Photo Credit: Pekka Väliniemi
I consider the time between the end of the CrossFit Games one year, and the start of the CrossFit Open the following year, to be the “offseason”. This year, I’m going on a bit of a world tour in an attempt to broaden my own horizons about the global competitive CrossFit scene. As I make my way to these different places and competitions I’ll be doing my best to keep you all abreast of what I’m up to and what I’m learning. So, without further adieu, let’s get this show on the road:
Stop 1: Turku, Finland
Competition: Turun Tuomiopäivä (The Judgement Day in Turku)
This competition was a very last minute addition for me. I was planning to have a couple weeks at home in Charlotte to relax, recharge, and gear up for a big trip. Instead, my good friend Hannu, one of the best competition organizers I’ve ever seen in this space, invited me to Finland to broadcast what he said was the premier competition in Finland for elite athletes. I didn’t agree right away, but he was persistent (and I really wanted to go). An agreement was reached, flights were booked, and Finland became the first stop on the tour.
The host city for the competition was at one time the capital city for this area of land (at that time Finland was not an independent country). It is one of the three largest city areas in Finland along with Tampere and Helsinki, and would be host to the competition.
We stayed at a hotel which used to be an old jail. On day one athletes arrived for check in where they were fitted for yokes and heavy jump ropes. Later than day, at the Velodrome, Event 1 would take place. The first event of an 8 scored event competition that would last three days and take place at three different venues.
Sixth fittest man on earth, Jonne Koski, is the programmer for this competition, and has been since its inception in 2019. He specifically tries to bring elements from his competitive career to the competition. And quite frankly, it was cool to see someone who I’m used to watching compete involved in a different way.
Event 1 was a 10 lap chipper around the Velodrome, six laps on the bike, three laps running, and one final lap with a pair of kettlebells for a farmer’s carry. Athletes went off in heats of two (staggered by :15) every seven minutes. The best part about that was it made for a very safe event. The athletes have a wide range of ability and experience on the bike, keeping athletes who were uneasy on them separate from those who were very confident on them made it a safer experience for everyone while also ensuring that fitness was being tested more than anything else.
The bad part about this format is that it’s a huge advantage to go last. Competition frontrunner Ludvig Hanhsson talked about this after the fact. He was in the last group and therefore knew the split times he needed to hit if he wanted the win; which he ended up doing. I’m not a huge fan of later heats watching early heats compete in general, and in this format that seemed to be even a greater advantage than in some others.
Ylakentta (The Upper Field)
The majority of the competition would take place at a stadium called the “Upper Field”. I assumed this to be a soccer pitch at first, but it turns out it’s for American Football- who would have thought!
The competition team orgnaized the area very well with the floor as the centerpice, 360 degree fan viewing area, a well laid out vendor village surrounding about 50% of the available perimeter. The vendor area had a good selection of food, clothing, fitness accessories, and overall seemed to be a great representation of the Finnish CrossFit or fitness community. It’s important to have a vendor area that makes vendors WANT to be there: good visibility and a good opportunity to make some money, many competitions don’t get this right.
The competition featured 2 divisions for men and 2 for women (elite which required a qualificaiont/invitation process and RX which was first come first serve). 20 men and 20 women in the Elite, 40 men and 40 women in the Rx. A very manageable size competitive field which allows for a lot of creativity and flexibility in the programming. Because of the low numbers Koski and the team were able to include a long event for all divisions, a lifting event which gave everyone a chance to get in the spotlight, a swimming event (Saturday morning) for all divisions, and an elimination style event for everyone, which can have some time variability and typically doesn’t work with a very tight schedule.
Friday for the elite divisions was day 2, while it was day 1 for the Rx divisions. Everyone had the same general schedule:
- Event 2: Turku Triple Fiesta
- 1.5 kilometer running buy in and buy out
- 8 rounds of ring push ups, burpees over parallette, and pistol squats
- 28 minute time cap
- Events 3 and 4: Ground to Glory and Levitation Master
- Handstand walking with a turn as a buy in and buy out
- Descending reps of ground to overhead and bar muscle ups
- After the time cap there was a 1:00 forced rest
- Then a max L Sit hold
- Event 5: Barbell Bonanza
- A lifting ladder of Cleans
While the nuances, weights, reps, etc changed between the elite and Rx divisions, for the most part this day was the same for the pros as is was for people doing their first ever competition. Koski likes giving everyone the opportunity to experience certain elements of the programming, which I’m a fan of. This also makes it easier on the gear/equipment team.
Samppalinna (The Swimming Pool)
Saturday morning every division did the same event: 2500 meter row + 250 meter swim.
The best female time came out of the Rx division- which is always cool. This happened at Wodapalooza a few years ago on a rowing test as well.
Got a chance to call the men’s heats with Koski, which was really fun. Getting some insight into how he thinks, but also how well he knows the Finnish CrossFit community was unexpected and quite rewarding. I think it’s a good practice for competitions in general to ensure that there is someone on the broadcast team (if they’re going to have one) who is in touch with the competitors. Minna Ajo bailed me out several times with regards to the athletes, and Koski was just as good. Grateful to have had the opportunity to work with both of them.
If I were to identify one area of criticism with regards to the programming it’s the elimination workout. I have always had conflicting thoughts about this style of event in competition. On the one hand, it’s incredibly exciting and dramatic. It demands a high level of both execution and fitness; and additionally forces the advancing athletes to recover and repeat something similar or harder. From that stand point alone, this was a massive success as the event did produce extremely tight races in each round and saw athletes get penalized for both not having the skill and not remaining calm under pressure.
On the other hand, elimination workouts by their nature require athetes within the same division to do more or less work depending on their performance, and come with an uncertainty in terms of timing that has the potential to throw off the schedule for the day OR lose the interest of the crowd when things don’t go as planned creating unnecessarily long breaks (think the Duel II at the Rogue Invitaional in 2022). From this standpoint alone, it was an expected failure. Tight races, including ties upon ties (even with the inclusion of tiebreaker) on cut line rounds created uncertainty and time delays. Those delays were then amplified by athlete reviews which eventually had to be upheld as the original decision about who would advance was incorrect upon video review. (Note that in the athlete briefing there was an opportunity for video review using only footage provided by the competition).
All in all, these are fun, but also risky to program. Probably more good than bad on this one, but certainly a balance.
Appropriately named “The One Before the After Party” (as people in Finland love to party), this was a painful workout which also included elements recreational CrossFit athletes may not aways get to do. It was an up and down chipper of Echo Bike Calories, Drag Rope double under on the turf field, and Sandbag Squat Cleans.
For the first time (other than the lifting event) the width of the field was used. Athletes were facing the grandstand for the duration of the event which provided more of a showcase feeling for the athletes. It was a cool way to finish and gave the event and overall winners a chance to celebrate as they approached the biggest section of fans at the conclusion of the event.
It may seem like a small thing, but how competition organizers choose to handle the award ceremonies actually varies quite a bit:
- Do you announce the winners immediately (if they are known) or wait and withhold that for the podium?
- Do you do all divisions at once, or do them as they finish?
- If you have a broadcast, do you broadcast the award ceremony or not?
- Do you do it on the field, or somewhere else?
- How much time will pass from the end of the final event to the beginning of the award ceremony?
There is not necessarily one right answer to these things, however, being on the podium, regardless of what division it is, is quite meaningful for athletes and their supporters. This is an area of competition which should be given some thought and planning PRIOR to the competition beginning.
This is an area the organizers in Finland had not put enough thought into, and is one I feel can be improved for next year.
While the competition came to an end on Saturday night, my trip had not. My flight home wasn’t until Tuesday at noon, so I had two days to explore Finalnd with Hannu.
After a lovely breakfast at the prison hotel with most of the team leads from the competition we headed northwest to Tampere and Nokia, the place Hannu was born, and the home of the European Open Disc Golf tournament every year. Playing disc golf there as incredible, you can see three separate reels I made about it on my personal Instagram page.
After the disc golf we went to a tall lookout tower to get some aerial views of the area and then went to the Finnish Sauna. Both of which were phenomenal experiences that I am grateful Hannu planned for us.
We drove to Helsinki, where Hannu lives, Sunday night and would spend the remainder of my time there. The features were playing the oldest disc golf course in Finland- a very unique course mostly on rocky terrain which was put in the ground in 1983 (before either of us were born), and a workout at CrossFit 10K which is the gym Jonne Koski does most of his training at when he’s home. Check out the workout we did on the August Friendly Wods blog.
Heading back to the states after a wonderful week in Finland. So many great experiences had, so many great people met, and so much opportunity to learn; I will definitely be back.