THE CHANGING FACE OF CROSSFIT COULD SEE THE BRITISH RISE
Written by Lauren Smith
It’s fair to say over the last couple of years, the UK CrossFit community has lived in the shadow of its fellow European counterparts when it comes to CrossFit on the world stage.
Of course we can look to Samantha Briggs for British inspiration. The 2013 CrossFit Games Champion and five-time returning Games athlete has already booked her ticket for 2019 twice over winning both the Dubai CrossFit Championship and the Australian CrossFit Championship, only needing the former to get her to the Games.
2015 was arguably the most successful year for British men. Training partners Steven Fawcett and Phil Hesketh flew the flag in California four years ago. More recently we’ve ploughed our support behind Elliot Simmonds in the individual male category, but as a nation which regularly punches above its weight on the international sporting stage, why do we lag behind when it comes to representation in the individual elite field at the CrossFit Games?
The tide might be turning, and it all starts with CrossFit Strength in Depth the United Kingdom’s only Sanctionals™ event.
With the new format of qualification to the CrossFit Games, comes a new wave of talent who can now utilise different avenues to pursue that elusive goal of competing in Madison come August.
Firstly, win CrossFit Strength in Depth, and you secure an invite to the CrossFit Games. Simple. So with the benefit of home advantage, here’s who you should be watching.
Competing at SiD on an invitational ticket Elliot is a two-time Crossfit Games veteran, once as part Team Yas, which took 3rd in 2016, and last year as an individual. Originally from Worcester he plies his trade in Abu Dhabi alongside his fiancée and women’s individual competitor Jamie Greene. He has already competed in Wodapalooza this season, earning a 12th placed finish. We wonder how he’ll fair on home soil.
Jak’s sporting background comes in the form of the British Laser Youth Squad in Sailing but since making the switch to CrossFit he’s found a new way to make waves. Having represented the UK as part of Team JST in the 2017 Games he has a pretty impressive resume that also boasts five regional appearances and a 7th place finish in Berlin last year. In terms of competing in the individual elite category, he has been knocking on the door of Games qualification for some time.
Zack is a product of the Leicester Tigers Rugby Academy and as you can imagine, he is BIG! 102kgs to be exact – not your usual CrossFit type. It took him almost two years to achieve his first muscle-up and two years after that he took the British CrossFit scene by storm with a 6th place finish in the 2018 UK Open. Shortly after, he competed as an individual at the Europe Regional in Berlin, where he placed 28th, entertaining the crowd with a floss celebration that quickly went viral. Nowadays it’s unusual to see a leaderboard without his name near the top. A 4th place finish with his Elite Team of 3 at Wodapalooza in January acted as a timely confidence boost ahead of a big weekend in London for Zack. Let’s see what celebration he can bring to the floor next.
Hailing from CrossFit Berserk in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Emma McQuaid was quad racing at international level and winning National Championships before she found CrossFit. Since then she has owned the title of ‘Fittest Female’ in Northern Ireland three years in a row. She has competed at the Regional level four times, finishing 6th in 2016 and narrowly missing out on a CrossFit Games ticket. 2018 saw Emma represent her country in weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games, finishing fourth in the 63kg event. She’s an experienced athlete who won’t be shying away from the hard graft.
Laura is from High Wycombe but has been training out of CrossFit Bath since her meteoric rise in the British CrossFit scene. Since 2011 Laura has competed in the European and Meridian Regionals seven times, as part of a team and individually, plus she’s won Bronze Medals in both the English and British weightlifting championships in the 53kg category. She once described competing in CrossFit as a ‘very expensive hobby’ and now 27 years old she’ll be fighting to book her ticket to Madison, but she’ll be up against some fierce opposition.
After travelling to watch the 2012 Regionals in Copenhagen, Aneta decided that CrossFit was the sport she had been waiting for. After injury setbacks hampered her initial few years, the 2017 Meridian Regionals saw her break through in the sport claiming an impressive 17th place. Now in her mid 30’s Aneta has competed at three regional competitions and has finished in the Top 10 of the UK Open since 2016.
Tayla is young, hungry and fierce. She comes from Skewen, near Swansea in Wales and largely trains out of her garage gym. She started CrossFit in 2015 and is only 22 years old, making her one of the youngest competitive female athletes on the floor at Strength in Depth. She has one regionals appearance under her belt as part of Team Ion Strength & Conditioning but she is no stranger to the big stage after coming 6th in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the 90kg weightlifting category on the Gold Coast. Growing up she looked up to Sara Sigmundsdottir, at Strength in Depth she’ll be hoping to give Sara a run for her money.
OK SO WHAT ELSE HAS CHANGED?
Along with the new format of Sanctionals™ we also see the qualifying structure of the CrossFit Open change for the 2019 season with the top seeded athlete in each ‘recognised’ country earning a spot at the CrossFit Games. This is particularly prevalent for Mitchell Adams who has won the UK Open for the past two years. For the first time under this new format he’ll be up against the likes of Elliot Simmonds – under the new laws the sole determining factor of which country an athlete represents is their citizenship – which means despite Elliot living in Abu Dhabi he’ll be competing in the UK Open for the first time since 2014. That could spice things up a bit.
In the women’s category Sam Briggs has taken top spot for the past three years, so what does that mean this year given she has already won a CrossFit sanctioned event – twice. Under the new guidelines laid out by Crossfit HQ, if Sam where to compete in the Open and take top spot in the UK, that qualification would supersede the invitation she received from winning The Dubai Crossfit Championship, passing her Sanctionals™ invitation to the next available athlete on the leaderboard – in this case, Jamie Greene.
However, what happens if Sam doesn’t compete in this year’s Open having already secured her Games spot? Well it opens up the floor for other high-ranking British athletes to give it a go.
As Emma McQuaid has placed 2nd in the UK Open 3 times behind Sam Briggs, you would think this might be a very realistic opportunity for Emma to finally nail down Games qualification. The new system favours Emma for two reasons, firstly, she holds an Irish Passport so will be able to compete in the Irish Open. Should she be crowned the fittest woman in Ireland (again!), she will have reserved her spot in Madison. Secondly, Emma has placed in the Top 20 worldwide for the past two years and under the new rules laid down by CrossFit HQ for this season, this now also qualifies her for the Crossfit Games.
With both Emma and Sam potentially booking their ticket outside of the UK Open, British Athletes like Charlotte Spence and Jayne Eadie should be fancying their chances, Charlotte finishing 3rd in the Open for the past two years and Jayne a Crossfit Games team athlete, who has come 5th individually in the UK Open for the past two years.
The beauty of all of this Britain will have a minimum of two British athletes flying the individual flag in Madison this year, but the exciting thing is that under this new format it might be more. It all starts at CrossFit Strength in Depth where home advantage can’t be underestimated.