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April 3, 2014

Top 5 Moments of the 2014 Open

Written by Damect Dominguez

On Monday evening, the 2014 CrossFit Open came to a close.  Five weeks of entertaining live announcements and grueling workouts made this year’s Open an unforgettable one. While it is a challenge to attempt to list the top 5 moments of the Open (given that so many great moments may have happened at your own box!), we decided to step up to the barbell and give it a shot. Here are our top 5 moments of the 2014 CrossFit Open:

Honorable Mention: Stacie Tovar’s sportsmanship
14.3, if you don’t recall, was an ascending couplet (both in weight and reps) of deadlifts and box jumps. While most of us had as much time as we wanted to prepare a game plan and lay out our weights in a straightforward manner, Stacie Tovar and Alessandra Pichelli (competing at the live announcement in New Orleans) had about 5 minutes to do the same. Adding in the fact that athletes were required to change out the plates themselves, some confusion was bound to happen (as I’m sure it did at your box). During the athletes’ plate transition from 155lbs to 185lbs, Pichelli mistakenly put the incorrect weight on her bar, and got 5 reps into her round without anyone noticing, including her judge. That is, anyone except Tovar. Tovar, in the middle of changing her own plates, spotted the discrepancy on Pichelli’s bar and made the judges aware-saving Pichelli from having to repeat any additional reps and potential disqualification. And, maybe from Tovar’s point of view, justice had been served as well. If we were all uber-optimists then it would be easy to believe that Tovar spoke up to help her fellow competitor, but in reality, when you are in competition, in the heat of the moment, and you see another athlete with an unfair advantage—chances are you are going to speak up to make sure things are even.

5) New Orleans and Seattle bring the noise
Before anyone gets too angry, I want to say every venue (Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, Seattle and San Francisco) that hosted one of the live announcements this year did an amazing job, and the fans who showed up provided a great reminder as to what makes CrossFit great—the community. However, the crowds in New Orleans and Seattle made some serious noise. We had all the traditional yells and screams of encouragement and support, but the fans took it one step further. In N’awlins, with New Orleans Saints (NFL) coach Sean Payton in attendance, an impromptu Who Dat? chant (a traditional Saints fan chant) filled the CrossFit NOLA Downtown box-interrupting host Rory McKernan several times. Not to be outdone, the following week fans in attendance at CrossFit Bellevue in Seattle brought their own NFL chant of “Seahawks! Seahawks!” when Scott Panchick entered the floor wearing a Seattle Seahawks cap. These chants brought some extra energy on both nights, and made me think—how soon will we be having athlete-specific chants?

4) Josh Bridges and Scott Panchik make it back to the rower
After the CrossFit Games posted a video of Castro tossing a branch into a wood chipper the night before the announcement of 14.4, everyone knew what the format of the workout would be. People braced for the worst, and boy did Castro deliver a doozy. Start on the rower, on to toes-to-bar, followed by wall balls, then cleans and lastly muscle ups. If you could clear all of that before the 14 minute time cap, then you had made it back to the promised land-the rower. For all but a special few, making it back to the rower seemed like a mythical concept. Once we had hit 60 calories on that first row, we all said farewell to the machine—confident that our paths would not cross again. As soon as Castro announced 14.4, this was all pretty evident to most of us. But that didn’t mean watching someone else do it wouldn’t be a special moment either. Watching Josh Bridges and Scott Panchick (competing in Seattle) struggle through the cleans and muscle-ups, I started to worry that not even the elite could best the first round and start a second. So when Josh Bridges (closely followed by Panchick) found their way back to nirvana, everyone in attendance at CrossFit Bellevue (Seattle) erupted. And why not? It’s not often that one gets to watch such feats of athleticism in person. Of course, a few days later Rich Froning (along with only four other athletes) actually bid the rower farewell for a second time and went on to the toes-to-bar. So good, it’s sickening.

3) Rich Froning and Sam Briggs go head-to-head in 14.5
Usually, the fact that five CrossFit Games champions would be competing head-to-head for the first time in an Open WOD would be enough on it’s own to merit a place on this list (not to mention female and male athletes competing together for the first time). However, Sam Briggs and Rich Froning had other ideas. The intention of this workout was to have five athletes battle it out against one another, but it quickly transitioned into the Briggs vs. Froning show. And it was fantastic. Briggs, famous for having one of the best motors in CrossFit, went off in the early rounds, building a sizeable lead on her fellow competitors, save Froning. Cool, calm and composed, Froning started to chip away at the Brit’s lead until they were battling rep for rep. This was fantastic to watch, the two reigning Games Champions, the two leaders in the Open matching and pushing one another to their limits. The fact that it was a male athlete versus a female one made it even more special to watch. As the commentator pointed out, Froning had competed against (and beat) every male competitor he has faced in the CrossFit world, but never before had he battle against a female athlete. Ultimately, Froning’s almost robot-like efficiency propelled him to a six-second win over Briggs, but the real winner was CrossFit. The sport, the community—everyone and everything benefited from the show the two champs put on.

2) Kie Drea attempts 14.5…in the mountains of Bhutan
As has been said countless times before, this year’s Open was the biggest in history. Over 200,000 athletes signed up to take part, and during the five weeks, countless PRs and new accomplishments were made. There were numerous representations of this online, like Angela Karr, a congenital amputee who hit her first toe-to-bar during 14.4—prompting scenes of jubilation from her fellow athletes at her box. Or what about Kie Drea, an athlete who attempted 14.5 in the hills of Trashigang, Bhutan. Using bamboo, two rocks and a piece of wood in failing light, Drea tackled 14.5 in near-darkness before posting his video online. Unfortunately, CrossFit didn’t accept his score, but that wasn’t the point. The achievements and drive of Karr and Drea are perfect reflections of how the Open has grown and motivated people, of all abilities, to overcome whatever challenges they may face and break barriers that they had once thought were insurmountable. For me, stories like this will always be a top moment of any Open.

1) Kevin Ogar does 14.4 and 14.5

By now you all must have surely heard Kevin Ogar’s story. Back in January, Kevin was participating in the OC Throwdown, and in the midst of a 3-rep max touch-and-go snatch workout. Tragically, Kevin bailed on a failed lift, but the bar struck his back, paralyzing him from the waist down. Once news broke of Kevin’s accident, along with the fact that he was uninsured, the CrossFit community rallied to support the charity set up to help Kevin with his medical costs, Ogar Strong. If you follow Kevin on any of his social media pages, you will see that he has made some great progress since January. But perhaps the most inspiring of the Open came two weeks ago when Kevin posted this picture on his Instagram page alongside this message:

“#Repost from @refactortactical with @repost-app 14.4 is the First @CrossFit Open workout I’ve been able to do. Feels great to get back at it. Video to come! #fourhorsmen #ogarstrong #crossfit”

Then, a week later, Kevin took to Instagram again to let us know that he had just performed a modified version of 14.5, this time with a great video you can watch here. There are a great many superlatives you can use to describe how Kevin’s efforts make you feel. Inspired, hopeful, committed—each one of us will surely experience some emotion from seeing Kevin tackle these two Open WODS. Kevin, and so many other adaptive athletes like him, is a great role model for our sport who proves that CrossFit is truly Open for all. Next time you think you can’t do something, think of Kevin and other athletes in his situation. If you have a friend who wants to try CrossFit but is scared to do so, show them Kevin’s videos—any videos from adaptive athletes—and simply say, THIS is CrossFit. You can do it.

About Damect Dominguez

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

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