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In his seventh Reebok CrossFit Games appearance, Ben Smith won the multi-day fitness competition on Sunday at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. On the women’s side, Katrin Davidsdottir of Iceland took home the title of “Fittest Woman on Earth” in her third CrossFit Games appearance. Both individuals winners earned a $275,000 prize. Four-time CrossFit Games champion Rich Froning competed in the team category, leading his team CrossFit Mayhem Freedom to victory. CrossFit Mayhem members took home $50,000 for the team win. Leaderboards were changing daily and for the individual competition, it came down to the final event, which consisted of an unfamiliar fitness challenge: climb up and down a vertical climbing peg board three times however you can. Many of the elite athletes were struggling to ascend the American Ninja Warrior-style wall.
“I was surprised more women didn’t go up the peg board,” says Dave Castro, CrossFit Games Director. “I tested it with my demo team and every single women on the team got up it three times but the weekend caught up to them. It’s a great bodyweight element to incorporate into the plethora of bodyweight elements that we incorporate.”
Smith, 25, went into the final day of competition with a slight point lead over Mathew Fraser, the eventual second-place finisher, and two fourth place finishes in both “Pedal to the Metal” events sealed the deal for Smith. “It feels pretty great,” says Smith. “I’ve been working for it so long.” Smith didn’t alter his training regimen much for the 2015 CrossFit Games; he’s been doing CrossFit since 2008 and sticks to his guns.
“I didn’t really change anything but I focused on my weaknesses,” Smith says. “I just grew up a little bit more and I felt more confident going into this year. I’ve been doing the same thing and if you do it long enough, good things happen.”
Smith only won two events, but was consistent in each workout.
“I went into every single event 100%. I didn’t pace it at all,” says Smith.
“I didn’t do very well on the sandbag event but that was kind of a strategy error.”
Even Smith’s experience and endurance couldn’t prepare him for the most challenging event of the week: “Murph” which calls for a 1-mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats and another 1-mile run. Smith finished 10th in the event, Davidsdottir finished 12th in Murph and two-time CrossFit Games champion Annie Thorisdottir didn’t even complete the event and wound up withdrawing from the Games from heat stroke.
Going into Sunday, rookie competitor Sara Sigmundsdottir was the overall leader but she fell behind second place winner Tia-Clair Toomey of Australia and fellow Icelander Davidsdottir in the final event. Both competitors were inspired by another Icelander in Thorisdottir. “In Iceland, we had a world champion in 2011 and CrossFit blew up,” says Davidsdottir.
“That was the year I saw her on T.V., decided I wanted to do that, and went to the same box as she did. That’s when I started CrossFit and I liked it. It’s an honor.”
Sigmundsdottir plays the role of the youngest sister in the trio. “I think the reason why we are both on the podium is because we push each other,” says Sigmundsdottir.
“We’re always competing against each other. Annie is a really good example. I saw her and Katrin on T.V. and I thought ‘One day I could be there’ and I made it.”
The 2015 CrossFit Games represented a “changing of the guards” as Castro put it, with youth becoming increasingly important, especially for the men. Froning is 28 years old and plans to once again compete in the team competition instead of the individuals in 2016.
“The margins at the top are so tight that in your early 30s, you’re going to be old to compete at the top,” says Castro. “It wasn’t like that a couple years ago but that’s what’s happening now. Ben has been around for a long time but he’s 25.”
Smith isn’t sure what he wants to do next but chances are, he’ll be back to defend his title next year. “I’m going to go back to CrossFit Kyrpton [his box], hang out for a bit, get back to training, and there’s always next year again.”