Athletes were left in the dark, unaware of what today had in store for them, until hours before the kick off of day one of competition in Cape Town. After registration, they were loaded onto a bus and taken to Stellenberg High School, in nearby Bellville, where an obstacle course awaited them. Tackling the course one by one with a two minute staggered start time the ladies were up first.
A couple of the earlier athletes to take on the course, USA’s Karla Wolford and Australia’s Emily Cavell put up fast times of 3:31 and 3:32 respectively. The more well-known international athletes had later starts times, but despite looking very athletic and conquering a majority of the obstacles well, none of them were able to best those early times.
Katrin Davidsdottir, the competition favorite, likely would have put up the best time if not for two failed attempts to get over the second to last obstacle, the wall. She still managed the third fastest time for the women with 3:41 and is off to an excellent start through one event.
The men were next on the course and once again some fast early times were put up, this time by Denmark’s Andre Houdet and Canada’s Lucas Parker. Their times were very close and it wasn’t until after the conclusion of the event that is was revealed that Houdet (2:33) edged out Parker (2:34) for the event win.
Games veterans Streat Hoerner and Cole Sager were the last two men on the course and knew the time to beat. Both of them had solid runs through the course but were unable to chase down Houdet’s time. Hoerner finished 4th (2:40) and Sager took a 6th place (2:43) in the event. The men’s times were very fast and competitive. Nine men in total completed the course under three minutes.
At the conclusion of event 1 it was announced that event 2 would also be at the obstacle course. It would be a version of a grip test and would be a 50 point event. Athletes were asked to clear a course that greatly resembled elements of the hit TV show American Ninja Warrior. Using nothing but their hands they had to swing from several short metal poles, then transition to a series of metal rings, and finish up with several short pieces of rope. If at any point the athletes dropped from the course, their event was over and they were given a score based on the number of pipes, rings, or ropes they had already cleared.
Again the women were first to tackle the course. As athletes made their way through several things became clear. First, the challenge in and of itself was hard for a couple of the girls, seven of the fifteen women competing had to drop and were unable to clear the course. Second, even for those who were rather strong in the event, the grip was starting to go towards the final couple of ropes. Davidsdottir looked great through the first three quarters of the event, but faded on the short ropes and did not look happy walking off the course after failing to clear the final two ropes, she tooked 9th in the event.
Several women were impressive, the fastest three times were all within a second of each other. Defending champ Michelle Merand won it in 35.12 seconds, Cavell took a second consecutive second place finish in 36.4 seconds, and Michelle Basnett from USA was third in 37.58 seconds. Merand’s victory was especially impressive because she overcame a bobble mid-course and still beat all the women in the field.
As soon as the men got underway on event 2 it was clear they would have far less difficulty with the course than the women had. The second man on the course, Trent Williams, put up a time of 26.56 seconds which seemed to be incredibly fast.That time however, would be beaten again and again as Trent ended up 10th in the event. Russian Timofey Prolubnikov came through in an impressive 23.87 seconds and it looked like that might stand, until Jason Smith took to the course.
Jason, who had taken 10th in event 1, implored a new tactic on the rings. Rather than swinging between them, he kept his elbows bent and biceps engaged throughout. He did not have to waste time swaying back and forth and instead moved from obstacle to obstacle fluidly and effortlessly. He posted a new best time of 21.1 seconds.
Several athletes who went after Jason tried using his technique, but only one was able to do in a faster time. Lucas Parker, having already taken second place on event 1, proved that result was not a fluke, he demolished this test, and the rest of the men’s field, with a time of 19.26 seconds! For a man who was once famous for beating Rich Froning in a clean and jerk ladder at the CrossFit Games, he displayed a remarkable amount of athleticism today at the obstacle course.
A couple of the men, notably Streat Hoerner and Mitchel Stevenson, appeared to get stuck mid-course. They were however able to recover and in the end all twenty-three men in the field completed the course without dropping.
After two events Lucas Parker and Emily Cavell are the early leaders of the competition. Lucas had finishes of second and first today for a total of 144 points. Emily took second place in both events earning 141 of the 150 available points.
Karla Wolford and Michelle Merand sit second and third for the ladies, each of them having won an event on day one. Competition favorite Katrin Davidsdottir sits 5th, 21 points behind Cavell for the overall lead.
For the men, event one winner Andre Houdet is in second with 132 points, while Australia’s Luke McMahon sits third with 116. Jason Smith is in 6th, but his younger brother Richard Smith is currently 4th. Cole Sager, who many picked to win this event, ends day one in 8th place with 96 points, 48 points out of the lead.
After the 2 events at the Obstacle Course the Individual Athletes got transported back to the Stadium for the official "FiCT 2019 Meet & Greet" where they were given the basic layout of the competition stadium - but also informed of some more news for tomorrow's For Time: 400m Run:
Competition Director Chris Oman simply stated: 'your check in time is as previously stated at 6am tomorrow morning where a new set of buses will be waiting for you to transport you to the location for your "400m Run". It will not be a flat run as on this beautiful blue track, but it will indeed test your capacity to move from point A to point B...'
Let's see what Day 2 brings for the Athletes in Cape Town!
Brian Friend is a free lance writer who has set his alarm to follow our events from early morning to late at night during these 4 days of competition - make sure to tune in for each days recap!