Jason Smith and Michelle Merand Hold Tight Lead After Day 1 at CrossFit Fittest in Cape Town
The opening day of the Fittest in Cape Town Semifinal at the The Coetzenburg Centre in Stellenbosch, South Africa started with some surprises but by the end of the day favorites to snag the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games invitation for the region stood atop the leaderboard.
Games veterans Jason Smith and Michelle Merand led their respective divisions, however their leads were each just four points. For the team competition CrossFit Commit Okavango was in the lead as expected but are just five points ahead of CrossFit Tijger Valley UNIT. Here are three takeaways from day one you need to know.
The Battle of Michelle’s Part 2: Last year South Africans Michelle Basnett and Michelle Merand were considered favorites to secure the lone Games bid with Basnett taking the honors, this year the two were again considered the favorites as both finished 1-2 in the Quarterfinals.
After Day 1 it’s Merand that holds the four point lead over Basnett thanks to an event win in the day’s second event, 2014 Regional Event 5, with a time of 4:16 over a minute better than the runner-up Leeverne Engelbrecht (5:21).
Basnett, like at last year’s Semifinal, started Day 1 with solid finishes, recording a third and a fourth.
Day 1 from the Semifinals typically has surprises when it comes to the top spots but the two Michelle’s strong start looks to make this a two-woman race.
The other Ruan: Ruan Duvenage came into the competition as an early favorite to claim the Games invite in a field that really only had five serious contenders. Well there is a Ruan contending right now but his last name is Potgieter. The 25-year old South African is one of the young athletes in the field and he’s pushing for the top spot, trailing the defending champion Smith by just four points.
He started off the day with an event win, showing off his swimming prowess and edging Smith by :24 seconds. In event 2 he took fifth place :09 second behind Smith who placed third.
Last year he placed sixth in the Semifinal and this season he bounced back from a disappointing Open to place seventh in the Africa Quarterfinals. His strengths lie in his capacity and gymnastics which could help him in a few events and keep him in the hunt. His strength will be an issue with the “Barbell Complex” looming.
Dipping a toe in the pool: The organizers of the Semifinal made history by becoming the first to incorporate swimming into their programming. The opening workout, called “The Deep End”, featured 500 meters of swimming, split up in five rounds of 100 meters in an outdoor pool, and introduced an element that is typically reserved for the Games. Adding the swimming element at this stage could be something other event organizers might look at in the future and will have athletes incorporating the skill earlier in their programming.
The Fittest in Cape Town already started a trend as the Copa Sur Semifinal will also include a swimming element as well. The Brazilian semifinal will bring back the Run-Swim-Run event from the 2017 Games.