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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Quick Regional Programming Thoughts

As much as I was hoping to have my regional predictions set up to go this week, I wasn't able to make that happen. A confluence of events over the last month - a 5-hour actuarial exam, a trip out of town to have my son baptized, my wife's birthday and numerous trips to the chiropractor/ART to try to fix some back issues that flared up after the Open - pretty much made that impossible for me. By next week, I do expect to be able to produce my stochastic regional predictions (like I did for the final two weeks of last year's season). But for this week, your guess is as good as mine about who will claim the first 24 spots at the Games.

That being said, I did have time to do a bit of work assessing the programming for this year's Regionals. Here are my thoughts:
  • Overall, I like the programming. In particular, I think events 3-6 seem to me to be well-balanced workouts that should be fun to watch.
  • Events 1 and 2 introduce a ton of volatility into the situation. Only getting 3 attempts on the hang snatch means we could see some top athletes get burned by taking a gamble on those 2nd and 3rd lifts. And a max handstand walk on a single attempt gives plenty of opportunity for a catastrophic failure that could cost an otherwise fit athlete a shot at the Games. In my opinion, I don't think this event really helps us find the fittest athletes, and it may end up preventing some really stellar athletes from making it.
  • Event 7 is really a wait-and-see event for me. It seems like a really weird design for a workout to have just 8 reps of the overhead squat, since it doesn't seem like it gives enough time for athletes to make up ground on that movement. But hopefully I'm wrong and this event turns out to be a better test of fitness than it appears to be on paper, especially considering it's the finale.
  • This year's regional is in some ways the heaviest regionals to date and in some ways the lightest. When weights are involved, the average relative load (1.55 men, 0.98 women) is the highest in the past four years. However, the programming is only 37% lifting, the smallest percentage of any Regionals. In fact, the 2011 Games is the only HQ competition with a lower percentage (34%).
  • When you combine those two factors, you get an load-based emphasis on lifting (LBEL) of 0.58 for men and 0.36 for women, both slightly lower than 2011 and 2013 and much lower than 2012. The chart below shows the progression of each of these metrics at the Regionals since 2011.

  • All-in-all, I believe this year's Regionals look more like the Games than in any past year. And what that means to me is that the emphasis is on strength, both in terms of weightlifting and very challenging bodyweight movements (like legless rope climbs or strict handstand push-ups). Don't get me wrong, you can't do well here without a high level of conditioning, but you will be punished much harder for lacking in strength.
  • Look for handstand push-ups and legless rope climbs to completely decimate the women's leaderboard. With the legless rope climbs, we saw how much variability there was at the Games last year. As far as handstand push-ups, keep in mind that before kipping became common (think 2011 and earlier), this was an extremely difficult movement for many top women, even at the Games.
  • With that in mind, here are some athletes that should do well this programming: Lucas Parker, Josh Bridges, Lacee Kovacs, Chris Spealler, Matthew Fraser, Elizabeth Akinwale, Talayna Fortunato, Annie Thorisdottir, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet.
  • Beyond those names, all the podium athletes from last year's Games should do fine. I'm just not sure they will fare any better because of this programming.
That's it for today. I hope you all enjoy the opening weekend of Regionals, and I'll see you again next week.


  1. "In my opinion, I don't think this event really helps us find the fittest athletes, and it may end up preventing some really stellar athletes from making it."

    I couldn't help but think about this statement as I watched Stacie Tovar miss out on her 6th trip to the Games. I didn't see the handstand walk but it clearly tanked her weekend.

    1. Yep, although it looked like she still had a chance until Event 5. No doubt the HS walk was the primary reason she missed out, though.

      I just don't quite get why they couldn't have counted events 1 & 2 as 50% points each or something. Is a one-attempt HS walk really worth the same value as something like Event 4 or Event 6? It will be interesting to see at the end of the regionals if the HS walk is really correlated with high finishes across the other events.