As I’m sure many of you know, Regional competition began this past weekend with athletes competing in the South East, North Central, Canada West and Latin America Regionals for the chance to earn their spot at the Games in Carson this summer. There were plenty of thrills throughout the weekend, with some familiar faces returning to the Games alongside some up and coming Games rookies. After three days of competition in four locations, here are our first three takeaways from the 2014 CrossFit Regionals.
1. You’re only as strong as your weakest link.
I had previously mentioned that a number of the events at this year’s Regionals were designed to catch athletes out, and this proved to be the case for many competitors. This year there is a heavy emphasis on high skill bodyweight movements including pistols, legless rope climbs, handstand walks and strict handstand pushups. Clearly, Castro wanted to ensure that the athletes who have a major weakness in any of these areas (or any of the events in general) would have a difficult time qualifying for the Games, and those who were proficient in all areas would have the best chance at making it to Carson. Daniel Petro, one of the top athletes in the South East region who finished 13th overall at the 2013 Games, came to the South East Regional with hopes of returning to California. Petro excelled in event 7 (64 pull-ups followed by 8 overhead squats), posting the fastest time in any region so far (1:47). Despite Petro’s proficiency with the overhead squats, he struggled with a number of other movements over the weekend—most notably strict handstand push-ups. Prior to the start of Regionals, Petro was asked by Castro on how he planned to tackle the movement in event 4. Daniel acknowledged his weakness with handstand push-ups would likely cause him some trouble:
“It’s probably my worst movement, but it is what it is. I should be able to handle the front squats and burpees and hopefully the weight will be enough where it will slow down the smaller guys and I might be able to catch back up with them. But that one (event 4) I just have to try to survive and make my other workouts count.”
Unfortunately for Petro, the handstand push-ups got the best of him as he was forced to complete them one at a time, resulting in a 34th place finish in the event and a 19th place finish overall. Had the programming been different this year, there is every possibility that Petro (and many other big name athletes including Orlando Trejo and Stacie Tovar) would be making a return trip to the Games. Alas, the tricky movements in the majority of the events proved to be the Achilles’ heel for numerous athletes, meaning we will be seeing a host of new faces at the Games this summer.
2. Nothing is guaranteed.
Speaking of Stacie Tovar, the North Central athlete and five-time Games veteran was touted as a favorite (alongside fellow Games athlete Elisabeth Akinwale) to dominate the workouts and be on the Regional podium on Sunday. In fact, most of the debate was on which female athlete would be standing alongside Akinwale and Tovar. It’s easy to see why Tovar was considered to be such a favorite in her division, given her extensive experience and success within Regional and Games competition. However, Tovar was only able to walk 35 feet on her hands during event 2, and despite two first place finishes in events 3 and 6, the damage was already done. Tovar will not be returning to the Games this year as she finished in 6th place at the North Central Regional. The programming this year has already dictated that these Regionals will be very different to those in years past and that nothing is guaranteed—one poor performance in an event can literally take your hopes of making it to the Games from hard to nearly impossible
3. Hard work and determination pay off.
With the unique programming of this year’s Regionals, numerous athletes were able to achieve their dreams and see their hard work and sacrifice result in an invitation to the CrossFit Games. Many athletes finally booked their place in the competition after several years of trying. One such athlete was Noah Ohlsen who earned a 1st place overall finish at the South East Regionals. You may not have heard of Ohlsen, but his story (and skillset) will ensure that he will be a name to look out for come July. In 2011, Ohlsen was a volunteer at the South East Regionals where he happened to spot the director of the CrossFit Games, Dave Castro. Unfazed, Ohlsen introduced himself to Castro, announcing that even though he was a volunteer that year, he would be competing as an individual in 2012. A man of his word, Ohlsen qualified for the South East Regionals that year and again in 2013, but was unable to progress any further. But in 2014, the relentless work ethic of Ohlsen has finally paid off, as he has advanced from volunteer, to Regional competitor, and finally, CrossFit Games athlete.