Just when you think you're tough enough


Rich Froning powers Team USA to win CrossFit Invitational 2015

Team USA with Rich Froning, Dan Bailey, Margaux Alvarez and Chyna Cho wins the 2015 CrossFit Invitational. Photo from
Fr L-R: Team USA with Chyna Cho, Rich Froning, Dan Bailey, Margaux Alvarez and  wins the 2015 CrossFit Invitational. Photo from

The CrossFit Invitational returned to European soil in 2015 in Madrid, Spain, where the fittest athletes from the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand competed in CrossFit’s all-star game.

Team USA featured an all-star studded line up featuring Rich Froning, Dan Bailey, Margaux Alvarez and Chyna Cho which performed strongly to secure the overall win.  It’s an incredible feat for a team that has seen three substitutions in the lead-up to the competition, losing second-ranked Mat Fraser to college finals, and Lindsey Valenzuela and reigning Games champion Ben Smith to injuries.

Europe entered the statistical favourite, with three 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games podium finishers including the reigning women’s champion on its four-person team. The United States, the Pacific and Canada rounded out the remaining four positions, in that order, each with a near 25 percent chance of earning the title in the most elite, most evenly matched Invitational to date.

Rope Climb in Event 1. Photo from
Rope Climb in Event 1. Photo from

Event 1: Thrusters and Rope Climbs

The first event of the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Invitational was like Fran, but with rope climbs. With one athlete working at a time, the teammates did 21-15-9 thrusters (95 / 65 lb.) and then 4-3-2 rope climbs (Female 1, Male 1) / 3-2-1 legless rope climbs (Female 2, Male 2).

Tia-Clair Toomey of the Pacific Team led the first group of women giving teammate Kevin Manuel a lead, but USA’s Chyna Cho shifted the standings, moving the USA from fourth to the lead thanks to her fast legless rope climbs.

Cho tagged Froning at 9:45, and less than 3 minutes later, Froning was done and across the line for the win at 12:25.

Canada’s Lucas Parker moved the team from third to second in the event, passing Europe’s Bjorgvin Karl Guomundsson.

Event 1 Results
1. USA – 12:25  (6 points)
2. Canada – 12:30  (4 points)
3. Europe – 12:47  (2 points)
4. Pacific – 13:09  (0 points)

Event 2 featured the Atlas Stone in the Speed Clean instead of barbells.
Event 2 featured the Atlas Stone in the Speed Clean instead of barbells.

Event 2: Women’s Team Speed Clean

The finish order on the first event had huge implications for the teams since it would determine how much rest each team would get before the Team Speed Clean. The third- and fourth-ranked teams would face off in the first heat, with the first- and second-ranked teams resting and learning tactics before their later, second heat.

Yesterday the athletes learned that the Team Speed Clean wouldn’t use barbells. Instead, their skills and fitness would be put to the test on an object more similar to what one might have to lift in real life: the Atlas stone.

The women were up first for Event 2, each completing 5 reps at the 130-lb. stone, then advancing to do 3 reps at the 145-lb. stone before finishing with 1 rep each at the 160-lb. stone.

In Heat 1, Sara Sigmundsdottir and Katrin Davidsdottir of Europe faced Kara Webb and Tia-Clair Toomey of the Pacific.

Europe took an early lead, ripping the weight off the ground with high hips and bringing it straight to their shoulders. Toomey, who struggled with the stone during the brief practice time yesterday, appeared awkward with the lightest stone, getting it to her waist and pausing before giving it the hip pop necessary to bring it to her shoulders. Her technique was good, but slow, which set the Pacific behind the fast-paced Icelanders.

But fortunes shifted on the final stone. Davidsdottir was able to muscle it to her shoulder, but Sigmundsdottir lost control of the weight and tossed it behind her back. She tried again, and again, without luck, giving the Pacific the time it needed to catch Europe on the final stone.

Webb lifted the weight without problem, and then Toomey, who looked troubled at 130 lb., was able to lift the 160-lb. concrete stone on her first attempt!

In a surprise upset, the Pacific team won the heat in 4:13. Sigmundsdottir managed to shoulder the weight soon after on her fourth attempt, and Europe crossed in 4:21.

In Heat 2, Chyna Cho and Margaux Alvarez of the United States competed with Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and Emily Abbott of Canada to try to set the fastest time overall.

From the very start, the two teams appeared better rested and better prepared for the stones, lifting the initial weights smoothly without problems. Emily Abbott was a little less explosive with her hips, which made it a little rougher for her, but still, Canada was able to get to the final weight first, with the USA only moments behind.

Each woman shouldered the final, 160-lb. weight in turn. Leblanc-Bazinet finished first, and ran with Abbott to the finish line in 3:06 for the win only to be chased down 3 seconds later by the USA, who would earn second in the event.

“Yeah I think doing about over 1,000 in my dreams—that helped,” Leblanc-Bazinet said after the event.

Event 2 Results
Canada – 3:06 – 3 points
USA – 3:09 – 2 points
Pacific – 4:13 – 1 point
Europe – 4:21 – 0 points

Canada’s event win moved it up to just 1 point behind the United States.

Overall Standings (2 / 5 Events Completed)
USA – 8 points
Canada – 7 points
Europe – 2 points
Pacific – 1 point

Event 3: Men’s Team Speed Clean

Next, the men were up and facing even heavier stones: 175 lb. by 5, 215 lb. by 3, and 250 lb. by 1.

Once again, Europe and Australia were up first. The 175-lb. and 215-lb. weights went up without many no reps, though Kevin Manuel of New Zealand did lose the 215-lb. ball once over his shoulder.

The Pacific teammates kept their arms straighter, and like their female counterparts, brought the ball to their hips and reset before launching it to their shoulders with a strong hip pop. The Europeans, on the other hand, bent their arms around the ball and attempted to go straight from the ground to their shoulders.

Manuel was the first to the final, 250-lb. stone. He got it to his waist, but then his arms separated and he lost it. Meanwhile, the explosive 21-year-old Guomundsson of Iceland got the final stone on his first attempt. Koski got the lift, allowing him and Guomundsson to stop the clock at 3:42.

The day prior, Guomundsson did not try the final stone while in practice. When asked after the event how things changed in live competition, he explained in two words: “Adrenaline, man.”

In Heat 2, the United States and Canada knew they needed to beat each other and Europe’s time of 3:42.

Dan Bailey of the United States came onto the floor with his arms wrapped, in part to improve his grip on the stone and also to cover up the abrasion a stone had given him in practice the day before. Yesterday, he was unable to get the 250-lb. stone beyond his waist.

After making quick work of the 175-lb. stone, the USA was the first to the second, 215-lb. stone but with Alex Vigneault and Lucas Parker very close behind.

Canada would catch up with the United States, putting it in a tie for 15 reps as the team approached the final, 250-lb. stone.

Rich Froning got it up without issue, while Vigneault gets no-repped for failing to get it to his shoulder.

Now it was Bailey’s turn to lift the final stone and stop the clock for the United States, but he couldn’t get it to his lap. Then he couldn’t get it to his shoulder. Meanwhile, Vigneault repeatedly brought it to his waist but failed to get it to his shoulder, his arms wrapped too high over the top of the ball.

As the final two men struggled, the clock ticked past 3:42 securing the win for Europe’s men in Event 3.


Event 3 Results
1. Europe – 3:42  (3 points)
2. Canada – 4:58  (2 points)
3. USA – CAP+1  (1 point)
4. Pacific – Cap+2  (0 points)

Canada’s second-place finish and USA’s third-place finish earned the teams 2 and 1 points, respectively, shifting the overall standings such that the two were in a tie for first with 9 points.

Overall Standings (3 / 5 Events Completed)
1T. USA – 9 points
1T. Canada – 9 points
3. Europe – 5 points
4. Pacific – 1 point

Event 4: Push, Lift, Flip that tyre! Photo from
Event 4: Push, Lift, Flip that tyre! Photo from

Event 4: Push, Lift, Flip

With the USA and Canada’s men fresh off the stones, all four teams began the fourth of five events in the marathon two-hour competition.

In this event, the teams would have each teammate complete 25 handstand push-ups while the others either held a handstand or hung from the bar, frying their shoulders and their grips, before snatching, cleaning and lastly flipping the massive tire.

Europe was the first through the handstand push-ups and on to the snatches, with the USA and Canada close behind. At the barbell, the Pacific team was able to jump from fourth to first thanks in part to the incredible strength of teammates Webb and Garard.

At 7:05, the Pacific was the first to the tire and they began to flip it. The Australians and New Zealander appeared to have no trouble flipping it the 50-feet to secure the team’s first event win.

Next, the United States was all alone as it flipped the tire down the floor to secure second and another 4 points to break its tie with Canada entering the final event.

Event 4
1. Pacific – 7:31  (6 points)
2. USA – 7:56  (4 points)
3. Canada – 8:13  (2 points)
4. Europe – 9:51 (0 points)

Overall Standings (4 / 5 Events Completed)
1. USA – 13 points
2. Canada – 11 points
3. Pacific – 7 points
4. Europe – 5 points

The dreaded Worm in the final Event 5. Photo from
The dreaded Worm in the final Event 5. Photo from

Event 5: Synch, Row, Bike, Worm

With one event remaining at the Caja Magica in Madrid, three teams remained in the running for the championship. The United States, Canada and the Pacific looked to keep their positions or advance in the final event’s gauntlet of synchronized muscle-ups, rowing with deadlift holds, biking with front-rack holds and the Worm.

In the synchronized muscle-ups, the athletes waited at the top of the bar for their teammates to lock out on the rings. Once everyone was up, the athletes released and began another.

The Pacific team was the first to the rower, though the other three teams joined soon after as no team appeared to have any trouble with the muscle-ups.

As the men worked on the 500-meter row, their female partners held the 225-lb. barbell at their waists. As the minutes ticked on, the strain was obvious on the women’s faces. Leblanc-Bazinet buried her chin in her chest, apparently willing her fingers to remain clasped on the steel. In turn, every athlete eventually relented and dropped the barbell, pausing their teammate on the rower. Then the women switched with the men, which played out in the same way.

Team USA en route to victory. Photo from
Team USA en route to victory. Photo from

The United States took the lead from Europe on the row, and were the first to advance to the Assault Bike for the 1,000-meter ride while their teammates held the loaded barbells in the front rack, compressing their chests and making it hard to get a good breath.

The United States was the first to the Worm, but with Canada very close behind, Pacific in third and Europe in fourth.

The United States had an advantage since Rich Froning got plenty of experience with the Worm during the team competition at the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games where his affiliate CrossFit Mayhem went on to win.

But even with the extra experience, the United States started to struggle with the worm at 13 minutes opening up an opportunity for Canada to close in. With Canada 3 reps behind, the USA continued to chip away at the reps.

But for Canada it’s too little too late. At 13:52, the United States reached the finish mat to secure its third Invitational title.

A minute later, Pacific was across for second in the event (14:46), earning 5 points, with Canada crossing a few seconds later for third (14:53) and 3 points.

“Experience, experience, experience is all I can say,” commentator Bill Grundler said. “Experience wins the race.”

Event 5 Results
1. USA – 13:52 – 7 points
2. Pacific – 14:46 – 5 points
3. Canada – 14:53 – 3 points
4. Europe – 15:48 – 1 point

Final Standings
1. USA – 20 points
2. Canada – 14 points
3. Pacific – 12 points
4. Europe – 6 points

“The energy here was just electric, it was amazing,” Lucas Parker said about this year’s Invitational in Spain.

“This was the best two hours of my life,” Emily Abbott said, adding that her teammate, Leblanc-Bazinet, had given her the advice to allow herself to be great.

Watch the full length of the CrossFit Invitational 2015 here courtesy of CrossFit.