Kettlebell Lifting, Handstand Walking and a Lot of Mystery

“The variety of the tasks is how you can have confidence that the winner is the fittest in the world,” Bergh said. As he described the most difficult events, Bergh singled out the Murph, which was named for Michael Murphy, a Navy lieutenant and Medal of Honor recipient who died in Afghanistan in 2005. The event consists of a mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and then another mile run.

Mathew Fraser, 29, a former competitive weight lifter from Tennessee, has won the last three men’s titles and took an early lead this year by winning both of the first day’s events.

Tia-Clair Toomey, 26, had a running background, then began doing CrossFit and went on to represent Australia in weight lifting at the 2106 Summer Olympics. She is a two-time defending champion and as of Friday was in contention again.

“I’m really happy with that performance,” Toomey said, “but we don’t know what’s coming, and you just have to take advantage.”

CrossFit gyms have become known for their challenging “workouts of the day,” and the organization has sometimes been criticized for pushing ordinary athletes too far, encouraging them to risk injury. During the CrossFit Games, the workouts of the day tend to match the events the elite athletes are performing.

“They vary by degree but not kind,” Bragh said, adding that “a grandmother would scale the workout down.”

Many competitors in Madison struggled to meet the time limits in the early events. Fraser, though, displayed an almost blasé confidence after winning the row/kettlebell lift/handstand walk event in 5 minutes 37.02 seconds.

“It’s all about the transitions,” he said. “Keeping it cool on the row. Trying to get as few no-reps as you can on the thrusters, then kick up whenever you feel ready.”