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Opening Up the Invitational

A look inside the athletes and performances at this year’s CrossFit Invitational from Madrid.


The 2015 Reebok CrossFit Invitational just ended, but what did we learn from it?

The CFI is akin to the MLB or NBA All-Star Game or the NFL Pro Bowl, meaning there is no impact on the “season” of the CrossFit Games. This one-day event showcases the sport side of CrossFit as an exhibition of strength, speed and skill.

More than anything, the CFI provides two things: It gives top athletes an official CrossFit competition to train for during the offseason between the end of the Games and the beginning of the next Open, and it gives the fans a taste of the sport and programming side of the Games that we miss during the downtime.

Additionally, this event can be a launching pad for some of the new names to the CrossFit Games scene while also giving us a chance to do some offseason analysis. Here are some things I took away from this year’s event:

1. Tia-Clair Toomey was a stud. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I need to stop underestimating this girl. At the Games, my take was that the Icelandic women, Kara Webb and a handful of others were going to end up dominating the podium. Even though Toomey placed second at the Games, I felt like the news that she would be on the Pacific team came out of nowhere. How wrong I was. She handled everything that Dave Castro threw her way and, even in areas where I was sure she would struggle (like the clean ladder with Atlas stones), she held her own, and then some. Ms. Toomey, you have my respect and attention.

2. The U.S. women were the real deal. 

It’s tough to find anyone who could stand up with the likes of Dan Bailey and Ben Smith. And when Smith got injured and the men’s half of Team USA became Bailey and Rich Froning, well, the stakes got that much higher. But man, Margaux Alvarez and Chyna Cho brought it. Cho even went so far as to bring the team back to take the lead in Event 1 as she tore through the combo of thrusters and rope climbs. I’m a believer in the skills of these two ladies.

3. You just can’t escape the “Froning Factor.” 

While he’s not 100 percent in terms of winning percentage in the Games as an individual or during the past Invitationals, there is no denying that having Rich Froning on the competition floor changes everything. I was dying to see what a Froning-less team could do against the best the world had to throw at the United States. Furthermore, as the current champ, I really was looking forward to see the soft-spoken Ben Smith lead this group during the events. But that wasn’t to be, so the U.S. had to “settle” for the greatest CrossFit athlete of all time. The result: a resounding victory.

4. If there ever was a “gap” between the USA and the world, it is gone now. 

Despite the States taking the title again, this new format, in combination with the rest of the world having more exposure to CrossFit competitions, is what it was when these events first started. I’ll admit that I had picked the Europeans to take the title in a close one. But when Sara Sigmundsdottir struggled with the Atlas stone clean and then there was a mix-up of some kind transitioning from the snatches to cleans on Event 4, it became apparent that experience was going to be their undoing. The Pacific team, which appeared to be there just to have fun, impressed me from start to finish. And our northern neighbors, Team Canada, showed that they are on the cusp of snatching this title away from the Americans anytime now. All this makes me even more excited for next year’s CFI.

Stay on the Grind.