2012 Regional Preview: Asia

By John Frankl on 01.15.12

2011 proved a very big year for CrossFit in Asia. The numbers for affiliates and seminars grew steadily, which led to more interest in CrossFit, as well as competitors looking forward to the Reebok CrossFit Games. 

From modest beginnings with only eight athletes competing in 2009, last year’s Open attracted more than 130 athletes from more than a dozen different countries. The competition was grueling and close, but when the dust finally settled at the 2011 Asia Regional, a single man, woman, and team were left standing. Only Daniel Hershey (Misawa, Japan), Candice Howe (Dubai, United Arab Emirates), and CrossFit Asia (Okinawa, Japan) would be making the trip to Carson, Calif., to compete at the 2011 CrossFit Games. 

Looking ahead to 2012, we can count on some intense rivalries to produce great competitions. CrossFit Asia is one of the oldest and most experienced affiliates in the region, and this showed in their dominance of the team events. They did not lose a single workout in the weeks leading up to the 2011 Asia Regional. But things change quickly in Asia. Their neighbors in Tokyo, Chikara CrossFit, are preparing to move into a new location, a dedicated CrossFit box. 

Last year, Chikara CrossFit only had one athlete compete in the Open, owner Michael Schaal. Schaal is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and former Navy officer. He qualified for Regionals in 28th place. At Regionals, he took 4th place, but with only a three-point gap between him and the 2nd place finisher. He plans to compete again this year, but not alone. He has more members now, and hopes to send several athletes, both Japanese and expats, to this year’s Regional. 

Asia would not be Asia without some good old-fashioned Japan-Korea rivalry. CrossFit Speed and Power, the first affiliate in Korea and host of several seminars on the peninsula, is looking to send several strong individual athletes, as well as a team to contest CrossFit Asia’s dominance. In addition to SAP’s slow and steady rise, a huge new development in Korea and Asia is the opening of Reebok CrossFit Seoul. The person in charge there, Keun Hyung Lee, is the sole Level 2 trainer in Korea and made a strong showing in last year. Given his experience as both coach and athlete, no one should be surprised to see him accompanied this year by a few other top athletes.

In addition to the growing pool of local talent, Asia also possesses a rather unique geopolitical position in the CrossFit world. Members of the U.S. military were some of the first to adopt CrossFit, and today remain some of the hardest charging members of the community. There is also a new twist to the Games season in Asia. Service members are stationed throughout the region in countries including, but not limited to Japan, Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore. Last year, members from all the services in Okinawa participated, as did many from farther afield. Hershey is the husband of an Air Force nurse serving at Misawa Air Base, Japan, and took 1st place in the men’s division. But these men and women are also a highly mobile crew. There is no telling who may leave the region, or who may be doing a tour in Asia in 2012.  

One thing is certain … more and better athletes will appear each year. Athletes and teams from across the region will come and vie for a coveted spot at the 2012 CrossFit Games, which will be held at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., for the third consecutive year. This final competition to determine who will be named Fittest on Earth™ takes place July 13-15.