Behind the Legends: Rogue Women’s Field
This weekend the Legends competition kicked off at the 2021 Rogue Invitational, bringing an exciting and unique fan experience to the Dell Diamond stadium. A collection of 16 athletes – many of whom helped lay the foundation for the sport as it stands today – competed with the added wrinkle of this year’s events being performed in mixed and same gender pairs.
In my conversations with fans, it became quite apparent that this weekend is the first time they got to see a good portion of the legends field compete, and it was most certainly the first time the CrossFit community has seen them compete in their selected pairs.
With that in mind, we’ve assembled a collection of competitive biographies for the early stages of each athlete, as a reminder of how and when each legend came to be on the women’s side.
Long before most people even knew what a thruster was, Annie Sakamoto was putting in work inside the original CrossFit gym in Santa Cruz, California. Alongside Olympic Skier Eva Twardokens – Eva T as she was known amongst the budding community – and current General Manager of Education for CrossFit LLC Nicole Carroll, she carved out her place as one of the original “fire breathers,” in the community.
- Her status was further cemented following the posting of a new workout of the day in 2005, one that would later be named “Nasty Girls,” in honor of Sakamoto, Carroll, and Twardokens. The triplet featured muscle ups, and at the time the sight of the three women ripping through reps on the rings (most of them strict), was a significant step in reframing the perception of the limits of CrossFit’s methodology.
- At the inaugural CrossFit Games in 2007, it was Annie’s 11 month old daughter Dylan that actually pulled the first movement ball out of the Hopper to create the first ever Games event now known in its current form as 2007.
Annie wouldn’t compete as an individual at the Games until 2011, but following her rookie debut that year she received the prestigious Spirit of the Games award, and has since become a fixture of the Masters competitions, winning the 45-49 division this year.
In recent history the story of turning near-misses into triumph on the competition floor is one that’s become quite familiar given the career arcs of Mat Fraser, Tia-Clair Toomey, and most recently Justin Medeiros. Although the concept may be common now, it certainly wasn’t a dozen years ago when Tanya Wagner became the first to do it in 2009.
- Wagner nearly won the 2008 Games where the scoring was an “every second counts,” format that meant the aggregate time of all four events that year would ultimately determine the champion. Heading into the heavy squat clean and jerk finale she was only three seconds behind leader Gillian Mounsey, and for a moment it looked like Wagner was en route to the title after she pulled ahead of Mounsey in the event.
- Instead it was Caity Matter (now Caity Matter Henniger) who beat Wagner to the finish with a blistering time of 3:30, a full 44 seconds ahead of the next fastest time, to take home the CrossFit Games title.
Wagner would bounce back in a big way, dominating the 2009 CrossFit Games to become the first runner-up to come back and claim the title. Rather than defend her title, Wagner opted to compete in the Affiliate Cup alongside her CrossFit Apex team. Wagner would nearly qualify as an individual in 2012 – taking 5th at the 2012 Mid Atlantic Regional – before shifting focus to her family and the media team, providing color commentary for the Games broadcast nearly every year since.
Few athletes in the sport have had a better four year stretch at the CrossFit Games than Kristan Clever. While many believe Kari Pearce has ascended to the position of best American woman of all-time, any conversation regarding the matter would be illegitimate would serious consideration of Clever for that title.
- Clever burst onto the scene in 2009, when she finished 4th overall and was a quintuple tiebreaker (you read that right) away from a podium spot. The tiebreaker has always been highest single event finish, and she tied in points with Carey Kepler. Both had matching first, second, and two third place finishes. Unfortunately for Clever, Kepler had third third place finish compared to Clevers next best being a fourth place, and it was an unprecedented scenario that kept her off the podium.
- Clever would go on a warpath in 2010, handily taking home the crown ahead of an emerging Annie Thorisdottir. Clever won five of the nine events, and finished all but one event in the top two. She’d back her title up with a second place finish at the 2011 Games, and a fourth place finish in 2012. In 2012 just nine points separated her from a third straight podium.
Kristan Clever’s resume stands up to some of the best in the sport. She is a CrossFit Games champion, multiple time podium finisher, worldwide Open champion, Regionals champion, USA team member, Invitational winner, Spirit of the Games winner, and for four straight years she finished fourth or better at the CrossFit Games. She’s the last American woman to win, and she was a core member of the “Valley Girls,” training cohort out of Valley CrossFit that dominated the Southern California region for years.
Believe it or not but in the early days Omaha, Nebraska was one of the sports competitive powerhouse cities. CrossFit Omaha was one of the first 80 affiliates, and the performance of athletes like Ricky Frausto, Kyle Kasperbauer, Libby Dibiase, and Stacie Tovar anchored their reputation in the Aromas days.
- Tovar’s individual career began at the 2009 Games, where she finished 35th overall, and over the next eight seasons, Tovar would be a fixture at the Games, qualifying a staggering eight times as an individual, winning the 2011 North Central Regional in the process.
- In 2017 she announced her retirement from the sport to shift focus to running CrossFit Omaha and to begin growing her family with her husband, but it wasn’t before one last run at the Games that saw her bid an emotional goodbye on the competition floor of the Coliseum.
Across nearly a decade at the Games, Tovar bridged the gap between multiple generations of Games athletes, as one of a select few that earned the right to compete as an individual at all three host sites for the CrossFit Games: Aromas, Carson, and Madison.
The 2010 CrossFit Games marked the first time the competition has moved from its home venue of the Ranch in Aromas. The unexpected pivot to the (then) Home Depot Center in Carson, California left many feeling like the Games were a bit out of their element. When Julie Foucher stepped onto the competition floor as a 21-year-old college student from Michigan, any similar feelings about Foucher quickly dissipated as she crushed the opening event Amanda, placing her squarely inside the top five – a place she wouldn’t truly leave for five years.
- Foucher would finish fifth in both 2010 and 2011, establishing herself as one of the young stars of the sport, and part of a select group of athletes in the perennial podium and title contention discussion. The podium dream would come to fruition in 2012, when she finished second overall behind Annie Thorisdottir.
- Then in 2013, she stepped aside to focus on her education as she was in medical school and working on becoming a doctor. The break was short lived and in 2014, she returned to competition and the podium, finishing third overall in a massive final day comeback that saw her make up more than 40 points to reclaim a podium spot.
- The 2015 season was supposed to be her farewell tour at the Games, but during the the event 4 chipper during the Central Regional Foucher tore her achilles tendon, effectively ending her season but not her weekend.
In what has since become an exalted moment, Foucher walked back out onto the competition floor, still in first place overall and donning a protective walking boot, and proceeded to finish 11th in the handstand walk of event 5, before eventually leaving the floor to a standing ovation. Despite the injury she’d still finish 8th overall. In the time since, Julie Foucher has become an integral part of the CrossFit Health movement through her work practicing medicine.
Everyone loves an underdog story, and that was Margaux Alvarez’s journey towards becoming a perennial Games athlete out of California. At the 2013 Northern California Regional, few people saw her coming as the gatekeeper for the third and final games spot. Alvarez finished the final three events in the top three to overtake Chyna Cho, Annie Sakamoto, and Sara Hopping Estrella on the final day to earn a surprise rookie ticket to the Games.
- Once Alvarez broke through she never looked back, qualifying for six consecutive CrossFit Games, winning the South Regional in 2018, putting herself in elite company having qualified from three different Regionals.
- In 2015 she had a career year at the Games finishing 9th overall and winning the first event of her career in Pedal to the Medal 1. Her performance earned her a spot on the USA team for the Invitational where she helped the team to a victory at the Caja Magica in Madrid, Spain.
In 2019 she stepped aside from competing individually, joining the Invictus X team for the Games that season before shifting her focus toward her growing wine business. Now based in Las Vegas, Nevada, Alvarez competed in season 2 of the Titan Games, and continues to expand her G.O.A.T Wine brand.
CrossFit’s “Iron Woman,” Becca Voigt-Miller has re-written the playbook on longevity and long-term success in the sport. Her first appearance at the CrossFit Games was in 2008 where she finished 7th overall to kick off a run of nine consecutive years at the Games.
- Voigt-Miller would reach the podium in 2011 following a turn of events that could have nearly ended her season. Shortly before the CrossFit Games she was involved in a car crash that left her battling bouts of vertigo. At multiple points during the Games, she would manage to fend off the ill-effects and continue pressing forward, eventually finishing 3rd overall in spectacular fashion.
- In 2017 her individual appearance streak would be broken at nine, but she also managed to qualify as a master in the 35-39 category that year. She would go on to finish third, earning her second career Games medal. The following year she would become the first athlete to compete as an individual at 10 CrossFit Games.
Voigt-Miller continues to compete both as an individual and masters athlete, and to this day has racked up 13 appearances at the CrossFit Games, and four podium finishes between the two divisions. In addition to competing, she owns and operates her affiliate – CrossFit Training Yard, in southern California.
To learn more about the Men’s Legend field, check out the article here.