Madeline Sturt, Jay Crouch, Men at Work and LSKD Gold win Down Under Championship in Australia
On a beautiful spring November morning in Wollongong, athletes took the floor to kick off Australia’s major off-season event of the year: the Down Under Championship. It was a tough fight at the top of the leaderboard across the elite men, women and team divisions all weekend long, and there was no shortage of surprises with last minute roster changes. We’re breaking down the need-to-know action you may have missed from the coastal Australian city.
Day One: Friday, November 18
CrossFit Games athlete Rob Forte programmed the competition at WIN Entertainment Centre, with each event being a prior Regionals workout — a nod to the fact that Regionals used to be held at the venue. The first event–hero workout “Randy”–was first programmed on CrossFit’s mainsite in 2008, and made its competition debut at Regionals in 2015. Event 1 for athletes was the same across the board, with teams doing their 75 snatches synchronized.
Men at Work (Noah Ohlsen, Chandler Smith and Saxon Panchik) took the top time in the men’s Elite Team division, with Downunder Dogs (Khan Porter, Matt Dlugos and Ricky Garard) finishing just nine seconds behind. These two scores were over 30 seconds ahead of the following finishes, which set the tone for the fight between these two teams the rest of the competition.
The second and final workout of the day was “Nasty Gals V3”: Three rounds for time with a 14-minute cap of 50 single-leg squats, 10 ring muscle-ups and 10 hang cleans (176lb/80kg, 115.5lb/52.5kg). For the Individual Men, Peter Ellis took the event win, followed closely by Jay Crouch and Zeke Grove, who all separated themselves from the rest of the pack to close out day one.
Maddie Sturt, who narrowly missed qualifying for the Games in 2022, ended the day in 1st place for the Elite Women followed closely behind Katelin van Zyl, who’s moved from team to individual this year.
Day Two: Saturday, November 19
Events 3, 4 and 5 made for an exciting day two and with over 4,000 spectator tickets sold, the fans were on their feet cheering for these athletes. Following “John Cleary”, a whole bunch of sandbag cleans and carries, was Regionals 17.1. In a weight vest (20lb/14lb) with a 20/23-minute cap, for time:
12 rounds of:
4 Strict Handstand Push-ups
8 Chest-to-Bar Pull-ups
Lauren Fisher, one of the only athletes to have completed all of these workouts during Regionals, came out swinging in her first competition since the 2022 CrossFit Games as a member of Team CrossFit Reykjavík. She came into the day in third place, and after finishing “John Cleary” just outside the top ten, made a comeback for events 4 and 5 to round out the day in fifth overall.
Missing from the women’s field was Ro Scott, who withdrew following her sixth place finish at the Zelos Games invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada the weekend prior.
The major highlight from Saturday came in the evening with Team Event 5, Regionals 12.5: A snatch ladder with double-unders. The women’s bar started at 110lb/50kg and went all the way up to 198lb/90kg. On the men’s side, the bars ranged from 176lb/90kg to 297lb/135kg — or so we thought.
As the gents closed out on the final snatch, it was a battle between hometown hero Ricky Garard and fan favorite and US Army veteran, Chandler Smith. After both men successfully cleared the last bar, a 140kg barbell was added to the mix (Games sandbag event flashbacks, anyone?). The crowd rose to their feet and fellow competitors drew closer to the platform, watching Garard miss twice. With all eyes on Smith, the 29-year-old swiftly pulled the 309lb bar over his head and stood it up with ease. Garard was seen smiling in the background as the crowd, and Smith’s teammates, went nuts. Although Men at Work took second in the event overall, it was a competition moment we won’t soon forget.
“It was awesome — Ricky is such a gamer. Some people just rise to the occasion under the lights on the biggest stages, and he’s one of those people,” said Garard’s coach and head of Underdogs Athletics, Justin Cotler. “So, while I won’t say I expected it, I also won’t say I was surprised.”
Chandler’s wife, Jessi, experienced a rollercoaster of emotions during Event 5, followed by a different kind of surprise.
“Chandler gives me so much anxiety during lift events, in a good but awful way. I was super excited when he hit 135kg because that’s the most he’s done since Granite (Games), but I knew since Ricky and a few other guys also hit that, he wasn’t going to say no when they wanted to put 140kg on,” she said. “Then when Ricky didn’t get it, I knew Chandler wasn’t going to miss. The crowd at DUC was electric and he hasn’t ever missed a lift in a competition. I’m honestly just surprised he didn’t put more on after that.”
Day Three: Sunday, November 20
On the final day for the women’s Elite Teams, LSKD Gold was pulling away for a strong first place lead with no finish outside of the top three. Noticeably missing from their division was the powerhouse team many were excited to see: training partners Tia-Clair Toomey and Brooke Wells, accompanied by Ellie Turner. On November 16, shortly before the excitement began, Toomey-Orr announced their team would have to withdraw. Although the reigning champ didn’t specify the reason, the broadcast team on the ground cited a low-back injury as the cause. However, the trio still made their rounds for meet-and-greets with fans throughout the competitions, joined in handshakes and photos by none other than Fittest Man on Earth Justin Medeiros and CrossFit CEO, Don Faul.
Going into the final day, only five points separated Men at Work and Down Under Dogs. Similarly, Sturt led the Elite Women by only five points ahead of Gemma Hauck, and Jay Crouch was on the road to securing a top finish, 19 points in front of Jake Douglas.
Day three began with Regionals 16.6, for time:
1000m C2 Bike
30m Handstand Walk
10 Overhead Squats (220lb/100kg, 154lb/70kg)
50 Burpee Box Jump Overs
5 Overhead Squats
Christina Livaditakis scored her second event win of the weekend, edging out Daisy McDonald and Fisher by more than 30 seconds. Jay Crouch kept the momentum going, finishing first in event 6, followed by Peter Ellis and Zeke Grove.
The final event was light, fast and furious with a 6-minute cap. Regionals 16.7:
21 Thrusters (100lb/45kg, 77lb/30kg)
3 Legless Rope Climbs
2 Legless Rope Climbs
1 Legless Rope Climb
The final event lit the fire underneath some athletes with impressive performances that shuffled the leaderboard. Elly Hutchens secured her best finish of the weekend, finishing event 7 in second place. On the men’s side, Harry Debenham also made a strong final showing with a fifth place finish to cap off the competition. And Batman, Robin and JJ in the men’s team division achieved their first and only top finish.
Van Zyl, who recently joined Underdog Athletics, ended with an 11th place finish on the last event; a strong overall showing for her individual debut after competing on a team for the last three years.
“My back held up which was a huge win for me this weekend after years of flares and maintenance. So this weekend was a huge win in all respects,” she said. “My next competition is (TYR) Wodapalooza in January — I’m doing individual and team so I’m super pumped.”
Her coach is nothing short of impressed with the camp’s performance as whole overseas, and said: “I’m very proud of the presence Underdogs now has in Australia and NZ. Great athletes, and most importantly great people. We got to see many of them shine this past weekend, and we look forward to supporting them to a very successful upcoming season!”
Elite Individual Women:
- Maddie Sturt (584)
- Gemma Hauck (559)
- Christina Livaditakis (552)
- Grace Walton (535)
- Georgia Pryer (532)
Elite Individual Men:
- Jay Crouch (648)
- Jake Douglas (604)
- Peter Ellis (579)
- Zeke Grove (548)
- Evan Morris (510)
Elite Team, Women:
- LSKD Gold (680)
- Briony Challis, Christee Hollard, Emily Derooy
- Team LNMD (596)
- Abby Ashton, Laken Watt, Amy Alessi
- Awaside (584)
- Holly Hiney, Alexandra Bulic, Laura Clifton
- Starr Strength Gals (577)
- Samantha Jones, Lauren Lovick, Jade Williams
- Torian Pink (559)
- Shania Vicki, Kristine Bell, Lisa Campbell
Elite Team, Men:
- Men at Work (670)
- Noah Ohlsen, Chandler Smith, Saxon Panchik
- Downunder Dogs (665)
- Khan Porter, Matt Dlugos, Ricky Garard
- Underway Full Senders (577)
- Jack Clark, Lucas O’Brien, Benjamin Newland
- Superstarr’s (554)
- Stephen Norman, Liam Ford, Russell McCloy
- Batman, Robin and JJ (544)
- Bradley Spreadborough, Jake Standen, Darcy Hancock
While we weren’t able to cover all 300+ competitors across multiple divisions, the adaptive, masters and intermediate men and women put on a show as well, and we expect the excitement to continue as we roll into the next major off-season event in just a couple of weeks. Head to our competition page for the full Down Under Championship leaderboard and to watch the live stream from all three days of competition.
Oh, and if you need a little inspiration to get you fired up for training today, check out this video of Khan Porter giving the Men at Work from the states a lesson in Aussie culture.
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