2015 CrossFit Games Recap

Written by:

Damect Dominguez

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The 9th annual CrossFit Games are complete. History was made as new champions were crowned, Teens and Masters proved that fitness has no age limit, and a Games legend found a new way to reach the top of the podium. This is our recap of the 2015 CrossFit Games.

Day 1: Pier Paddle, Sandbag 2015

As was the case last year, the festivities for Individual and Team competitors began on the waters of Hermosa Beach Pier. A new piece of equipment was introduced to the Individuals—the paddle board (minus the paddle).

2015 Games PaddleboardPhoto: ©2015 CrossFit Inc. Used with permission from CrossFit Inc.

When Games competitors are called to the water, some flourish, while others flounder. With the addition of the paddleboard, the athlete’s tasks were made that much harder, as many struggled to keep their balance and remain prone on the board. As you might expect, the international athletes had no such problem. Kara Webb, making her return to the Games after withdrawing in 2014 due to a damaged nerve in her shoulder, took the win in 45:30, 24 seconds ahead of Canadian Michele Letendre. Jonne Koski and Khan Porter enjoyed a back and forth battle on the paddleboards, but Koski’s experience as a competitive swimmer proved to be decisive as he passed Porter on the final swim portion of the event, finishing in a time of 42:16.

Later that afternoon, the athletes returned to the Tennis Stadium at the Stub Hub Center to tackle a repeat workout from 2010—the Sandbag Move. That year, athletes had to transport sandbags of varying weights (the men’s weight totaled 600lbs, women’s weight was 370lbs) from the stairs on one side of the stadium at the to the top of the stairs at the other side of the stadium—using wheelbarrows from your basic hardware store. This year, the Rogue designed a set of 250lb. wheelbarrows for the event, and Dave Castro (Director of the CrossFit Games) upped the weights to 480lbs for the women, 720lbs for the men. The rest of the event remained the same. Just as the paddleboards proved tricky to handle, several athletes had trouble keeping the wheelbarrow upright—leading to the costly error of having to restack all the sandbags and finishing last in their heats. Swede Lukas Hogberg secured his only event win of the 2015 Games by recording the fastest time in Sandbag 2015 (10:07), while Anna Tunnicliffe did the same, finishing in 8:30.

Day 2: Murph, Snatch Speed Ladder, Heavy DT

The athletes received a rest day on Thursday, but they came crashing back to earth on Friday when they had to strap on their 20/14lbs (men/women) weight vests and tackle Murph—in order. While the average CrossFitter performs this Hero workout on Memorial Day with the option of breaking up the 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 sit-ups as they wish, the Games athletes had to perform the work in order—meaning that they could not move on to the next movement until they had completed all the reps of the previous movement. Add in the addition of a 1-mile run under the baking Californian sun to start and finish the event, and you had the makings of a devastating workout. Eight women and four men failed to complete the event under the 55-minute time cap, and Kara Webb—who finished 13th in the event—had to be carted off the soccer stadium grass after collapsing on the finishing line due to heat stroke. Two-time champ Annie Thorisdottir was also in visible discomfort as she resorted to walking during her second mile run, and later posted on Instagram that the combination of dehydration and overheating during the event forced her to withdraw from the Games entirely.

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The men were first to tackle Murph, and after the pack separated during the mile run, a few familiar faces starting to assert a dominant lead during the middle section of the workout. Mat Fraser, Noah Ohlsen and Austin Malleolo all looked solid during their pull-ups and push-ups, but it was Iceland’s Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson that advanced to the air squats first. Guðmundsson, who finished 26th at last year’s Games, was also the first man to exit the soccer stadium on his final 1-mile run, and held on to the lead to finish the event in 38:36, earning himself 100 points. 2nd went to Fraser (39:20), while Ohlsen took 3rd (39:33).

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Once the men were able to regain their feet and leave the arena, the women got into position, rocking their 14lb. weight vests. Former Olympic sailor Anna Tunnicliffe was the first woman to return to the soccer stadium after her opening 1-mile run, but she was quickly joined by Kristin Holte, Alethea Boon and 2013 champ Sam Briggs. Briggs demonstrated why she is known as ‘the Engine’ as the Brit made light work of the pull-ups and push-ups, then pulled away during the air squats to exit the stadium first for her final mile run. It was a lead she would not relinquish as Briggs returned to the stadium to the roar of the crowd, finishing the event in 39:10.

After a bucketload of ice was applied to sore shoulders, knees and traps, the athletes returned to the tennis stadium for the Snatch Speed Ladder. After some lightning quick opening heats, the top 5 men and women made it through to the final of the event—though not without some drama, as reigning Women’s champion Camille Leblanc-Bazinet was given several costly no-reps that put the Canadian out of contention in the event—a fact she quickly realized when she broke into tears as she crossed the finish line last in her heat. However, the five women of the final (Brooke Ence, Katrin Davidsdottir, Nicole Holcomb, Elisabeth Akinwale and Michele Letendre) put on quite the show as they moved through five barbells that started at 160lbs and finished at 180. After missing her first attempt at the final barbell, Ence calmly composed herself and hit her subsequent lift to give her the event victory ahead of Davidsdottir in second.

The men’s event saw a surprise victor in the shape of 32-year-old Jon Pera, who hit the final snatch at 275lbs—just 5lbs below his listed snatch P.R. Still, consistency is the name of the game in Olympic Weightlifting, which was aptly demonstrated by Ben Smith, who came in 2nd, and Mat Fraser who was 3rd.

The individual events concluded on Friday with a surprise twist in proceedings. Earlier in the afternoon Castro revealed that the final event of day 2 would be ‘DT’—another Hero workout (5 rounds: 12 deadlifts, 9 hang power cleans, 6 push jerks). However, Castro said that the fans in attendance and the entire affiliate community watching the Games online and on ESPN would have the option to decide whether the competitors would perform ‘Double DT’ (10 rounds instead of 5) or ‘Heavy DT’ (205/145lbs instead of 155/105lbs). The votes were tallied, and the clear winner was Heavy DT. Clearly we CrossFitters are sadistic.

On a serious note, the extra weight—on top of the stress that had already been heaped upon the athletes over the course of the day—may have had an impact on Chad Mackay, who reported on his Instagram page that he suffered a fractured rib during the event that forced him to withdraw from the competition. Mackay, whose nickname is ‘The Unit’, was in 8th at the end of the day.

Clearly, some athletes favored the heavier weights over others, who must have been aggrieved that they missed out on Double DT. One woman who clearly didn’t have a problem with the event was Ragnheiður Sara Sigmundsdottir, who posted a blistering time of 8:25—almost a full minute ahead of fellow Icelander Davidsdottir in 2nd. Mr. Consistent Ben Smith also welcomed the heavier weights, as he won the event in 7:55, ahead of Mat Fraser in 2nd (8:33).

Day 3: Sprint Course 1&2, Soccer Chipper, Clean and Jerk, Triangle Couplet

Saturday saw arguably the most exciting events of the entire CrossFit Games, which began with the explosive Sprint Course. Athletes had to navigate a set of obstacles set up in the ZigZag sprint style of 2013, before running under the Zeus rig in the Soccer stadium and jumping over a set of hurdles to finish. After a brief rest, athletes had to sprint back through the course in the opposite direction. Each sprint was scored as a separate event. Lindy Barber and Kristin Holte split the event wins between them, but Dan Bailey was not in a sharing mood. The former collegiate sprinter won both sprints (18.10 and 18.56 seconds respectively), securing 100 total points for his tally. The event saw another withdrawal as Games veteran Neal Maddox, who had suffered what appeared to be a torn hamstring during Murph, elected to hobble through each sprint, stepping over each obstacle. Maddox withdrew after completing the first sprint in 1 minute and getting time-capped in the other.

The athletes remained in the soccer stadium for the next event of the day, the Soccer Chipper. The Rogue Pig made a return to the Games after having been last used in 2013, though this time it was padded and weighed 560/395lbs. When (and if) the athletes completed flipping that sucker 100ft, they had to perform 4 legless rope climbs, followed by a 100ft handstand walk that was broken into two 50ft sections—oh yeah, and athletes had to complete each ‘walk’ unbroken, or return to the start of that section. 11 men and 31 women failed to complete the event under the 12-minute time cap, which was won by Ben Smith and Elisabeth Akinwale.

As the light started to fade, the spectators made their way to the Tennis stadium for the eagerly anticipated Clean and Jerk event. Even after all of the work from the previous two days of competition, the athletes still managed to throw up some impressive weight, highlighted by Brooke Ence’s 242lb and Lindsey Valenzuela’s 240lb lifts—good for 1st and 2nd respectively. On the men’s side, few fans thought that anyone would be able to top Nick Urankar’s 347lb. lift—until Ben Smith showed up in the final heat and matched it. But there was to be more drama. Few had considered Aaron Hannah as a favorite for the event, but the 6’1, 205lb. rookie threw 350lbs over his head to steal the win.

When darkness set, it was time to up the tempo with the Triangle Couplet:
15-10-6 reps for time of:
Thrusters (165 / 115 lb.)
Bar muscle-ups

Former champion Bazinet had not been enjoying her best campaign at the Games, but after finishing 5th in the Clean and Jerk, the ex-gymnast obliterated the field in the Triangle Couplet, finishing almost a minute faster than Sam Briggs in 2nd. Things were far closer for the men, evidenced by Mat Fraser and Noah Ohlsen’s battle for a podium position in the overall leaderboard. The two men traded blows throughout the event, but it was Fraser who managed to get the victory, finishing 5 seconds ahead of Ohlsen in second.

Final Day: Midline Madness, Pedal to the Metal 1, Pedal to the Metal 2

On Sunday morning, the leaderboard for both the men and women was in a precarious position, with four women and three men having a realistic chance of being crowned as the Fittest on Earth. Of course, it would all come down to how the final three events played out. Midline Madness combined a 400-meter run in the soccer stadium with a 50ft. yoke carry (380/300lbs) for six rounds. Sam Briggs made her push up the women’s leaderboard by making light work of the 400m run, lapping several athletes and carrying the yoke across the finish line in 13:26, with Kristin Holte behind her in 2nd. Things were once again much closer for the men, as Jacob Heppner was able to edge out Mat Fraser by a mere 5 seconds to take his sole event win of the Games in 12:52.

The final two events for Individual competitors had been kept under wraps right up until there was roughly two hours to go before the final heats kicked off. With the athletes gathered in the tennis stadium, Castro revealed the last workouts of the 2015 Games:

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Pedal to the Metal 1
For time:
3 peg board ascents
24-calorie row
16-calorie bike
8 dumbbell squat snatches (100 / 70 lb.)

Pedal to the Metal 2
For time:
12 parallette handstand push-ups
24-calorie row
16-calorie bike
8 kettlebell deadlifts (203 / 124 lb.)

This event will begin just after completing Pedal to the Metal 1.
The peg board was another new piece of equipment for the Games, modeled in the style of American Ninja Warrior, whereby competitors have to ascend a board using pegs which they must place in specific holes in the board to use as leverage. This proved to be a daunting task for both the men and the women, as the volume of work throughout the course of the competition had an obvious effect on the athletes. In fact, only three women managed to complete all three peg board ascents, with the rest of the field opting to give up after several misses and reserve the energy for Pedal to the Metal 2. No female athlete was able to complete the event under the 6-minute time cap, but Margaux Alvarez made it the furthest, completing the 16 calories on the assault bike. After a short break, the women tackled the final event of the 2015 CrossFit Games. Based on the standings, an event win for Katrin Davidsdottir or Sara Sigmundsdottir would ensure the championship for either woman. However, it was Sam Briggs who broke away from the field during the row and the bike, beginning her kettlebell deadlifts ahead of Davidsdottir in 2nd. But while Briggs had to rest between her sets of deadlifts, Davidsdottir wowed the crowd by going touch-and-go through her deadlifts all the way through six reps before resting. That put her in the lead for the event, and as she completed her final two reps and jumped across the finish line, Dave Castro made the announcement that the 22-year-old Icelandic native was the Fittest Woman on Earth.

For the men, Spencer Hendel had his best performance of the Games, winning both events back to back to catapult him up the standings for a 5th place finish overall. But in truth, all eyes were on Ben Smith and Mat Fraser. Smith, who was the overall leader heading into Sunday, simply needed to finish ahead of Fraser to guarantee his first Games championship in seven attempts. That championship looked in doubt after Fraser finished 2nd in PTM 1, with Smith in 4th. But in PTM 2, Smith showed his consistency yet again, finishing in the same position while Fraser tallied a score that was good for 17th.  After a few nervous moments where every fan tried to guess who had secured the championship, Castro took to the mike once more:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games champion is…Ben Smith!”

At last, after seven trips to the Games and two 3rd place finishes, Smith had finally managed to achieve the championship he has worked towards for so long.

Podium Finishers

1 (790) Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir
2 (750) Tia-Clair Toomey
3(743) Ragnheiður Sara


1 (915) Ben Smith
2 (879) Mathew Fraser
3 (766) Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson

Team champions

Rich Froning and “Fittest on Earth” appear to be synonyms, as once again the Tennessee native stood atop the podium—this time with his team, CrossFit Mayhem Freedom. After NorCal CrossFit’s Miranda Oldroyd suffered an ACL tear during the Clean and Jerk event, NorCal dropped from 1st overall—though they were still able to complete some events with just five athletes, leading them to a 10th place finish. That opened the door for Mayhem Freedom, and that was all the opportunity Froning and co needed. The team had six top-5 finishes in the final seven events, meaning that in 2015, the Affiliate Cup will be heading back to Tennessee.

1 (1018) CrossFit Mayhem Freedom
2 (1013) CrossFit Milford
3 (1000) Ute CrossFit

Featured photo: ©2015 CrossFit Inc. Used with permission from CrossFit Inc

About Damect Dominguez

Co-founder of BoxLife Magazine. Author: Training Day: 400+ Workouts to Incorporate in Your Training.

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