July 16, 2010: A Famous Face-Plant and a French Canadian Star is Born
Setting the stage: The sun was going down and the stadium lights were on. Jets flew overhead as the national anthem played.
- “It created an experience unlike anything I had ever been a part of…You could feel the energy,” said 2008 CrossFit Games champion Jason Khalipa.
It’s 2010 and it’s the first ever Friday night event under the lights of the tennis stadium at the first ever CrossFit Games held at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.
The workout: “Amanda”
For time: 9-7-5
Squat snatches (135/95 pounds)
Why it’s Memorable: To me, Amanda represents the moment the CrossFit Games became a legitimate event on the world stage, almost like our coming-of-age moment. Khalipa said that’s how it felt as an athlete, as well.
- “I agree with you…The growth of the sport was undeniable and it was amazing to be a part of,” he said.
In just four years, the CrossFit Games had gone from being a casual two-day competition with just three events in 2007 at Dave Castro’s dusty family ranch in the Aromas, CA — a competition that allowed anyone to show up and throw down — to a prestigious, invite-only competition sponsored by Under Armour, with a $25,000 grand prize at the Home Depot Center in Carson. In this sense, Amanda effectively set the stage for the modern CrossFit Games.
Also Significant: From a fitness perspective, Amanda was evidence of how much the fitness level on the floor was increasing each year.
- In 2009, just one year prior, many women competing could not do a muscle-up. That year, Annie Thorisdottir hit her first ever muscle-up in the final event at Aromas. And here we were, just a year later, with muscle-ups — 21 of them — showing up as the first movement of the entire competition.
What happened: Though today Amanda is a sprint for any elite CrossFit athlete, easily completed unbroken in just a few minutes, at the time it proved to be outside of many competitors’ fitness levels.
- The event saw countless failed muscle-ups and snatches throughout all of the men’s and women’s heats.
- Many athletes resorted to using the “right arm, left arm technique,” as the commentators called it, in order to squeak through the rings.
- Only seven women completed the event before the 12-minute time cap.
- Kristan Clever had the fastest female time of 5:04, while Chris Spealler won the men’s division with a time of 3:29.
Fun fact: Eventual muscle-up queen Sam Briggs did not finish Amanda in the 12-minute time cap in 2010. She placed 19th overall in the event. Just ahead of Briggs in 18th, and also time capped, was Chyna Cho.
A Star is Born: Prior to Heat 1 of Amanda, nobody knew the name Camille Leblanc-Bazinet. By the time she finished Amanda, winning the heat in a time of 7:02 — a time that was good enough for second overall, everyone wanted to know more about “Camille from Canada,” as the commentators called her.
Even then, Leblanc-Bazinet’s muscle-up technique — though a far cry from the muscle-up proficiency she developed just a couple years later — was already head and shoulders better than any other female competitor in 2010. She finished her first nine muscle-ups unbroken, lightyears ahead of the field.
I remember watching the event from my Airbnb in Redondo Beach, CA with the CrossFit Vancouver team I was competing with, and the moment she hit the screen, it was obvious she was about to become an overnight CrossFit sensation. That was also the moment I decided to do everything I could to compete as an individual athlete in the tennis court one day, a feat I finally accomplished in 2014.
- Marty Cej, a commentator at the 2010 Games, told me years later that he had the same thought. I’m paraphrasing, but Cej said this: “Watching Camille in Amanda, I knew at that moment she was going to be a star. And then when she was interviewed and the world first heard her cute French accent, it was over. She was the new sensation.”
The Famous Face-plant: “Amanda” at the 2010 Games happened before the days that required athletes to stay in a certain lane or box during an event. So, in the final men’s heat, Jason Khalipa, the 2008 CrossFit Games Champion, who failed over and over to hit his final snatch, began “covering some real estate with that bar,” said one commentator.
In his second to last attempt, as Khalipa tried to save his snatch, he went for a run with the bar, almost taking out a cameraman in the process before aggressively face-planting. It’s a move he now refers to as “burpee bar chasers,” he said, laughing.
- “The barbell weight or muscle up at Amanda’s rep scheme by themselves weren’t the issue. The level of competition I was facing combined with the complexity of the skills created a brain fog that kicked in at a level I had never experienced before. I wanted to push, but couldn’t feel my body. I wanted to win, but couldn’t perform the movements. It was a very conflicting situation,” remembered Khalipa 10 years later.
- “Most people don’t know but I ended up laying on the floor for over an hour after the event. The stadium lights had been turned off and a friend of mine put me on a golf cart to get me to the car. It was a rough night,” he added with a laugh.
A decade later, Khalipa said Amanda was a huge growth moment, not just for the sport, but also for his career.
- “I learned a lot that year about conserving energy and using it when it was needed. I had exhausted myself all day being fired up to compete. It was like listening to your favorite pump up song all day, but in the end the day you’re exhausted,” Khalipa said.
- He added: “(It) helped build my mindset for future competitions and adversity in life. Every year at the Games I learned something about myself. Although (that) experience was extremely challenging at the time, I’m grateful I was able to have it.”