Danielle Brandon Makes a Statement, Wins Event One at the North America East Semifinal
With Mal O’Brien—the favorite to win the 2023 CrossFit Games—withdrawing from the North America East Semifinal earlier this week, the door suddenly swung wide open, and there are arguably five or six women with a legitimate chance to take the title this weekend in Orlando, FL on their way to Madison, WI.
But on Event One, it looked like veteran Danielle Brandon may want it most. She topped all other competitors by more than a full minute.
The details: Prior to the final heat, only four women had finished the workout—featuring what proved to be three very heavy hand-over-hand rope pulls, sandwiched between a 3,000-meter Echo bike, a 2,000-meter Assault Air Runner and a 1,000-meter SkiErg—before the 30 minute time-cap. Five women in the final heat went on to finish the event that had multiple lead changes throughout.
- Cary was the first athlete to finish the 3,000-meter Echo Bike, but the lead was soon taken over by Amanda Barnhart. Then, out of nowhere Sydney Wells, hoping to punch her first ticket to the CrossFit Games this weekend, was the first to finish the 2,000-meter run before Brandon took over the lead on the second rope pull.
- She never looked back. From then on out, it was all Brandon who lengthened her lead, confidently finishing the event in the fastest time of the day of 26:35.48.
- That being said, she admitted the rope pull hit her harder than she thought it would. “The sled was a whole other added thing,” Brandon said after her event win, adding that it was heavier and “harder than I thought.”
- Barnhart, known for her strength, finished second in the heat, but fourth overall—behind two women from earlier heats (Amanda Fischer and Danielle Kearns) with the pair of young, but veteran Emmas—Emma Cary and Emma Lawson—placing fifth and seventh respectively.
Worth noting: Sydney Wells’ performance in Event One can’t be overlooked either. She finished ninth overall, ahead of her eight-time Games athlete twin sister Brooke Wells, who finished 17th overall.
The big picture: One event win doesn’t mean much, especially with six more scored tests to come in the next three days, but it still has to be seen as a confidence boost for Brandon’s quest, not only to qualify for her fifth Games this weekend, but also to take the title in North America East.