The Women of the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games
At the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games, you’ll see many of your favorite female athletes for the women’s competition. But this year’s Games season opened up the competition to a much wider group of competitors. Those who weren’t able to compete in previous years will show their faces at the Home Depot Center this year. With 47 women competing, 28 did not compete in the individual 2010 Games level. Get to know all these athletes here, learn their stats, and read their stories.
Mona Pretorius, a 2012 Olympics hopeful, holds the South Africa senior and junior records in Olympic lifting with a 182.6-pound snatch and 231-pound clean and jerk. Mona grew up in Port Elizabeth, a city on the South Eastern shore of South Africa. As a child, Mona competed in karate and gymnastics, before taking on Olympic lifting to improve her explosiveness. Now, her training is her sport and profession. She works as a sport psychology counselor and personal trainer in Cape Town. Mona was the only woman to finish all six events at the 2011 Africa Regional; the others, including Beijing Olympics single skull rower Rika Diedericks, did not finish “Amanda.” Like Iceland Annie in 2009, Mona got her first muscle-up during the competition. At the time of the Africa Regional, Mona had been CrossFitting for only three months.
Candice Howe traveled from her home in Dubai, United Arab Emirates to the 2011 Asia Regional in Okinawa, Japan. It was worth the journey. Candice was the only woman to make it through all six events, while the other women were cut during the thruster ladder on Day 1 and “Amanda” on Day 3. She’s not unfamiliar with taking the path less traveled. After graduating from the University of Kent Business School in the United Kingdom, Candice moved to Dubai to take a job as an HR administrator. She didn’t care for the work involved and instead followed her interest in CrossFit. Now she’s the owner and head trainer at CrossFit Lifespark.
After landing in the middle of the pack in the Australia Region for the Open, Amanda Allen didn’t think she had a shot at the Games. But with her athletic background, the 40-year-old triathlete, cyclist, and canoer, is always training to be the best. Most recently, Amanda was an Olympic hopeful for kneeling canoeing. She just missed a spot for 2012, but was CrossFitting to help her make another attempt for the 2016 Olympics. She liked it so much, she decided to focus on CrossFit. Amanda’s gym, CrossFit Adelaide is hosting a “Fight Gone Bad” fundraiser to help get her to California.
Ruth Anderson Horrell lives in a small town on the Southern tip of New Zealand, farming sheep, working as a small animal veterinarian, and running CrossFit Invercargill. Competing at the CrossFit Games has been Ruth’s dream ever since she discovered CrossFit two-and-a-half years ago. Ruth came close in 2010, missing the cut by just one point. This year, Ruth didn’t leave anything to chance. She stepped up her game considerably, finishing 83rd in the world and 3rd in Australia at the end of the Open. At the 2011 Australia Regional, Ruth made it up to 2nd place overall through her consistency. Although she never won a workout, she finished 3rd on three: the thruster ladder (135lbs), the deadlift/box jump (4:25), and the final chipper (13:50). She competed alongside her sister, Helen Horrell.
Each year, Amy Dracup keeps getting better. Early in the season, fellow competitor Tamaryn Venter told us that Amy would make a strong showing at the 2011 Australia Regional. Tamaryn was right. Amy won three events and took home the golden kettlebell. Last year, Amy placed 6th at the 2010 Australia Regional. Although she didn’t make the cut, she was in for a life experience that helped her achieve it this year. Her fiance, Bjorn Albrecht-Walker, made it to the Games. Watching him prepare and compete, she says she got the inspiration and confidence to push hard for the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games. Amy grew up playing soccer and competing in gymnastics. Now, she works as a trainer at Schwartz’s CrossFit Melbourne and holds impressive stats, such as a bodyweight snatch.
Une nouvelle athlete du Quebec … pardon our French. A new athlete from Quebec, Michele Letendre is a 25-year-old trainer at CrossFit Montreal. She came into the 2011 Canada East Regional ranked 99th in the world and 6th in the region. Unlike many other regions, only two berths to the Games were on offer and one was almost certainly going to the 9th place finisher at the 2010 CrossFit Games, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet. Michele pays attention to the odds, but focused on the workouts. She matched Camille on the Thruster Ladder, lifting 150 pounds, and later finished three seconds ahead of Camille on the final Chipper.
Camille Leblanc-Bazinet surprised the CrossFit community at the 2010 CrossFit Games. The petite former gymnast and first-time Games competitor was sorted into the less competitive heat for the first event, “Amanda.” Camille finished the muscle-ups and squat snatches in 7:04 to take 2nd behind Kristan Clever. By the end of the weekend, Camille was in the top 10 overall, and the community knew they had another top female competitor. This year, Camille finished 12th in the world at the end of the Open, and went on to dominate the 2011 Canada East Regional -- winning all but the final event. Camille set the world record in the 100s workout, with a phenomenally fast time of 15:11 -- a full 49 seconds faster than the previous record holder, Annie Thorisdottir.
The “Decepticon” has made it to the Games for her second consecutive year. Alicia Connors, the 2010 Canada Regional champ came in 2nd at the 2011 Canada West Regional behind her friend and training partner, Angie Pye. Alicia stood out in the Thruster Ladder, lifting 165 pounds. she was 54th worldwide, just two places behind Heather Bergeron and 2nd place in the Canada West region. Last year, she placed 36th at the Games.
Angie Pye, the "lean, mean fighting machine" dominated the 2011 Canada West Regional, winning four of the six events and taking 2nd other two. Angie is a 35-year-old mother of two and trainer at CrossFit Taranis in Victoria, British Columbia. Over the last year, Angie prepared for the 2011 Games Season by training alongside one of Canada’s best CrossFitters, the 2010 Canada Regional champ Alicia Connors. Training with the best appears to be a winning strategy.
Julie Foucher, the 22-year-old biomedical engineering major from the University of Michigan, will be taking an unprecedented week off from her first month of medical school to compete in the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games. Last year, Julie surprised CrossFit’s leading female competitors and took 5th overall. As a pre-qualified athlete, Julie decided to help her box, HyperFit USA, make it to the Games. She and her boyfriend, Danny Urcuyo, set the world record on “Team Amanda” at 8:36.
Jaime Gold started CrossFitting in February of this year and she earned a 3rd place finish in a tiebreaker at the Central East Regional. After competing as a gymnast and Olympic lifter at West Virginia University, she moved back to Ohio and found New Albany CrossFit. She learned double unders right before Open Workout 1 and took the GRE right before Open Workout 2 and still placed 5th in her region. At the end of Day 1 at the Regional, she surpassed her expectations when she realized she was in 2nd place. She maintained that throughout the weekend and will be taking a few days off from her doctoral program in Florida to compete in California.
Lisa Shiu made it! Lisa won the 2010 Ohio Sectional at the Arnold and just missed the cut at the 2010 Central East Regional after falling behind in the trail run. She worked on her weaknesses in the off season, and found that many were “more mental than physical.” Lisa is a former gymnast and rugby player -- and it shows. She can blast through bodyweight movements, such as 31 rounds of “Cindy,” and show strength and brute toughness, 2:25 “Heavy Grace” (105 pounds). At the 2011 Central East Regional, Lisa had a rough start with 12th on the Run/HSPU/Row, but cleaned up on the rest, taking 1st on the Thruster Ladder (160 pounds) and 100s workout, and 4th on the rest for silver.
Michelle Kinney continues to cross borders. From cross country to CrossFit, and the 2010 South East Regional (1st) to the 2011 Central East Regional (1st). Michelle Kinney is an all around athlete with a background in NCAA D-1 strength and conditioning, track, cross country, and softball at Mississippi State University. She started CrossFit in the fall of 2009 under the programming of Justin Emmons at CrossFit Bartlett in Bartlett, Tenn. Last year, Kinney took 10th at the 2010 CrossFit Games. The 27-year-old athlete continues to shine at CrossFit competitions. She won the 2011 Central East Regional, accumulating a mere 13 points throughout the six events and setting a blazing 7:36 “Amanda.”
The Icelandic beauty made a name for herself at her first Games. Well, a nickname. At 19-year-old and just a few months into her CrossFit training, “Iceland Annie” led the women’s competition until the final workout. Annie Thorisdottir struggled to get her first muscle-up in front of the cheering crowds, losing the title, but earning the community’s support. In 2010, Annie came in 2nd. Even though she’s pre-qualified, Annie didn’t kick back in 2011. Annie tied Kristan Clever for 1st in the world in the Open, and went on to win five of the six workouts at the Europe Regional.
Iceland represent! CrossFit Reykjavik’s Helga Torfadottir secured the final berth to the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games at the Europe Regional. Before she found CrossFit in the fall of 2009, Helga played goalkeeper in European Handball.
Jenny Jacobsen didn’t expect to make the cut for the Games at the 2011 Europe Regional. The 36-year-old athlete from CrossFit Nordic in Stockholm, Sweden finished 3rd at the Regional, behind Sam Briggs and Annie Thorisdottir. Jenny was the first European to compete at the CrossFit Games; she crossed the Atlantic to compete in Aromas in 2008 -- helping develop CrossFit into the international sport that it is today.
Samantha Briggs, the firefighter from Manchester, England showed the world that she’s exceptionally fit -- and may be the only woman who can challenge Annie Thorisdottir and Kristan Clever. At the end of the Open, Annie and Kristan were tied for first in the worldwide standings and Sam followed just behind them. CrossFit videographer Sevan Matossian said, “Sam has the biggest engine I’ve ever seen.” As a former world class duathlete, Sam is a fast runner and can endure long periods of pain. Last year, Sam stood out in “Pyramid Double Helen,” where she set herself far ahead of the other competitors on the track. At her first Games, Sam placed 19th overall. Expect to see something more in 2011. The defending “Fittest Woman on Earth” will be tough to oust.
The co-owner of CrossFit Cayman, Tarasa Barnett came to the 2011 Latin America Regional with some bragging rights. She, her husband, and her team were all ranked 1st in the region at the end of the Open. Impressively, they all stayed in 1st through the close of the weekend. However, Tarasa isn’t simply making it to the Games because she was the only woman who remained on Day 3. Tarasa set competitive times on the worldwide scale. For example, unlike some other elite athletes from the Southern California and South Central regions, Tarasa finished “Amanda” exactly within the time cap (15:00). If, on the final day, Tarasa had been competing in Southern California, she would have taken 2nd on “Amanda” and 7th on the final Chipper.
Christy Phillips fought to return to the Home Depot Center after a rough first day at the 2011 Mid Atlantic Regional. Christy took 6th on the Run/HSPU/Row workout (10:49) and 15th on the Thruster Ladder (130 puonds), setting her deep into the Leaderboard. Christy clawed her way up to the top three by taking 2nd on both of Saturday’s workouts and winning both workouts on Sunday. This will be Christy Phillip’s third consecutive year at the Games. At her previous two showings, she has finished 6th each time. If she continues the trend, she may have to be known as “a devil of a competitor.”
Gretchen Kittelberger knows how to manage her time in training and competition. Gretchen competed in the Open and the 2011 Mid Atlantic Regional while finishing her final semester of law school at the University of Virginia. Balancing academics and sports wasn’t something new to Gretchen. Before law school and CrossFit, Gretchen spent four years competing on the University of Maryland gymnastics team. She started CrossFit in 2009, won the Virginia/D.C./Maryland Sectional in March of 2010, and took 5th at the 2010 Central East Regional -- missing the cut for the 2010 CrossFit Games by four points. This year, Gretchen secured 2nd place at the 2011 Mid Atlantic Regional by staying in the top three for four of the six workouts.
One point away from qualifying at the 2010 Mid Atlantic Regional, Becky Conzelman trains with Rudy Nielson at Outlaw CrossFit. Becky grew up playing soccer and running track and, at 28, decided to try to be a pro cyclist. She succeeded. Becky competed on the USA Cycling team from 2002-2005. Now, the 39-year-old mother of two has turned her attention to CrossFit. She was on track to sweep the 2011 Mid Atlantic Regional until the final day of competition, where she took 3rd on “Amanda” and 5th in the final chipper. Becky showed that she’s not only fast and proficient at gymnastics movements, but very strong for her size. The petite athlete, who stands at 5’3” and is just 125 pounds, put up a 160-pound thruster.
Deborah Cordner, of CrossFit Saint Paul, found out that she had lymphedema while she was a scholarship sprinter at the University of Northern Iowa. The former elite sprinter boasted a 53.5 400-meter run -- an average speed of about 16 miles per hour. Now, Deborah works hard to both take care of her lyphedema and train. She had an impressive showing at the 2011 North Central Regional, finishing the deadlift/box jump workout in 3:41, and taking 3rd overall.
Elisabeth Akinwale, another rookie CrossFitter, caught the attention of the community when she set the world record for the deadlift/box jump at 3:27. Although that record was later broken by Annie Thorisdottir (2:57), few women approached her blazing fast time. Elisabeth grew up competing in gymnastics and had a brief collegiate career before tearing her ACL and getting her sixth knee surgery. Before finding CrossFit, she casually lifted to rehab her knees and ACL tear, and tried rowing, fitness competitions, distance running, and triathalons. Elisabeth has been training at CrossFit Chicago since the fall of 2010.
This will be Stacie Tovar's third consecutive year at the CrossFit Games. Each year, Stacie has moved up in the final standings--from 36th at the 2009 CrossFit Games to 14th at the 2010 CrossFit Games. Stacie won the 2011 North Central Regional by a margin of 11 points. Stacie showed off her proficiency in two technical movements -- the muscle-up and snatch -- in “Amanda.” She won the workout with a time of 7:04, which was a full 2:31 ahead of the 2nd place athlete, Christina Merlo.
Known as the “Globo-Gym” CrossFitter in 2010, Jessica Pamanian came in as a rookie and took 4th overall. She was conspicuously missing at the 2011 North East Regional due to a shoulder injury, but she if she heals in time she will still be able to compete in the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games (pre-qualified due to top five finish in 2010). Jess played Division I softball for the University of California-Berkeley where she earned a degree in psychology. After a stint at a culinary school in Paris, Jess moved to New York City. If she had it her way, she’d win the lottery and spend the rest of her days traveling and eating french macaroons.
We knew Jenny Davis had the heart of a Games competitor, and now she’ll be able to show it at the Home Depot Center. Last year, Jenny made it through 125-pound cleans and burpees at the 2010 New England Sectional despite a badly sprained ankle, finishing 2nd behind Heather Bergeron and ahead of Lisa Mikkelsen, Jessica Pamanian, and Mel Ockerby. Although Jenny did not go on to compete at the 2010 North East Regional, her performance foreshadowed what would come in 2011. Davis finished the Open ranked 10th in the world and 1st in the North East. At the Reebok World Headquarters last month, Jenny won the deadlift/box jump workout in 3:30 and the final Chipper in 13:04. At the end of the 2011 North East Regional, Jenny took the third and the final berth to the Games. Jenny started CrossFit to improve on the rugby pitch. She is studying to become a family nurse practitioner at Yale School of Nursing.
Stacey Kroon wouldn’t be edged out this year. At the 2010 North East Regional, Stacey finished 4th behind Heather Bergeron, Jessica Pamanian, and Lauren Plumey -- thereby just missing the cut for the Home Depot Center. The story changed in 2011. Stacey came to the 201 North East Regional ranked 17th in the world and 3rd in the region. Although she struggled on the Run/HSPU/Row workout (8th, 13:45) and the deadlift/ box jump workout (9th, 4:32), her 2nd place finishes in all of the remaining workouts were enough to put her in second overall at the end of the weekend. Stacey works as the lead instructor at CrossFit Fenway, and has more than 20 years of gymnastics competition and coaching experience.
The title of “Fittest Woman in the North East” goes to … someone new. Kelly Steadman, the 10th ranked woman in the North East at the end of the Open, faced an intimidating roster at the 2011 North East Regional including Games vet Lauren Plumey, HQ trainer Jennifer Hunter Marshall, Heather Bergeron’s favorite athlete Mel Ockerby, and the “Rugby Player of the Decade” Phaidra Knight. Yet the rookie from Champlain Valley CrossFit in Vermont, stayed in the top five for all but one workout. Ben Bergeron describes her as “the most humble firebreather I’ve had the pleasure of training with.”
The original main site “Nasty Girl” and CrossFit legend, Annie Sakamoto, competed for the first time since the 2009 Affiliate Cup. The 2011 Northern California Regional was fiercely competitive. Entering the final chipper, five women battled for the remaining two unsecured berths to the Games (Elyse Umeda sat confidently at the top). Annie took 6th place on the final Chipper, putting her in a tie for 3rd at 30 points with Games vet Chyna Cho. Annie won the tiebreaker because of her 1st place finish on the Run/HSPU/Row workout.
Coaxed into competing, Jenny Labaw surprised herself and the community at the 2011 Northern California Regional where she took 2nd place. She stood out on the deadlift/box jump workout, which she won in 4:45 despite the rain. Entering the final Chipper, Jenny Labaw was tied with Chyna Cho for 3rd with 25 points -- just one point behind second place athlete Annie Sakamoto. Jenny had the will to stay in the top three, and pushed out a 2nd place finish on the final Chipper in 12:50.
Hawaii’s golden girl, Elyse Umeda, dominated the 2011 Northern California Regional. While Annie Sakamoto, Jenny Labaw, Chyna Cho, Laurie Galassi, and Candace Hamilton Hester fought for the 2nd and 3rd place positions all the way through the final Chipper, while Elyse sat confidently at the top. She had distanced herself from the pack in the point total by never finishing below 4th place (3rd, 3rd, 4th, 2nd, 1st, 4th). The Games veteran took 11th place at the 2010 CrossFit Games.
Cheryl Brost, the 40-year-old mother of two can take on women half her age. Last year, Cheryl finished 13th at the 2010 CrossFit Games. This year, Cheryl came close to missing the cut, but through fortune and hard work, Cheryl took 3rd at the 2011 North West Regional. Cheryl competed in soccer and basketball at a collegiate level, and kept active in the years intervening with recreational league soccer, marathons, and hula dancing. Her edge? Experience. In her words, “Overall, nearly all CrossFit competitors are younger and more experienced than me. More experienced athletes? Doubtful.”
Ashleigh Moe: The “Fittest Grade School Teacher on Earth.” Ashleigh has taught her students how to graph by recording and plotting how many burpees they can do in one minute. Last year, Ashleigh won the North West Regional and finished 24th at the 2010 CrossFit Games. This year, Ashleigh came into the 2011 Games Season hot -- 9th in the world and 1st in the North West at the end of the Open. Although she had a disappointing performance in the thruster ladder, ending at just 115 pounds, Ashleigh recovered by staying in the top five for the rest of the workouts. She won the Run/HSPU/Row and the 100s workout (17:25).
The unofficial “Rookie of the Season” award goes to Samantha Peterson. She entered the 2011 North West Regional as a complete unknown and made it to the top through her consistency. Going into the final day of competition, her fellow competitors were on her tail and it was clear she would need to step up her game or risk dropping out of the top three. On the final day, the 23-year-old athlete earned her first win on “Amanda” and took 2nd on the final chipper. Sam finished 1st in the North West Regional ahead of Games vets Cheryl Brost and Ashleigh Moe. She trains at CrossFit Whidbey Island in Washington.
Jeremy Thiel’s wife and Carey Kepler’s sister-in-law, Lisa Bender Thiel, will be returning to the Games after a two-year gap. In 2008, Lisa Bender took 27th place overall. She had a strong showing at the 2011 South Central Regional, leading the competition at the end of Day 2 and finishing the weekend 3rd overall. Lisa shined in the deadlift/box jump workout, completing it in 3:36.
Watch out for Lindsey Smith, as she’s proved time and again that she’s a world class competitor (2009 CrossFit Games: 5th, 2010 CrossFit Games: 12th). At the 2011 South Central Regional, Lindsey came into the final day in 4th overall. She fought until the very last second of the final Chipper to earn second overall, famously sliding in over the end line at the finish of the sprint.
At the 2011 South Central Regional, Carey Kepler was “patient fast” in the workouts … and the climb up the rankings. She went from 8th on Day 1, to 2nd on Day 2, to 1st on Day 3. Carey had to recover from a poor performance on the thruster ladder -- 13th place with 135 pounds -- and achieved it by staying in the top five for rest of the workouts. Kepler is an experienced Games competitor, with a bronze in 2009 and 16th in 2010.
Look for brightly colored hair. Shana Alverson is returning to the Games for her third consecutive year (25th in 2009, 28th in 2010). The Georgian co-owner and trainer at CrossFit East Decatur took 3rd at the 2011 South East Regional, blazing through the deadlift/box jump workout in 3:50.
A year of training can do wonders. Last year, Cheryl Nasso took 28th at the Florida Sectional. This year, Cheryl won three of the six workouts at the 2011 South East Regional for 2nd overall. Cheryl would have taken the title if it weren’t for the thruster ladder. The petite athlete put up an impressive 13 pounds more than her bodyweight, but 135 pounds was only good enough for 15th place. This met con monster won the Run/HSPU/Row, the 100s workout, and the final chipper.
Leah Polaski, a former collegiate soccer player at the University of Cincinnati turned to marathons after college, before finding CrossFit competitions. Last year, Leah placed 1st at the Georgia Sectional and tied for the last qualifying spot at the 2010 South East Regional but lost the tiebreaker. Although she didn’t make the cut for individual competition in 2010, she did get a taste of competition in the Home Depot Center with CrossFit Atlanta’s affiliate team. This year, Leah did more than just make the cut for the Games -- she took the title of “Fittest Woman in the South East.”
Kristan Clever continues to have a close rivalry with Annie Thorisdottir. The two athletes tied for 1st in the worldwide standings at the end of the Open, and matched each other at 175 pounds in the Thruster Ladder. Kristan decided to forgo Individual Competition at the Southern California Regional to help Valley CrossFit’s affiliate team. This will be Kristan’s third consecutive year at the CrossFit Games (2009 CrossFit Games - 4th, 2010 CrossFit Games - 1st).
You may not have known Lindsey Valenzuela before the 2011 Southern California Regional, but you should now. Valley CrossFit’s Lindsey Valenzuela hopes to compete at the 2012 Olympics for Olympic lifting. At the SoCal Regional, Lindsey showed off her strength, successfully thrustering 185 pounds to complete the thruster ladder, as well as her metabolic capacity. Lindsey stayed in the top five for every workout, often following just behind her training partners Katie Hogan and Becca Voigt.
Can you spell d-o-m-i-n-a-t-i-o-n? Katie Hogan led the Southern California Regional from beginning to end, tying Rebecca Voigt with 15 points overall at the end of the weekend. Katie made it through the thruster ladder alongside fellow Valley CrossFitter, Lindsey Valenzuela, and then went on to do what no other woman had -- Katie thrustered 190 pounds, to set the world record and a five-pound personal record. Later, Katie showed that she’s not “just strong” … she’s fit. Katie won the 100s workout, a full 1:56 ahead of 2nd place finisher Becca Voigt. This will be Katie’s first time back to the Games after a one year break. She took 18th place at the 2009 Games.
Rebecca Voigt and 76 of her favorite training buddies crushed the 2011 Southern California Regional ... OK, make that three favorite training buddies. Valley CrossFitters Katie Hogan, Lindsey Valenzuela, and Kris Clever competed by her side and showed their support on the sidelines. After a rough start to the weekend, Becca climbed one rung in the standings each day from third to first. At the end of the weekend, she had three 1st place finishes and two 2nd place finishes under her belt. This will be Becca’s fourth consecutive year at the CrossFit Games (2008 CrossFit Games -7th, 2009 CrossFit Games - 20th, 2010 CrossFit Games - 7th).
Jasmine Dever, a 2010 Games vet, came into the South West Regional looking untouchable. Jasmine won her Regional in 2010, and she started the 2011 Games Season off right -- at the end of the Open, she was 18th in the world and 1st in the South West. Jasmine had a rough start to the 2011 South West Regional, taking 11th on Workout 1, but she clawed her way back up the Leaderboard to finish in 3rd overall. Jasmine trains at Front Range CrossFit.
Talk about a power couple. Cherie Chan is married to CrossFit celebrity Matt Chan, and runs CrossFit Verve. She led the 2011 South West Regional until the final workout. Taylor Richards-Lindsay took 1st in the Chipper, leaving Cherie two points behind her for 2nd overall.
A former Utah State basketball player, Taylor Richards-Lindsay came in 3rd behind Miranda Oldroyd at the Utah Sectional in 2010, while pregnant. Less than a year after giving birth, Taylor took 34th in the worldwide standings in the Open and won the 2011 South West Regional.