‘Moments from Madison’ as the Games Heads to Texas: Going Heavy
Madison, Wisconsin has been home to the CrossFit Games six times since 2017 and became an iconic location for the sport. As we inch closer to the end of 2023 and before the competition makes the move to Fort Worth, Texas in 2024, we want to look back on some of the most memorable moments from Games past.
Remind me: CrossFit HQ announced last month that the 2024 CrossFit Games would be relocating, following months of speculation. The CrossFit Games will be held at the Dickies Arena in Fort Worth from August 8-11, 2024.
First on our list: Going heavy in the coliseum.
Saturday nights have always been reserved for the premiere events CrossFit wants to showcase, and in Madison, they decided to go heavy often, which produced some memorable moments. The barbell came out, as expected, but the sandbag also made an unexpected, chalky, yet triumphant addition to the ladder events at the Games as well.
In 2019, it was cleans. The women started at 215, ending at 260, and the men at 315, going all the way up to 385, to determine the winners of this event.
- Just 2 men, Scott Panchik and Mat Fraser, who had been going lift for lift all night, made it past the 370-pound barbell, and then the 375-pound barbell. At 380, however, the second to last barbell was too much for Panchik and Fraser, ever the clutch performer, bounced in the hole a couple times, then confidently stood it up, lingering momentarily to soak in the crowd’s feverish support.
- The women, however, broke the event, as Amanda Barnhardt and Tia-Clair Toomey both cruised through the 260-pound barbell, the last scheduled. CrossFit made the decision to keep adding weight and, at 265, Barnhardt could not successfully complete the lift, leaving Toomey alone on the floor. Like her fellow champion Fraser, she harnessed the energy of the crowd and, with a bounce or two, stood up 265, electrifying the coliseum.
In 2021, the snatch took center stage.
- At the 190 barbell, Brooke Wells injured her right elbow, requiring her to withdraw from the rest of the Games. After attending to her, the competition resumed and, at the 200 pound barbell, it was just Toomey, and Annie Thorisdottir. With :40 seconds to complete the lift, unlike the :20 seconds of years past, there was a realistic opportunity for the athlete to redeem a failed opening lift.
- In this case, it was Thorisdottir who, after missing her first lift forward, regrouped and, with :02 seconds remaining on the clock, landed in the hole cleanly. After a momentary pause of recognition and disbelief, obvious from her facial expression, Annie slowly stood up the barbell, holding it overhead for an additional second as the crowd erupted.
- Among the men, things got interesting at 300 pounds. Royce Dunne and Gui Malheiros were the only ones left on the ladder. Without lifters, these two cleared 300 easily, bumping up the barbell by five pounds. The sense of inevitability surrounding Malheiros’ eventual win filled the stadium and Dunne could not land the 305 barbell, which left Malheiros, in no rush, who coolly approached the barbell while pumping up his crowd.
- With lightning speed, he dropped under the heaviest snatch barbell in Games history and stood it up without perceived effort.
In 2022, they combed the desert (perhaps literally) for the Saturday night event, as over 5,000 (3,000+ for men, 2,000+ for women) pounds of sand were needed to fill the bags in the ladder from start to finish. Adapting on the fly was the order of the day, and different techniques were applied by athletes to get the bag successfully into their lap, then up onto their shoulder, for a completed lift.
- All the men completed the first 3 lifts which was, in almost all cases, no doubt the heaviest odd object they had ever lifted to their shoulder to that point. It was not until the 290-pound sandbag that a tiebreak was required among those who failed the lift, and by the time the 310-pound lift began, we were still only halfway through the nearly 90-minute men’s event.
- Once the bag turned blue (literally, at 320 pounds), the field narrowed considerably. Separated by only 18 points on the leaderboard from each other (though by over 100 compared to Jeffrey Adler in fourth place), Justin Medeiros, Ricky Garard, and Roman Khrennikov were all still alive.
- At 330 pounds, they went head to head to head. With Khrennikov failing the lift relatively quickly, his bag on the ground while he tried to summon the resolve to try again, Garard and Medeiros each spent 25 seconds under tension with the bag off the ground, each with quite different strategies.
- Garard quickly got his fingers laced with the bag in his lap, and then inched the bag up his body, bouncing and cajoling the bag the entire way, careful not to lose his balance. Medeiros, as he had in several of the lifts before, took a different tack: he would roll the bag up his shins to his lap and, in a full seated position, work to get his hands under the bag, saving as much of his energy as he could before, finally, attempting to pop his hips and get the bag to his shoulder. In each case, the strategy worked, as the two athletes on top of the leaderboard simultaneously completed the lift, resulting in an explosion from the crowd.
On the women’s side, however, the results were clearer.
- At the 210-pound bag, 12 women failed the lift, creating a tiebreak that had to be spread across two separate heats to determine placement. Another 8 women surrendered to the 220-pound bag, leaving just six women to attempt the 230-pound bag. And while five of the six cleared the bag, a sense of inevitability began to fill the stadium as Dani Speegle, the final competitor, calmly and crisply, moved the bag to her lap then, after just a momentary pause, hoisted the bag cleanly to her shoulder.
- After clearing the 240-pound bag, just two women remained, as Speegle was joined by Jacqueline Dahlstrom on the bench while three others competed in the tiebreaker to determine places three through five.
- Finally, at the 250-pound bag, colored blue to signify the achievement, Dahlstrom gave it her all, but succumbed after :35 seconds of effort. Speegle, in a lift-and-you-win moment, then stepped up and, barely distinguishable from all other lifts except the size and color of the bag, successfully hoisted it to her shoulder, as the crowd stood and signaled their appreciation for her strength and fortitude.
One last thing: This is the first in a series of memories from Games past, held in Madison, so be on the lookout for more in the coming weeks.