The Lion's Ovation

July 30, 2009 2:00 PM

Posted in The Games »
47 Comments » on this entry

missedlift.jpg"There is no wooden platform. Only rolled rubber, stretched over a concrete pad and coated with the thin, obnoxious dust of the Aromas desert," writes Jon Gilson about the Event 6 Snatch competition on Sunday morning at the Games. He continues:

Luminaries with red and white lights are replaced by blue-clad Judges, some qualified, some not, all with hands held high.

The contenders eschew the singlet fashion of the sport; their wooden-soled shoes the only vestige of traditional Olympic weightlifting garb.

Dead silence is a joke, drowned out by a fierce, screaming crowd and the hate music rocketing from the speakers.

The California sun slow cooks the barbells, each resting against a log marked with a number that has no bearing on the task at hand.

Ten minutes. A stack of plates. Power snatch or squat snatch, split or not. Rip it up smoothly, press it out ugly, it doesn't matter. Just get it over your head. Max load wins.

"Go!" slams out of the P.A., and the barbells flash. There are beautiful lifts, and ugly lifts, competitors digging, catching loads that should succumb to gravity, standing to the lion's ovation, the roar of myriad spectators who know the feeling but not the arena.

They sense revolution. There is no polite clapping. This is gladiatorial fervor, surging crowd thumbs down, kill it now.

There is no need to visit the scorers' table. The athletes witness the competition in real time, those who would have them slashed from the Games with superior lifts pooling sweat at their feet and crying triumph with each successful lift.

This is not a USA Weightlifting event. It is the future. Hundreds of eyes fixed on a stadium littered with lifters, not one paying attention to protocol or deferentially waiting their turn to lift, none worried if they'll follow themselves on the next lift--it's guaranteed that they will.

There are no games to play, no strategy, no energy saved for lifts two and three. They lift until they fail, and then they lift again.

The traditional throng, baited breath in a fluorescent-washed gymnasium, is replaced with the vanguard of training, hundreds of valkyries sucking dirt and spitting fire, CrossFitters who recognize that work done is work done. They know that fitness is not measured in an instant but a series of instants, an endless thread of pain and resolve, held together with the glue of pride and the threat of failure.

It isn't just spectator friendly. It's an orgy of entertainment, created by a single rule: Stand It Up. Dumped barbells carom back toward the lifters, thrown unto the duplicitous curbs at their feet, giving a feeling of impending catastrophe and snap-focusing the risk of athletic pursuit.

There are those who would witness such a spectacle and bellow foul. This, they would say, is not weightlifting. This is an abomination.

They would be right, and for every wrong reason. We are no longer playing the same game, and just as you cannot call out baseball for cricket or black for white, you cannot call this a mangled weightlifting meet.

Instead, it is an evolution, a different creature, borne of the need to adapt. Until now, weightlifting was dying, its punctured lungs aspirating and collapsing. With a single hour on a sunburned farm, it now stands ready, the province of Red Bull sponsorships and worshipful ten-year olds, where the best aren't strong once an hour, but a dozen times in ten minutes, their fitness defined not in one sphere but in many.

There will be a fight, but it will not last long. First, the purists will laugh at the rules and the form, declaring that we couldn't possibly succeed with such a preposterous format. As the loads increase, they'll start with the 'dangerous', and as the crowds swell to fill the Rose Bowl, they'll seek sanction and injunction.

In the end, the resistance won't matter, because superiority survives on its own merit, because this is the future, wood and spandex be damned.

Authored by Jon Gilson and republished with permission from Again Faster.

47 comments on this entry.

1. cam birtwell wrote...

July 30, 2009 2:30 PM

wonderful article - literary art in the same way crossfit is an art of fitness.

regarding technique though, what were the requirements for the lift as i saw almost clean-jerk form from some competitors. i do think refinement of technique should be rewarded, even under heavy loads.

coach turts

2. Karl Eagleman wrote...

July 30, 2009 2:40 PM

3. Dan Kallen wrote...

July 30, 2009 3:44 PM

Thank you so much for this gorgeous, true, and honest piece of writing. I'm printing this now and going to hand them out tonight to everyone at our box.
It's absolutely fantastic.
Thanks, Thanks, Thanks.

4. hetman wrote...

July 30, 2009 4:57 PM


in that case will quarter squats do?

5. Sweeney wrote...

July 30, 2009 6:10 PM


Not sure where your comment is coming from or what you are trying to say, but do you think most decent 150lbs female olympic lifters would have made it to the 6th event at this years games?

6. Chris wrote...

July 30, 2009 6:50 PM

I don't know Larry. Maybe because they specialize to the point that they would not have made it through the 7K run, much less the deadlift ladder, row-hammer-row, sandbag sprint, or wallball/snatch couplet on day one.

7. Tony Budding wrote...

July 30, 2009 6:59 PM

There's not a female on the planet who can snatch 110kg AND complete all five workouts from Saturday of the 09 Games in one day.

8. Pat Sherwood wrote...

July 30, 2009 7:01 PM

Jon......wonderful article.

9. Jamie@CFA wrote...

July 30, 2009 7:24 PM

Larry is chumming... don't take the bait... its pointless.. he is getting the rise he is looking for

10. Tanya Wagner wrote...

July 30, 2009 7:51 PM

"They know that fitness is not measured in an instant but a series of instants, an endless thread of pain and resolve, held together with the glue of pride and the threat of failure."

Gilson...I just love you man!

11. Adam wrote...

July 30, 2009 8:46 PM

Someone had their coffee this morning...

12. Hollywood wrote...

July 30, 2009 8:54 PM

Love it. Nice writing. The article is pure you... quintessential Jon Gilson.

13. TJ wrote...

July 30, 2009 9:33 PM

Unbelievable Jon. This will be on our next blog page.

14. Kurtis Bowler wrote...

July 30, 2009 9:47 PM

15. Ken wrote...

July 30, 2009 10:29 PM

Leave it to Tony Budding to make a BS, unsubstantiated claim. Would you like to provide some backing for that? The idea of survey size correlation is a very simple concept, spend some time and figure it out.

16. sevan wrote...

July 30, 2009 10:32 PM

Dang Gilson! Dang!

17. grambo wrote...

July 30, 2009 11:12 PM

I dunno, there are probably some female lifters that could survive the run and pull high enough in the deadlift. Sprint wouldn't be a huge deal. The problem is their training wouldn't prepare them for the cuumlative effect of all these events in one day.

Jon, awesome writing as usual.

18. Reno_Ty wrote...

July 30, 2009 11:22 PM

Although I agree that Tony's claim is unsubstantiated to some degree, I would guess he's right. I think it is very likely that any woman capable of snatching 110kg, would have gotten absolutely crushed by the 7k hill run. She (our mystery woman), would likely have redeemed herself on the deadlifts (if she could stand up). But by the time she hit the couplet, her superior strength and ultra-specialization in weightlifting would catch up to her. Perhaps she could "finish" the workouts. But probably low enough in the rankings to be eliminated. And by the way, I think Superman could beat up Mighty Mouse since Mighty Mouse is a cartoon and Superman is a real person!

19. Furey wrote...

July 31, 2009 5:46 AM

Yes Tony's claim is unsubstantiated cuz anyone can finish a 7.1K run but could a female snather in question beat the time limit? Im going to say yes. Could they do well in the run? It's possible but im going to say no.

What about the deadlift event? I've heard and read (not sure if its true or not) that Olympic lifters don't deadlift much more than there PR's in their olympic lifts not saying that they couldn't but I feel it would even be unlikely that one would make it through the deadlift ladder since they train for explosive power and 1RM, where as the ladder, from my personnal experience from competing, became more strength and determination as I went through the lift, because my power was very low by this point.

As for the next three events who knows, the sprint could have been completed by anyone but doing well is the question, same with the row and sledge, the final event I feel the woman in question would not complete the routine in the time limit, cuz it was hard, it destroyed me mentally and physically to the point where i didn't finish under the time limit.

Overall im agreeing with Tony Budding, any olympic lifter of such an afore mentioned caliber would not have made it to the 6th event, if they did i think they would be so wrecked from the previous day they wouldn't lift a PR or there normal max, plus the shoes would be all they would have similar to what there use to for lifting, no platform, no belt.

But hey isn't this CrossFit.....we proove our domination of other athletes in overall general fitness through competition not debate, so until these profesional athletes who are phenomenal in there narrow field step up to shut up the claims of crossfit by winning the games, I would be happy if some just competed, I will continue to believe that the winner of the crossfit games is the fittest person on the planet.


20. ral wrote...

July 31, 2009 5:53 AM

Larry's comment could be used translated to almost any CF event, which is exactly the point of CF. Yeah, any decent powerlifter would have no problem with the DL workout and could probably crush a workout like "Lynne." Great. I could back squat 375 at a 160 BW in high school, but I could only do 7 or 8 pull-ups and couldn't finish a 5K. I'd say I'm in better shape even with a slightly lower back squat. There's no claim on here that the winning athlete has to be the best in the world at EVERYTHING, just the best overall.

Anyway, my question has to do with the snatch requirements - my understanding of a competition snatch is that you have to lock out the elbows in one smooth motion, i.e. no "muscling-up" the bar after the initial pull. Is this correct, and if so, is the CrossFit definition any different?

21. gaucoin wrote...

July 31, 2009 6:03 AM

Oh good, Gilson writes an interesting article on the Games and now it's a debate. Awesome.

22. bingo wrote...

July 31, 2009 6:20 AM

It's always a pleasure to read a Jon Gilson essay. He is a refreshing modern take on the classic Renaissance Man (Woman) wouldn't you say? You can get other samplings of his wit and wisdom at

Thanks as always, Jon.

23. Tony Budding replied to comment from Ken...

July 31, 2009 8:05 AM

It's neither true that it's unsubstantiated nor that it's BS. Larry was wrong. 110kg is a lot for women. In fact, no woman in the US under a super-heavyweight has ever snatched 110kg or more.

Then, I talked to Coach Burgener about the rest of the world. He confirmed it. Women who snatch 110kg are extreme short-duration specialists and couldn't handle the volume.

Do a little investigation before speaking out so strongly.

24. Tony Budding replied to comment from ral...

July 31, 2009 8:09 AM

The only real real requirement for the lift to be successful at the Games was that it had to go from the ground to overhead with resting on or being propelled by any part of the body. It could brush your legs or hips, but not touch your head or shoulders. It could be pressed out at the end. Your knee could touch the ground.

This is not true for traditional Oly lifting meets. You are correct about the arms locking out there.

25. Kris Kepler wrote...

July 31, 2009 8:13 AM

Im glad to see Jon's article on the game site... in my opinion one of the most gifted writers I have come across in a long time.

as for the debate that has become of it... Their is always going to be the "What if" or the "What about this person" debate as long as their is competition involved. Their will never be in our lifetime ABSOLUTE anything except death...we all will die someday (right?). But to continue to debate that an oly lifter could do what those top women had to do is a mute point UNTIL one actually competes in the Qualifiers FIRST. then if they qualify, they get to go through the gantlet that the Games have become. So can Crossfit claim to have the fittest person male and female in the world sure...just like I live right by the Best BBQ in the world here in Austin Texas. Jon keep doing what you do, Crossfit keep doing what you do. peace

26. Pete wrote...

July 31, 2009 8:36 AM

Wasn't Tony the same guy who insisted that nobody would get to the 505 lb bar in the 2nd event? I think he was wrong 16 times. That's hard to do.

27. Dan replied to comment from Pete...

July 31, 2009 8:48 AM

Pete, that's the funniest reply I've ever seen. So true.

28. btm replied to comment from Pete...

July 31, 2009 9:05 AM

Pete, heading into the games, only 13 athletes had indicated being able to deadlift 505lbs or more. I'm assuming these personal best's were not set 1 hr after running a rigorous 7.1km race. Sure, there was some oversight by the individuals designing the workouts, but given the level of organization in this competition, I'm sure the workout passed a rigorous approval process.

29. Pete replied to comment from btm...

July 31, 2009 9:38 AM

"Oversight" is one way of explaining it I suppose. The rigorous approval process that you speak of seemed to be simply a matter of Dave Castro doing the ladder about 45 mins after the run. He got through the mid to low 400's and they assumed "nope!! nobody's getting there". That's hardly rigorous in my opinion. In the meantime, it's only year 3 of the games, and I'm sure they will learn from their mistakes. But, from Tony's statement it seems like he is still making statements of fact about things which he can't possibly know. Some humility would be refreshing.

In the meantime, the right guy won. Mikko was unbelievable and was very deserving.

30. Dan replied to comment from Pete...

July 31, 2009 9:46 AM


Right on!!! We have this discussion at our facility all the time. The top of the X Fit food chain definitely needs some more humility. We usually have the debate about their claim of "fittest man on planet" Don't you think that a professional athlete would fare well at the games? We see former college football players come in and after 2 weeks of training are beating people who have X Fitted for years. Anyway...

31. Pete replied to comment from Dan...

July 31, 2009 9:59 AM

I wouldn't just say any professional athlete. I would say just about any NFL running back if exposed to Crossfit for a month to learn some of the movements. I would guess that most NFL Backs would figure out how to kip in about 3 minutes. Reggie Bush and A Peterson vs Mikko and Khalipa in a 5 event hopper competition. Who wouldn't watch that?

32. ral wrote...

July 31, 2009 11:38 AM

I think while it's true that there are probably a lot of professional athletes who would fare well at the games right now, that number will probably dwindle considerably in the next few years. It seems that most of the top CrossFit athletes have been at it for maybe 1-3 years, so the vast majority of them are fairly new to it. The level of competition will likely only get higher as guys continue to "specialize" in CrossFit more and more.

Also keep in mind that a lot of the top guys WERE former college athletes of some sort, not just one or two.

And what are they supposed to call it, "The World's Fittest Man Except for Other Professional Athletes Who Conceivably Might Be Fitter." It's just a title.

33. Ken wrote...

July 31, 2009 12:26 PM


"Then, I talked to Coach Burgener about the rest of the world. He confirmed it. Women who snatch 110kg are extreme short-duration specialists and couldn't handle the volume."

Really? So because he told you that you can automatically claim to KNOW that every woman who lifts that much couldn't do the events? Unless by "he confirmed it" you mean he took EVERY woman and put them through the workouts, there was no "confirmation" at all. It's foolish and intellectually immature for you to make such a claim unless you have a little more evidence than "someone told me a lot of them can't run well..." It's ironic for you to suggest research before making strong statements, when you just made the asinine claim that no woman on the planet can lift that much and compete the workouts. Show some humility. How many athletes, and not even professional athletes, smashed the qualifiers after having done crossfit for a few months? Cut the elitism BS,it's this silly train of thought that crafted that ridiculous statement on the banner "...derived through competition, not debate." Competition with who? Other crossfitters? Give it a rest already and enjoy it for what it is.

34. ken wrote...

July 31, 2009 12:31 PM

You are right though, a 110 kilo lift is a bit extreme, but I think what he meant to reference here is an actual, reasonable 150 lb female professional weightlifter.

35. cam birtwell wrote...

July 31, 2009 12:39 PM

not to add fuel to the heated debate, but it takes a special balance of strength to bodyweight to excel in crossfit. NFL running backs in my opinion are too heavy to move their bodyweight efficiently and would therefore suffer, regardless of their athletic prowess on the field.

regarding the comment about humility in the crossfit community, the vast majority of coaches and video heroes I have met have been humble and friendly. perhaps absolute belief in the crossfit method could be confused with cockiness?

coach turts
CrossFit Zone
Victoria BC

36. Tony Budding replied to comment from ken...

July 31, 2009 1:00 PM

That difference is enormous. I would never make the claim that no 150lb competitive weightlifter on the planet could complete those 5 workouts in a day. The 110kg component is so extreme that the statement is actually pretty easy to make. It's really not cockiness.

37. PaulyG wrote...

July 31, 2009 1:59 PM

Another excellent article by Jon! The judge's(Kurtis?) expression in the photo is priceless, as is the athlete's obvious drive to get the work done.
To the folks nitpicking the Games Events and the decisions made: if anyone or everyone new exactly what was possible what would be the point in holding a competition? You could just let the person with the best stats be crowned top dawg. I like that the Games seem to have as much black box as our training.
Anyway, cheers Jon, nice article!

38. Thistle wrote...

July 31, 2009 2:54 PM

I have noticed one universal point in these debates over the title; any athlete who is suggested to be able to dominate would always need "a few weeks of training" first. Not just learning the movements, but being exposed to the metabolic hit. Remember the very first Fran, it was like getting hit by a Mac truck. I think that is the whole point, Coach G has said the magic is in the programming. Frausto and Everett have both talked about the college athletes with immense potential that could be tapped by being exposed to Crossfit. What I am trying to say is Crossfitters are the fittest because they train Crossfit. I think everyone can agree if an athlete was taught all the movements, but not exposed to the intensity of working against yourself and the clock before the games, they would not 'dominate' as proposed.

It would be interesting to know the amount of exposure someone who was already very capable would need to become competitive with the top guys. In any case, Crossfit is the fittest program on earth, which seems entirely legitimate to me, so why is the fittest Crossfitter not the fittest man/woman on earth? After all for anyone to beat them they would infact need to spend SOME time training the program first, so aren't they a Crossfitter?

39. Kris Kepler replied to comment from Thistle...

July 31, 2009 5:02 PM

so simply stated but so true, in my opinion this should be the end of the discussion.

40. sevan replied to comment from Pete...

July 31, 2009 10:16 PM

Hey Pete,

Tony was pushing for MORE bars in event 2, I think he asked for bars that went up to 600lbs. I heard Tony making that requests up until the very last minute of the deadlift competition.

On a side note -

DO you know Tony ? Have you met Tony ?
DO you know how many athletes Tony has worked with ? DO you know how much CrossFit footage he has watched? How many athletes he has trained?

You sound like a goofball arguing with him. Questioning is one thing.. but attempting to make fun of him for his HIGHLY EDUCATED predictions and NOT evening having your facts straight is just plain stupid.


41. sevan wrote...

July 31, 2009 10:24 PM

Hey Pete,

One more thing... fuck, maybe 2 more things.

I spoke to about 100 of the 150 athletes at the games. Every single one of them was surprised that they were able to deadlift as much as they did. Not one person WASN'T surprised at their ability to lift as well as they did after the RUN.

Not a single ONE.

So is it you who needs to be more humble, or Tony ?

No just one thing.


42. ken c wrote...

August 1, 2009 6:11 AM


those who argue here that the pro athlete would dominate the competition at the crossfit games don't say they would need time to train crossfit (or maybe just a day or two to learn the movements).

one of the things that gets confused in this debate i think is fitness vs. athletic ability. people who want to argue that most pro running backs could crush the crossfit games point to stats like vertical jump, 40m time, weights lifted and that is all fine but there are some guys in crossfit who have great numbers as well (josh everett lifts as much or more as any pro running back that i know of). the pro athlete is a pro not JUST because of great stats but because he or she is able to translate their strength and speed into some sort of high level productive work in their sport (but a very accurate passer may not be the strongest guy on the field and so on).

most of the people i've seen on here who believe that pro athletes could crush anyone winning the games right now point to the fact that the winners of the games aren't pro athletes so therefore their fitness must be inferior to the pro athlete. that argument seems wrong to me because people can be very fit but simply not have the atheltic ability to play a sport at a professional level. this is why crossfit can claim the fittest man/woman on the planet but not the greatest athlete.

i have no doubt that there are lots of pro athletes out there that could dominate in crossfit IF they chose to train crossfit for a little while (a few months maybe). if they came in off the street with no crossfit training, they may do well but not win and certainly not dominate the games. i predict that next year's games will have one or two pros in it and we'll see.

43. pete replied to comment from sevan...

August 4, 2009 7:22 PM

They made a mistake. It happens. Get off your high horse, face it and fix it. End of story. Cheers

44. Pete wrote...

August 5, 2009 8:32 AM


Bingo...Personally, I like the program, but the people near the top of the food chain are a bit too much.

45. Pete replied to comment from sevan...

August 5, 2009 9:42 AM


Throwing around the term "stupid" without having your facts, is something that even got the Messiah (aka B Obama) in trouble. If Tony was pushing for more bars in event 2, then the people who denied his request OBVIOUSLY erred. A 16 way tie for first was obviously an oversight.

Some answers to your questions.

1) No
2) No
3) No (try to avoid ending sentences/questions with prepositions)
4) No, but I would guess he watches plenty.
5) No, but I would guess he has trained plenty.

None of this precludes Tony or any other "highly educated" trainer/programmer from making mistakes. It's really OK. The games are in their infancy and these things will happen. It would be refreshing if when these mistakes are made, they are acknowledged. It seems to me that challenging Tony/Dave /etc is usually greeted with incredibly defensive reponses. You'd have an easier time criticizing our President to Keith Olbermann. Take is easy.

The good news is the oversight seemed not to affect the result. Mikko is the one who was most negatively affected by the oversight, and he still won.


46. MikeD replied to comment from Pete...

August 7, 2009 7:54 AM


Mikko wasn't negatively affected by the oversite. He still would have gotten 17th on the deadlift WOD had the weight gone up to 600lbs, due to how the scoring was. Those sixteen that got 505lbs would have still taken 1st-16th place regardless of the weight they pulled.

47. Pete replied to comment from MikeD ...

August 7, 2009 6:21 PM

Mikko would have had a 17..true. But only 1 person would have had a "1
" One person would have had a "2" etc......instead of 16 people having a "1". In other words, 15 of the 16 people got a lower number than they actually deserved if they simply kept going up the ladder. Of course it negatively affected anybody who didn't get the "1". In fact, 11 of the top 24 men got a "1" on the DL WOD. Moe, J Khalipa, DJ and Egdyed (sic) all finished top 10. Assuming that Lance Mosely, Jerome Perryman or Josh E would have been the top 3 in DL's had the format been the way it should have been. That would have meant the others in the top 10 would have received at best a "4" for that WOD, while possibly even a score of 12, 13, 14...who knows? The point is having so many "1"s for one WOD definitely could have affected the outcome in an unfair way.

On the other hand, had Mikko DL'ed the 505..he almost had it up...he would have received a "1" also, and it would have been a blowout. Anyway....cheers