CrossFit Games Africa Regional 2013 Winners Interview

The Standard Bank Arena in Jo’burg played host to the highly anticipated CrossFit Games Africa Regional 2013 on May 24-26. The action was intense and the pace was frantic as competitors battled it out in a bid to secure a spot to compete at the final CrossFit Games to be held in the US at the end of July. The winners shared their sentiments on training, the CrossFit Games Africa Regional 2013 and more.

Enjoy these great interviews with the CrossFit Games Africa Regional 2013 winners…

(photos by games.crossfit.com)

David Levey

David Levey

David Levey not only won the 2013 CrossFit Games Africa Regional event, he also won the same event last year. He is a bonafide beast and impressively, he had only been training CrossFit for half a year when he won the 2012 CrossFit Games Africa Regional event…

Did you enter the CrossFit Games Africa Regional expecting to win?
I would not say that I expected to win. The competition is really tough and everyone is continuously improving. My goal that I had set was to win and to return back to Carson, California for the Games.

Did you perform as well as you expected to and where there any surprises?
Most of my times were worse than when I practiced them in training, during the 10 days before the Africa Regional. This I mostly attribute to the altitude… I think I needed more time for altitude acclimatisation. I did perform better in one event, that was the 7 min 3RM (3 rep max) load attempt on the overhead squat.

Which competitor stood out to you in your division?
There are many great competitors in the individual men’s division and there were many good performances. Neil Scholtz came in 2nd behind me, followed by Jason Smith in 3rd.

How was training preparation for the Regional event?
My preparation from October 2012 to early February 2013 did not go well. I suffered a back injury and tore my right plantar fascia (fascia under my foot) and was really limited in my training during this time. From February to May my training went great and I made some good improvements on previous PBs (personal bests).

Do you think the upcoming CrossFit Games will be tougher than last year’s event?
Each year the competition gets more challenging as athlete’s continue to push the boundaries of human performance, so yes, I expect it to be more challenging.

Considering you competed at last year’s event, you would have gained a better insight on the event. This year, what are you going to be doing differently at the CrossFit Games?
There are many small things that I would like to do differently. To summarise from a programming and preparation perspective, I would like to arrive earlier before the competition, to get some training in before the event and to adjust to the time change. Last year I only arrived five days before the surprise event. This year I would like to arrive at least two to two-and-a-half weeks before the event starts. I will also focus on longer duration running and being prepared for steep downhill running. The downhill eccentric work really hurt my legs last year and impacted on the rest of the events performances.

How do you feel with regards to your training camp for the CrossFit Games?
I have had a good training camp. The last few weeks since the Regional have been challenging as I have recently relocated to P.E. and will soon be opening Algoa CrossFit. I also travel to CrossFit East London for two to three days of each week, so I am just trying to settle into and get use to the new routine as soon as possible.

Who do you think is the favourite to win the men’s division?
I just watched the final Regional events this past weekend. Central East (USA) had a stacked division with their top five men having all finished within the top 10 at last year’s Games. Looking at the performances over the past few weeks, Rich Froning (Jnr) again looks to be the favourite. He is the two-time defending champion and had some most impressive performances over the weekend. There are, however, many other great competitors and Scott Panchick, Jason Khalipa and Josh Bridges, among others, could challenge him for his title.

How big is the gap in skill level between South Africa and the rest of the world?
CrossFit is relatively new to South Africa, so we are definitely behind. It is hard to compare as our training time is so much shorter than other nations. When comparing my own results to other regions I have fared considerably better in the Open and in Regional than when compared to last year. This indicates that our rate of improvement is higher, which is because we are younger as a CrossFit nation and are still undergoing larger and more rapid improvements in performance.

What piece of advice can you give for those who are serious about making it to the Regional and then some?
Start with daily diligent training at an official CrossFit affiliate. Be smart with your training, and do not forget to warm-up properly, as downtime from injuries will slow your progress. Don’t neglect your mobility work because sound biomechanics are essential to strong, powerful and efficient functional movement. Last but not least, do not neglect the mental side of your training. In the end, it is what separates the great athletes from the good athletes.

Carla Nunes da Costa

Carla Nunes da Costa

Carla Nunes da Costa previously lived abroad and qualified for the 2011 European CrossFit Regional with also just six months of CrossFit experience but didn’t end up competing due to an operation she had to undergo. She proved to be the fittest woman in all of Africa when she recently won the women’s division of the CrossFit Games Africa Regional…

Did you enter the CrossFit Africa Regional expecting to win?
Yes and no. I mean I trained to win, I told myself I was going to win. I visualised receiving the medal and all of that jazz. At the same time I was more than aware that it is a long weekend. I have no control over what others do, how well they have trained, tapered, etc. I could have gotten injured (which I did), my mind could have played games with me, or I could have gotten ill.

I think one needs to think one is going to win if one enters a competition. I wanted it badly and two weeks before I was feeling so strong that I actually told my colleague that I was going to win. I told myself that, I did not want to consider something else.

Did you perform as well as you expected to and where there any surprises?
Another yes and no. I expected to do well with “Jackie”, like under 8 minutes, around 7:25-7:30, but high altitude decided otherwise. The OHS squats went wrong and I ended up doing five sets of three instead of the two I had in mind. This resulted in me not being able to complete the 30 muscle-ups of which I knew I could do.

Event 4, I went in thinking I would win. My left leg said otherwise and I ended up moving as if I was in a swamp. I also believe that I tapered way too late. But hey, live and learn.Event 5, I expected to win and remain ahead of Rika, but it didn’t happen. I had to be shipped to first aid for my knee and lack of air twice on day two. Event 6 turned out very painful in those shoulder to overheads. I was proper gassed! Did not expect it to be as bad, as I had had gone through these in a fatigued state.

Which competitor stood out to you in your division?
Several actually. Rika, for kicking my butt several times. Her rowing is like watching ballet. Beatrix, oh my gosh, those deadlifts and box jumps! I wish I had seen it. Mona and her beautiful Olympic Weightlifting technique – looks so sharp. Nicole, for her beautiful butterfly pull-ups. And our beastess, miss Celestie, unaffiliated, whom I believe will kick some serious ass next season.

How was training preparation for the Regional?
Not great. I moved from Europe in January, and it took me a long time to get used to the heat, new place, new life. The Open came and I was so broken and unfit. It took me a long time to recover from a botched squat-clean that busted both my wrists and left me unable to do any type of press. Good old canoeing injury played up, so no OHS work until the WODs for the Regional were announced. Not exactly the best preparation. But, hey.

What was the level of competition like at the Regional?
Higher than last year, that is for sure, and yay for that! I think we all had to bring our best into the game – it makes us better in the long run. And it was a lot more fun, of course. There was some serious sparring!

How has your training changed (if it has) leading up to the CrossFit Games, as opposed to when you had prepared for the Regional?
I moved more towards endurance, lactic capacity, less focused on strength gains, but more on maintenance. Loads of gymnastics technique.

What is your goal for the CrossFit Games?
I want to be proud of my results, feel like I was at my fittest and that I did what my body and mind could.

How does it feel to represent your continent on a world stage?
So proud! I mean this is my continent. And that lion logo… hear me roar!

What was the highlight of the Regional?
Winning event number 6. Oh, and doing my 21 deadlifts unbroken when during the warm-up I felt so broken, I was wondering if I would make five, never mind 21.

What are you looking most forward to at the CrossFit Games?
The whole experience! And seeing friends afterwards – there are so many from Europe. But that will be post competition.

Julian Reichman-Israelsohn – CrossFit Platinum Captain

CrossFit Platinum

It took a solid group effort for CrossFit Platinum to once again pull off the W for the team division of the CrossFit Games Africa Regional. Team captain Julian Reichman-Israelsohn pulled out all the stops to help lead his team to victory. He is a CrossFit competition vet and an outstanding athlete…

Did CrossFit Platinum enter the CrossFit Games Africa Regional expecting to win?
Yes, we did put a team together and trained for the Regional in the hope that we will have a shot at retaining, and defending the title of Fittest Team in Africa, for the second successive year.

Did you perform as well as you expected to and where there any surprises?
The first workout didn’t quite go according to plan, but we pulled through. Most of the workouts did go according to plan and we made slight adjustments along the way to the strategies as the weekend unfolded.

Which competitors stood out in your division?
We had an idea of a couple of really strong competitors that wanted to do battle. Our biggest and friendliest rivals were Wilna and her team from CrossFit PBM out of Pretoria.

How was training preparation for the CrossFit Games Africa Regional?

It was long and hard – lots of early mornings and late nights. But that is the way it goes. We started the Regional campaign by redoing all the past Regional and Games team workouts. Once the workouts were released, we started fine tuning and preparing the various team members for their various workouts.

Considering that your team is a bit different from last year in terms of members, is your team stronger or have they improved?
The team is definitely stronger and improved over last year’s team. We are very lucky to have the highest calibre of athlete at CrossFit Platinum. This also gives us the depth needed in choosing a strong team.

What is your goal for the CrossFit Games this year, as opposed to last year?
We are going to the Games to gain some more Games experience for the team members that did not go last year. This will help up the number of athletes in the gym with Games experience to around nine. This is valuable experience that gets passed onto every member of the box, and it helps develop the general members on their CrossFit journey, as well as helps develop the budding Regional and Games athletes. We definitely want to do better than we did last year. We will certainly give it our best shot.

Was the level of competitors at the CrossFit Games Africa Regional higher this year and is it progressing to a point where it is getting harder to maintain that top spot?
Absolutely! All you have to do is look at the numbers from the CrossFit Games Open 2013, and the previous years of the Open and Regional. There were three times as many competitors participating in the Open. There were three times as many teams as last year and athletes at the CrossFit Games Africa Regional. And, there are more than three times as many CrossFit affiliates that have opened within the last year. So defending the top spot is far more difficult and it will get even more difficult next year too.

As captain, how do you maintain team motivation and moral?
That is always a difficult one, because of the time of year that our (Africa) Regional falls. As we come into winter and the temperatures drops in the mornings and the evenings, the athletes find it ever more difficult to get going. The biggest motivator is knowing how hard the other teams and athletes are working and you just have to remind them that they have a chance of going to the Games in USA and experiencing it in person. That is the Holy Grail for any CrossFitter.

Has anything changed in terms of the coaching side or/and did you bring in any specialists to help with preparation for the CrossFit Games?
I changed a couple of things this year. I gave a little more freedom in that I gave a certain number of sessions that needed to be completed within the week. None of the athletes are professional athletes and everyone has a day job, and some have families. These variables play havoc with the scheduling of sessions, so making the athletes accountable for their own sessions seemed to help. We also had each member spend time with our in-house psychologist to see whether we could help prepare the mental side of the athletes. And then it was also just making sure that they all stayed healthy on the inside and kept the flu going around at bay.

What are your thoughts of Africa’s fittest athletes? Are there any other questions that you would like to ask them? 

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