There was no better venue than the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne, Australia to host the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Invitational after Tia Claire Toomey and Kara Webb had won the title of first and second Fittest Women on Earth respectively at the recent CrossFit Games.
“Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” was the cry that opened the Invitational with the home crowd was excited to see the international roster of all-star athletes but their support remained firmly behind the Pacific Team. This was the sixth CrossFit Invitational, and the first one held in the Southern Hemisphere.
The defending champions from the Europe Team led by Annie Thorisdottir, went into this year’s competition with arguably the most balanced team with Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson (BKG), Jason Smith and Sara Sigmundsdottir. However, there was a question mark over their preparation, with Sigmundsdottir absent from training due to illness. Synchronization and communication proves to be deciding factors in team events.
The Pacific Team had never finished better than third at an Invitational before 2017. But with the Toomey, Webb, Rob Forte and James Newbury on the roster, and a home-soil advantage for the all-Australian team, this looked to be the team’s most promising year.
The Canada Team also boasted two podium finishers from the CrossFit Games in Brent Fikowski and Patrick Vellner, alongside Alessandra Pichelli and Carol-Ann Reason-Thibault. Fikowski started his CrossFit journey in Australia and was still a local favourite even though he was back as part of the Canadian bid for the Invitational crown.
For the USA Team, nine-time CrossFit Games Affiliate Cup athlete Adam Neiffer coached a roster of highly experienced CrossFit athletes – Kari Pierce, Tennil Reed-Beuerlein, Scott Panchik and Noah Ohlsen in their quest to take the championship back home.
EVENT 1: ROPE, ROW, BIKE AND WORM CLEANS
The first event of the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Invitational was revealed two days before the competition, with CrossFit Games Director Dave Castro making the announcement alongside Melbourne’s Yarra River on Friday night.
All teams got to the Worm fairly evenly placed, with the Europe Team the first to build an early lead. But it wasn’t long before the Pacific Team, on its home turf, overtook Europe and surged to take the win.
“Definitely knowing it’s in our own country is humbling. We had to make sure we calmed ourselves down before coming out,” Tia-Clair Toomey said.
EVENT 2: HANDSTAND-WALK COURSE
Event 2 was a clear test of individual gymnastic ability, with athletes put through a handstand-walk course. Each athlete was given 2 minutes to progress through an agility course that required walking up and down bumper plates, and around obstacles.
With a strong gymnastics background, Kari Pearce was expected to blitz through the course, and she didn’t disappoint, easily winning her heat. The event ended up being a sweep for the USA Team, with Noah Ohlsen, Scott Panchik and Tennil Reed-Beuerlein also winning their heats.
Ohlsen was happy to bounce back after the opening event didn’t go as planned.
“We talked about it in the warm-up and just let it go,” he said. “We all executed each of our unique plans.” said Ohlsen.
EVENT 3: SYNCHRO BAR MUSCLE-UPS & HANG SNATCHES
Event 3 was all about synchronized movements, with teams completing 6 rounds of synchro bar muscle-ups and hang power snatches. With an 8-minute time cap, Castro ensured the event was a burner as much as a test of team unity.
After a couple of rounds, it was the Pacific and Canada Teams that started to pull away from the rest of the field. But with the home crowd behind it, the Pacific Team surged ahead to win its second event of the evening and tighten its grip on the Invitational title.
Kara Webb commented, “There’s a lot more to communication than words, and that’s something that we’ve worked on. Getting to understand each other as people and use our body language to communicate with each other, and that was perfectly executed.”
The USA Team finished second overall to keep its title hopes alive, while the Europe Team’s hopes for a third-straight crown were all but over after it finished last.
EVENT 4: HEAVY TIRE FLIPS
Event 4 was announced just minutes before the Invitational got underway. Castro revealed it would be a “test of strength” involving a partner clean—but with a twist.
“Yes, Event 4 will use those big fucking tires,” Castro told the crowd at the Margaret Court Arena.
First up were the men, with the Canada Team’s male pair, Fikowski and Vellner, the clear winners, finishing well ahead of the other teams. The Canadian women backed it up, with Pichelli and Reason-Thibault claiming victory to keep the Canada Team’s hopes of a come-from-behind title win alive.
“This is definitely my specialty, all the strongman stuff, and I wanted to make up for the last event,” Pichelli said.
The Pacific Team finished third overall, reducing its lead over the rest of the field, while a last-place finish saw the USA Team all but drop out of contention.
EVENT 5: WORM THRUSTERS AND BURPEES
Burpees and Worm thrusters made up the final event of the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Invitational. Castro announced the movements and rep scheme—21-15-9—just moments before athletes entered the arena for the final time.
Heading into the final event, the Pacific Team held a 4-point lead. It was the team’s title to lose, only needing a top-2 finish to be named Invitational champion for the first time.
Led by coach James Newbury, the Pacific Team held a controlled and synchronized pace throughout the event to move ahead of the Canada Team and seal its maiden Invitational crown.
In true Aussie style, the Pacific Team celebrated by doing a shoey, drinking champagne out of their Reebok Nanos before throwing them to the adoring crowd.
“There’s only one way an Aussie celebrates. Johnny Farnham and a few more shoeys.”said 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games runner-up Kara Webb.
2017 was clearly Australia’s, with Toomey and Webb finishing first and second at the CrossFit Games before the Pacific Team took out the capstone event of the season.
“I think it’s huge. What the girls did for CrossFit in Australia is massive, and this just tops it off for sure.” said Rob Forte.
From the get-go the Pacific Team looked like the team to beat. They had the best communication, the best composure and the best plan.” said commentator Sean Woodland.
The location for next year’s Invitational is yet to be announced, but tor the first time ever, the Pacific Team will be the defending champions.
Overall Standings (5 / 5 Events Completed)
1. Pacific – 26 points
2. Canada – 19 points
3. USA – 10 points
4. Europe – 8 points
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