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Every now and then in sports athletes come into the final day of competition and perform so well that there is no chance of them losing.  Tiger Woods did this in 1997 at the Masters.  Lebron James will do this tonight versus the Pacers.  Yesterday, Matt and Natalie were just simply unbeatable.

Podium girls

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Podium men

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Event 6 proved, as we suspected, to be the toughest event of the weekend.  After 2 days of posterior loading and severe testing of durability, moving a heavy axle over your head and down the floor proved to be more a test of will than fitness.  However, both athletes finished well holding their standings in the top 3.  The key to that workout was smart sets on HSPU, attentiveness to the fatigue in their shoulders, and pure unadulterated guts.  Watch those events here and here and you will see some of the most determined athletes I have ever worked with giving all they have to get that stupid axle across the finish line.  I loved this event because in practice this event seems fun, glamorous, and fast.  Both athletes had the expectation of smooth, fast push jerks and no stops down the floor on their lunges.  What they experienced was a much different more grueling, gruesome event.  With his pupils dilated and body almost catatonic Matt looked at me and said, “that was way more fun in practice.”  Day 2 had begun to take its toll.
nat lunge

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Coming into event 7 both athletes sat in second.  Natalie had an 8 point cushion heading into event 7 and Matt had a 4 point advantage.  Neither would need that many points.  Natalie gave me a scare falling from the rope on round 2 and missing a couple cleans along the way.  I could see her body simply losing the ability to continue after a pretty intense weekend of workouts.  Natalie was the smallest girl in the competition (and likely in the Games).  Combine here size with a sore, tired body, a 15 foot rope and 16 cleans above 70% and it did not surprise me to see her struggle a bit.  However, with unprecedented poise and control, Natalie slowly edged her way back toward the leaders finishing right where she needed to.  Her advantage is her squat.  She hit every single clean in the rock bottom of the squat and bounced out with a fury.  She has done this from day one and it makes her cleans faster than everyone else, especially with everyone’s legs and backs so tired and sore.  One of my favorite memories of the weekend happened immediately after Natalie touched her feet to the finish mat.  She looked at me and asked if she did it.  I nodded and the look of elation as she put her hands in the air and tossed her eyes to the ceiling is a joy I have longed for her to experience for 365 long days.
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Matt, as opposed to Natalie, only had a 4 point cushion and had THE Chris Spealler was sitting one point behind him.  Matt left no doubt on this workout.  He followed our plan to a tee.  After round 2, Matt was even with the leaders (Spealler, Chan, Forrest) but his desire and love for the Olympic lifts would prove to be his advantage.  My last advice to Matt as he took the floor was to make sure he finished the second pull on EVERY clean.  We knew everyone’s posterior chain and midline was shot after the weekend’s events.  I also knew that with a fried posterior chain and no support in the midline there would be a huge tendency to short that second pull, leaving the bar out front with no midline to squat the bar up.  This problem would eventually lead to a rounded upper back slowing leading to slow returns from the bottom of the clean.  The slower the squat, the more time under tension, the more fatigue.  Matt was perfect in his rope climbs and perfect in his cleans.  He slowly took the lead on round 3 and as he headed into his last rope climb he had a sizable lead over his competition.  Matt knew it and raised his hands in the air running down the arena floor.  Matt would finish the event with poise and perfection, just like he started the event, landing him 19 seconds ahead of his closest competitor and sealing his ticket to the Games.
matt final wod finish

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For all of us this regional was redemptive.  Natalie after her incredible start last year only to fail in front of a 70lb DB.  (which was constantly brought up all weekend). Matt after getting chased down on day three last year certainly felt a little redemption as he was clutch on day three this year.  For me this weekend served as a little redemption after being so close with Hoggan and Ingrid last weekend.
I can’t be more excited for these two athletes.  They have worked harder than most will ever know or understand.  They have trained on the hard days when their mind, body, and friends are telling them to rest.  They never let a bad performance kill their spirits and were at their best all weekend long.  I need to give a little shout out to Chris Stowe and Will D for incredible performances this weekend as well.  I love seeing athletes show up and out-perform their expectation.
nat cleans

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All weekend long I prayed privately and with my athletes that God would grant us the ability and courage to demonstrate all that He had blessed us with.  God has granted these athletes some incredible talent, ability, and the mindset to train it and demonstrate it.  All weekend long I felt like the Lord was really reminding me that my coaching, their performances, and the event standings were His to give and control.  He only asks that we give all we can with all our heart and at the end of the day He get the glory.  Great weekend.  As I sit in the airport ready to fly back home all that has happened this weekend have begun to set in.  Thankful is about the only word I can think of.  And anxious.  We’re not done yet…
For His Name’s Sake.
To God be the Glory.
“Be strong, and let us use our strength for our people and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.”  – 1 Chronicles 19:13
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