followed closely by 2011 CrossFit Games winner Froning and Kyle Kasperbauer. Froning took the lead on the second set of handstand push-ups and never let it go after that. He won the heat with a time of 6:59.4. Kasperbauer followed at 7:23, then Kenneth Leverich at 7:30.

Leverich, a newcomer to the Games, said he had no strategy for the workout and was more concerned with his injured back which forced him to wear a brace.

The heavy med-ball was “really hard” on his back, he said. He said he chose to execute the cleans with poor form to take the pressure off his back.

“I’m thankful I was able to keep going,” Leverich said.

He added: “I’m just enjoying the competition. I’m focusing on doing well and taking it all in.”

At the end of the day, Leverich sat in fifth place overall.

As expected, Spealler was a crowd favorite, receiving roars from the crowd as he eked out his last handstand push-ups and took off for the final carry. The 150-lb. med-ball was very close to the Utah athlete’s body weight.

The finals standings were Larouche first in 6:15.8, Bailey second in 6:28.1, and Malleolo third in 6:52.0.


The 80-lb. medicine balls were heavy for the women, but all could handle them with relative ease. The gymnastic work was another story.

The handstand push-ups to a deficit on the parallettes caused many of the women to stall, and a few were reduced to tears, frustrated by their inability to lock out the reps as their strength gave out. Once exhaustion creeps in and the arms fail, it’s hard to climb back.

Lindsay Valenzuela has spent a year working on her gymnastics with coach Dusty Hyland, and it showed. Valenzuela took an early lead in her heat, making short work of the handstand push-ups and tossing the medicine ball over her shoulder with no difficulty. Valenzuela won her heat with a time of 6:13.4, more than two seconds faster than the fastest men’s time of 6:15.8, although the men had to go 6 inches deeper on their handstand push-ups.

“It was good to pick up heavy stuff,” Azadeh Boroumand said after finishing up her second day of competition. “The first few events threw me off guard. They were so endurance focused.”

A Regional winner, Boroumand was expected to be near the top of the standings, but she has some work to do to get there.

“This is so humbling,” Boroumand said of her first trip to the Games. “You realize why athletes do this for four or five years before they get it figured out. This is a whole other ball game from Regionals.”

Camille Leblanc-Bazinet pulled ahead early in her heat to finish with a time of 5:18.5, giving a happy little hop after she crossed the finish line. Not so happy were Lindsey Smith and Jenny LaBaw. Both had disappointment etched across their faces after getting stuck on the handstand push-ups, and neither finished under the 10-minute time cap.

The final heat was the Annie Thorisdottir show from start to finish. After battling with Kristan Clever in the first round, Thorisdottir overtook Clever on the handstand push-ups and did not relinquish her lead for the rest of the event. Thorisdottir had such a sizeable lead she took time for her signature pose — arms outstretched, grin on her face — before picking up the medicine ball for the final run. She finished in 5:04.1, well ahead of the rest of the field. Leblanc-Bazinet’s time was good for second, and Talayna Fortunato finished third in 5:19.5.

“My strategy was to stop when a rep was hard,” Fortunato said about the handstand push-ups. “I knew people were failing, so that was my strategy. I couldn’t get to failure.”

Fortunato said she feels good about her performance so far, except for the Ball Toss.

“I can’t be too upset about it,” Fortunato said about her 31st-place finish. “It’s something I’ve never practiced.”

About her plan for Saturday, which kicks off with a sprint, Fortunato said she plans to “run fast.”

At the end of the day, the overall standings are as follows:

Rich Froning Jr. (451 points)
Kyle Kasperbauer (434 points)
Chad Mackay (403 points)

Julie Foucher (461 points)
Talayna Fortunato (459 points)
Annie Thorisdottir (425 points)            

For complete results, visit the Leaderboard

Photo galleries from Friday's events are published for Women and Men Events.