Rob Orlando and Chris Spealler

2010 CrossFit Games Finals

Men's Epic Matchup 2: Speal and Orlando

Two athletes bring largely different strengths to the competition

Chris Spealler and Rob Orlando are two of CrossFit's best known and most liked athletes. In some ways, though, they couldn't be more different. Last year in Aromas, they had a near inverse finishing order on the first two events. Chris was first on the run and 71st on the deadlift while Orlando was 66th on the run and first on the deadlift.

In similar fashion, Chris is known for being the first in our community to hit 100 consecutive pull-ups, and Rob is known for great feats of strength-endurance, such as 50 cleans at 225lbs in 6:44 and the 200lb Bear. After disappointing finishes last year, both men have taken strides in the past year to improve their respective weaknesses. Speal, the bodyweight master, has been lifting heavy and hard, seeing great strength gains. Orlando, the strongman behemoth, has brought on running coaches to help improve his overall game. The result? Dominant victories in the Northwest and Northeast Regionals, respectively.

At 31 years old, Speal is smaller in stature than most CrossFit Games competitors. At 5'5" and just over a buck 40, he's the smallest qualifying male at the HDC this year. Chris is in an elite group of peers who will have competed in all four years of Games individual competition (the others are James Fitzgerald, Peter Egyed, and Breck Berry). In three years of competition, his worst overall finish was 25th (2009). He finished 4th in 2007 and 10th in the 2008 Games, after entering the final workout in first place before heavy weight dashed his chances and changed the game. He is a revered competitor and has been the spark for speculation of whether a "small guy can ever win the Games." 

Aside from the deadlift event last year, Speal finished 2 out of his 5 WODs in the top 5, one of those was a first place finish on the run. In addition to the Games, he is often put in the limelight and has performed consistently well (read improved) over a long period of time.  

As he has never pre-qualified, Chris has dominated his region competition for the past two years, taking a commanding first place in both 2009 and 2010. In 2009 he owned every event at the Great Basin Regional, taking 3 for 3 as the top finisher and finishing the last event 4 minutes ahead of his closes competitor. In 2010 he was first in every event but one - the deadlift event.

Chris is best well known for his running abilities and an amazing ability to move his own bodyweight incredibly fast. Speal finished first in every incarnation of a run event held at the Ranch in Aromas for the three years that competition was held there. In 2009 he was 8th in the sandbag sprint. He inspired the community and opened up new possibilities with his quest for 100 pullups. This - in conjunction with benchmark numbers like 38 rounds of Cindy (24 if he's wearing a 20lb. vest) and an 18:31 Linda at 20 pounds over his body weight make most gymnastic-heavy events laughable for Chris.

His work with heavy weight is nothing to frown upon. He has proven that he can move big weight, fast - up to a certain point. In a recent matchup with Khalipa at a level one certification he attacked a WOD heavy on weight and reps: one clean and jerk (155 lb.) and a round Cindy, two clean and jerks and a round of Cindy, and so on for 10 rounds. The total numbers: 55 reps of 155-lb. clean and jerks (squat not required) plus 50 pull-ups, 100 push-ups and 150 squats. Chris crushed it, beating Khalipas time by 2 minutes and 10 seconds. He has increased his deadlift now to over 400 pounds, nearly triple his bodyweight.

Orlando stepped onto the CrossFit Games scene in 2009 with a 5th place finish at the Northeast regional competition. His performance was well balanced, but his background was unique. Orlando has been competing in strongman competitions since 2005, taking 1st place in the last 3 and 11 out of 15 of the last single events within those contests (most strongman contests have 5 events in a day). He has set a number of NAS (North American Strongman) records including: 
1. 240 pound log clean and press each rep for 60 seconds
2. 240 pound log clean once and press for reps in 60 seconds
3. 365 pound axle clean and press...That's a Lightweight (under 231 pounds) record but it also beat the HW record of 363 pounds.

Orlando is more than a strongman, though. His capacities are broad, if not scary. The video of his one -armed Fran was a conversation starter on CrossFit.com and Rob has been featured on the site often. He is 5'8 and 196 pounds. A much larger athlete than Spealler. In 2009, he did well in the deadlift event, but he gassed on the run, putting him out of contention for day 2. Other than the run, his worst finish was 27th and he walked through the deadlift event without breaking a sweat. He was 17th in the couplet and 14th in the sandbag sprint.

When it comes to strength - regardless the duration - Rob owns the field. To list few feats of strength: Rob jerks 300 pounds… for a set of 10; his axle clean is nearly 400 pounds; He has completed 'Grace' at 225 pounds in under 5 minutes; He can rep out double bodyweight backsquats (380 pounds) for eleven reps; He completed 50 cleans at 225 in 6:44. He also owns a record for his 365 pound axle press. His CrossFit total is 1,309....475 squat, 241 press, 593 deadlift.

Orlando's capacities leant themselves well and whatever tweaks he has made to his training to accommodate CrossFit are working. He hammered the Northeast Regional, taking first in every event but one (he finished 7th, and no it was not a run). He hit a 300 pound, 3 rep max on the clean and jerk. He finished the couplet almost a full minute in front of second place. He also marched through the "Albany Crippler" chipper 37 seconds ahead of second place and a full minute in front of the fourth place finisher.

He has been hitting his weaknesses aggressively, running under the tutelage of Brian Mackenzie. He has lots of competition experience and has stated that he is coming to win this year. "Running is just not that scary anymore," says Orlando. "Jason Leydon and Brian McKenzie have put together a program for me to follow that allows me to maintain (or increase) my strength while improving my run times. They've made me a better athlete and a better CrossFitter. My mile time trial is 5:59:91. That's down from over 7 minutes just 4 months ago. I just tested a 2 mile time trial the other day and ran it in 13:06"

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20 comments on this entry

1. Z wrote...

Called this one... Both are wonderful guys with impressive feats of CrossFit-itude (or CrossFit-osity???). I'm looking forward to seeing how they have addressed their respective weaknesses and how they will perform this year in multiple workouts over broad time and modal domains. Good luck to both of them!

2. merle wrote...

anyone get the feeling that this feels like the weeks leading up to the super bowl?

3. Daniel wrote...

This year is going to be the most competitive. I can't wait to see how much these athletes have improved. 2 quality guys as well. The best are the most humble.

4. Drew wrote...

Merle - Man, this is bigger than the Super Bowl for me!

5. Becky wrote...

Rooting for you Chris! Go get em!

6. Jason Ackerman wrote...

We need a prime-time special like they give fighters before a big fight!

7. jim wrote...

Two of my favorite athlete, love watching there videos throughout the year. I think spealer will be able to address his weaknesses better than rob, this should put him in with a real chance of the win.... go chris

8. Anton wrote...

I agree that these two are two great athletes and obviously very different in body types. I'm personally rooting hard for Speal. He's about 10 lbs bigger than me and I'm constantly surprised by a ton of his weight numbers as well as his bodyweight results. Whenever I think I'm doing well, I just look at his results and realize there's room for improvement... also, he's a great supporter and humble.
Good luck guys and stay fit.

9. Jeff wrote...

First, nothing but total respect for both athletes!

Speal - four years straight in the big games. That's an awful lot of top level competition, and says a lot about his ability. I'm impressed by his strength numbers, relative to his body weight! And his ability to move his own body weight is astonishing.

Orlando - strength that I can't even imagine! Also goes triple his body weight on dead lift, but weighs nearly 50 pounds more than Speal. His ability to rep high weight numbers is almost unmatched (Khalipa maybe).

In the end, I think Rob, by lowering his body weight and improving his run puts him in much better position to be a challenger for the top spot than Speal by increasing his strength numbers. Speal still only weighs 140, and while a triple body weight dead lift is impressive, it puts his top numbers well below the elite crossfitters numbers (also true of squat, clean/jerk, snatch, etc.). So I think the top couple of guys' strength numbers will always be a separating factor for Speal. Orlando is one of those guys.

I think Speal still finishes well (top 10). I think Orlando really pushes Miko and Khalipa and some unknown entity for the top spot this year!

Good luck to both and to all the competitors!!

10. bmack wrote...

one question... Whats your Fran time in 100+ degrees? ;)

11. Jason Lyons wrote...

I love reading these things. I mean, these two are absolute beasts as well. Their numbers are redonkulous. People say Speal can't move weight but he has a 400 pound dead at 138. People say Rob can't run but he has a 6 minute mile while pressing a small car. ANIMALS! In my mind, there is no way of telling who has a better chance of winning. I said it in the Mikko/Kalipa thread and I will say it here. It is a coin toss for the Champion this year and a good helping of people have a legit chance.

Someone mentioned that this is like leading up to the Super Bowl...in made me think of card collecting. We had people in our box yesterday spewing Speal and Orlando stats like they were trading baseball cards back in 7th grade. "I will trade you my 2007 Games Speal for your 2009 Games Orlando". It is too funny how so many of us know the numbers these monsters are capable of generating....and we push our own bodies to the max in an attempt to do something similar.

I think HQ should reserve a corner of the Games arena floor for a "human" to do the WODs next to all of these beasts so the crowd does not lose perspective of what they are seeing. lol

Good luck to both of you.

12. Scott Lewis wrote...

Both great guys, and great athletes....whoever wins this year will be deserving, but I gotta say...GO ROB! You got this!

13. Grover Cleveland wrote...

CF should start drug testing the winners. Unless they plan to allow steroid use, they should start policing the athletes. Performance enhancing drugs find their way into every competition and CF will be no different.

14. rob orlando wrote...

Grover--

I completely agree. Test all the athletes randomly. I would volunteer to be tested throughout the year to help reinforce the idea that natural athletes can compete at the highest level.

15. Speal wrote...

I second that Rob. Well put.

16. Jordan D wrote...

Drew & Merle - definitely agree. Most of those organized sports don't hype me, but man the CF Games really get me going. I really hope they run a live feed this year like they did with the southwest regional. I want to watch the games as they're going on.

Both of these guys are totally inspiring in their own right and it's incredibly refreshing to see athletes of this calibre who don't think they're God's gift to the world, which is one of the main reasons CF has hooked me so much. It's like all these guys decided that hey, lets actually compete and push each other to be better at what we do instead of sitting around crying like a bunch of children in the sandbox. I hope these guys keep putting videos in the journal, I enjoy seeing what happens at their gyms; especially at Hybrid.

Keep it up guys. Really looking forward to see you guys give it your all and push the limits at the games.

17. jason leydon wrote...

I know Rob really well and he is as humble as anyone out there and is a rarity in this sport... father/gym owner/top notch crossfitter. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Spealer, but I have the utmost respect for his as a man and athlete. Rob and Speal put up amazing numbers and times while maintaining a family and a business. I feel that is even more amazing that they do the things they do with everything else on their plate. Both these guys are amazing athletes and this year is going to be completely nuts. Good luck to all the athletes competing.

18. Eric wrote...

These guys are what make CrossFit competition so amazing. Each are working on their weaknesses to round out their fitness. I normally root for the small guys - since I'm small, but this year I don't care because they both aren't relying on their singular strengths ----gonna be awesome!

19. spoet wrote...

These guys is the real muscle!I wish I could have so many muscle is a good shape

20. T wrote...

Love it! Good luck girls, can't wait to see all of the women compete, absolutely amazing athletes.

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