California casualties: Bridges, Voboril, Fisher and Leverich

If there is one thing you can count on every year in the world of CrossFit is that some big names will not make it past Regionals and therefor not advance to the CrossFit Games. Last year names like Valenzuela and Briggs did not make it. This year in California alone there are four big names who did not make it to The Games.

I think it is safe to say that anyone who picked who would advance to The Games from the California region would have included Josh Bridges, Kenneth Leverich and Val Voboril, at least. They would have included Lauren Fisher up until she badly hurt her ankle two weeks prior to the competition. Bridges and Leverich finished 6th and 7th, respectively on the men’s side while Fisher finished 12th and Voboril slid all the way to 15th on the women’s side.

I’m still in shock that Bridges didn’t qualify. If I had to make a list of men that I would count on to be at every Games in which they attempt to compete that list would include Bridges, Dan Bailey, Rich Froning, Jason Khalipa, Ben Smith, Mat Fraser and Noah Olsen. I wouldn’t only pick them to make the Games, but I would also pick them to finish in the top 10 at the Games – year in and year out. Bridges is a top name in the sport. A constant performer. A guy you can count on to win two or three events every year at The Games.

And this is sort of what gets me about CrossFit’s test for the fittest every year. There are times when I look at a guy like Bridges and find it hard to believe he isn’t one of the top five fittest men in California.

Let’s compare Bridges with Julian Alcaraz who did quality for The Games from California (finished fourth).

  • In event 1 (Randy) Alcaraz beat Bridges by 10 seconds. While that 10 seconds represented 13 spots in California, I think I feel safe saying that 10 seconds isn’t a lot if I look at overall fitness.
  • In event 2 (Tommy V) Bridges beat Alcaraz by 50 seconds. Somewhat sizable, but maybe not considering more work involved.
  • In event 3 (long chipper) Bridges beat Alcaraz by 62 reps. You could look at this in terms of all of the sumo deadlift high pulls plus 12 box jump overs. Quite a big difference.
  • In event 4 (handstand walk) this is where Alcaraz makes a big jump on Bridges. Alcaraz walked the 250 feet in 1:57 and it took Bridges 2:37. That difference was 17 spots. But, like last year, is walking on your handstands REALLY that indicative of your fitness or more indicative of a very particular skill? I would lean towards skill.
  • In event 5 (max snatch) Bridges beat Alcaraz by five pounds.
  • In event 6 (row/C2B/HSPU) Bridges beat Alcaraz by almost two minutes. I would say this is a much better test of fitness than the handstand walks. Then again, the sticking point for most athletes in this event are the strict handstand pushups.
  • In event 7 (MU + cleans) Alcaraz beat Brdiges by five seconds. Just like Randy, this is so minute I barely call it a win. I mean, it IS a win, but it isn’t so significant that I would bet my house on Alcaraz beating Bridges again at this same event this afternoon. I feel like Bridges could beat Alcaraz just as easily if they redid it, where as if they redid event 3 I would feel much better betting on Bridges to win again.

In those seven events Alcaraz won three of them head-to-head vs Bridges and Bridges won four. And the events in which Bridges won, he won handedly. In two of the three events that Alcaraz won, he barely beat Bridges. Who do you think is “fitter”? I would say Bridges.

Much like last year when I did some calculations taking out handstand walks for Briggs and Stacie Tovar, it’s the little things that are keeping some folks from The Games this year, too.

A suggestion: A few years ago in The Games they had some smaller, more skill type events that counted for 50 points, not 100. They had a standing broad jump, softball throw and some other small specific events that weren’t as punitive if an athlete couldn’t throw a baseball. Why not do the same for events like handstand walks and max snatch? While it is a test of fitness I just can’t view these events in the same light as the long chipper, for example. I would say anyone who can get through that chipper is fit. I can say that with certainty. If someone can’t walk 250 feet on their hands in three minutes it only tells me that they didn’t do gymnastics when they were growing up. What if Dave Castro decided to test how many fly balls an individual could catch? That takes coordination and some skill, much like a handstand walk. Why not test that? Same with max lifts for smaller athletes (vent on that coming next), discount those events. Make the max snatch variation + handstand walk variation from the past two years and make them two events that count for 50 points each, 100 total, not 100 points each. I think that would be fair.

CrossFit has said they will NOT do weight classes. Their goal is to find the fittest on Earth and being able to lift heavy is part of that. But how is it fair to say that a guy like Chris Spealler who might be able to clean and jerk double his body weight (300 pounds) is any different than a guy like Rich Froning who can do the same (400 pounds). Sure the raw number is bigger for Froning, but the feat is the same – double body weight. CrossFit will say that Spealler’s advantage is on the rings or bar for body weigh movements like pullups or muscle-ups. I argue that the capacity for a bigger athlete to do 20 unbroken muscle-ups is achievable, but Spealler cleaning 400 pounds is not. Sure 20 muscle-ups would be easier for Spealler than Froning (think body weight, not the individual because I know Froning can do a lot of muscle-ups), but Froning CAN DO 20 muscle-ups. Spealler at 150 pounds isn’t going to be able to clean 400 pounds. He just isn’t. It’s not fair to test something above his physical ceiling. If you do, make the event count for fewer points than those that involve several movements and longer domains.

Anyway, this has turned into quite a rant. It was a fun weekend of watching regardless. It does make it more interesting when guys like Bridges doesn’t make The Games. If everyone was a “given” then the suspense wouldn’t be present.

One more bullet – Greg Glassman has said, and more so recently, that the days of an athlete who trains by themselves making The Games is done and over with. That athletes need that competition in person to push themselves to achieve greater things and perform at a higher level. Enter subject “A”: Val Voboril. Voboril goes from a repeat Games competitor, one that has finished 5th, 3rd and 5th at the past three Games, to not even break into the top 10 at this years regional event. Voboril has done most of her training over the past year by herself at her home. She has left the highly competitive environment of training with the likes of Valenzuela, Voigt and Clever. Assuming her volume has stayed the same (she always said that she trains for an hour a day due to her full time job of teaching school and being a mother) the only thing that changed is the environment she trains in. Now she trains by herself and doesn’t qualify.  I, for one, am not shocked that Glassman would be right.

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