Guest Post: Jacqueline Dahlstrøm’s Lost Season
The 2018 Crossfit Games season was a high watermark, both in terms of Open participation and network media coverage, so it came as a surprise to many when CrossFit HQ decided to take a step back from social media in May of 2019.
Without warning, the sport’s official accounts on Instagram and Facebook were deleted, leaving millions of followers unable to tag, share, or refer to the vast amount of content that was available before.
For the followers it was inconvenient but for several athletes making waves, it was heart-breaking. These athletes devoted months of work to overcome a new qualification process, without being able to enjoy any of the wide-reaching exposure or recognition that HQ imparts on its up-and-comers via its own media outlets.
One of these overlooked athletes was Spain-based Norwegian Jacqueline Dahlstrøm. This weekend at the German Throwdown, Dahlstrøm carded a stellar performance, finishing all six events in the top four, winning workout one and taking second in workout four along the way. She took second place overall, behind veteran Kristin Holte, and punched her ticket to Madison.
But, her road to the 2021 Games has been paved with adversity.
In 2014, Dahlstrøm tried CrossFit for the first time, seeing it as a perfect solution to train her strength and physique. She wasn’t initially interested in competing but in 2015 she participated in her second CrossFit Open finishing 3rd in Norway (54th in Europe).
By 2016, CrossFit’s reach had continued to grow, making the European field more competitive and therefore more challenging for athletes training to compete at a high level.
Despite this, Dahlstrøm finished 3rd in Norway in 2016 and 2nd in 2017. Both results led to invitations to the Meridian regionals where she continued to make a name for herself.
She earned that invite again in 2018 where she placed 6th; her strongest finish yet, just two places short of advancing to the Games. By then, the Norwegian national had moved to Mallorca, Spain to gain more experience competing at an elite level with The Progrm and to work closer with her coach, John Singleton.
2019: A New Format for the New Season
From 2014-2018 Dahlstrøm saw undeniable growth, each year placing better than the last. At the end of the 2018 season, CrossFit announced that it would change the qualification format for the CrossFit Games, replacing the Regionals with Sanctional events.
Rather than going up against the other top competitors from their region, athletes had the opportunity to compete in any of the official Sanctional events in order to earn a spot at the Games. Regarding the Open, invitations would also be awarded to the top scoring male and female athlete from each participating country, and, more traditionally the top 20 overall men and women. As a bonus, HQ announced they would also include a few wildcard invitees at their discretion.
Following the announcement of the new qualification process, it was clear that 2019 would be different. Athletes would have four different ways to earn their spot at the Games in Madison but it was clear that the best path to the games would be by securing a place early in the season by performing well in the Open.
At the end of the five-week endeavour, Dahlstrøm ranked well within the top 20 worldwide Open athletes guaranteeing her advancement to the Games.
Two Sanctional Wins
Despite having already qualified for the Games, Dahlstrøm participated in two Sanctional events, the first being the Reykjavik CrossFit Championship in May.
The competition took place over three days and consisted of nine events which were as varied as Iceland’s climate.
Dahlstrøm most notable performances included a mountain trail run, a legless rope climb yoke-carry event, and an unconventional WOD of high-volume gymnastics and overhead squat intervals. After two event wins, Dahlstrøm took first place in the competition contending against the likes of Haley Adams, Dani Speegle, and Thuri Helgadóttir.
Capping off sanctional season, Dahlstrøm travelled to Paris to participate in the French Throwdown. This three-day competition made up of nine events took place June making it one of the last chances to secure a spot in Madison. The Norwegian athlete started strong, finishing second in one of the first events; a hilly 100m sprint following a gruelling 9 km run and 500m paddle surf.
Dahlstrøm was in second place going into day two, but faced injury during event five. 10 rounds of 12 sumo deadlift high pulls and 12 shoulder-to-overheads resulted in the athlete pinching a nerve in her lower back.
Despite the setback, Jacqueline pushed through the pain, leading her to take second in event six; a variation on a couplet of muscle-ups and heavy squat cleans. After a strong performance and a great demonstration of perseverance, Dahlstrøm ended the weekend in first place on top of the podium in the Vélodrome.
Alongside the Games ticket, the Sanctional wins placed her in a very unique class of athlete, being one of only three female athletes to have won two or more events in one season, the others being Tia Clair Toomey and Sara Sigmundsdottir.
The Set Back
Despite the high of the win at The French Throwdown, it was quickly followed by excruciating pain and Dahlstrøm was taken to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a NRI (Nerve Root Irritation). She was subsequently placed on tricyclic antidepressants to help relieve the nerve pain and obviously prescribed minimal physical activity, an obvious setback for an athlete in Games training.
Even with the injury, Dahlstrøm couldn’t bear the thought of not fulfilling her dreams of competing at The CrossFit Games, so she boarded the plane to Madison, WI.
The 2019 CrossFit Games
The 2019 CrossFit Games included the largest field to date as it included the top 20 Open athletes, winners from 15 sanctioned events, a select few wild card invitees, and the Open national champions of 114 countries.
Despite the pain, Dahlstrøm had suffered as a result of the injury she managed to make it through to the second day of competition. However the gruelling event, “Ruck,” which involved 6km of weighted running, was too much for her leg/nerve pain and arguably the hardest event of her career.
Dahlstrøm finished 45th overall at the Games that year. Although it is never an easy decision to compete with an injury and even though she didn’t get to demonstrate her true potential, Dahlstrøm remains a Games athlete and is hungry to arrive to the 2021 Games fresh and ready to show the World what she can do.