The debut episode of Spartan Games™, presented by Harley-Davidson, was jam-packed with controversy, smack talk, and incredible athletic feats.
The four-day competition, pitting 24 of the fittest athletes on earth against each other in rural Vermont, was comprised of 10 grueling events across a diverse list of disciplines, from OCR to swimming to wrestling to functional fitness (and so much more). The premiere episode covered Day 1's events: Spartan Cross, the XTERRA Open-Water Swim, and the Highland Games.
We've rounded up the five craziest moments from Episode 1 to get you prepped and ready for the full viewing experience. Check out the highlights, and watch the full episode above. (And don't forget to stream the next three episodes, airing exclusively on Spartan's YouTube channel.)
1) Was It a Punch or a 'Love Tap?'
It didn't take long for things to get feisty between two of the more outspoken competitors at the Games, Murph world record holder Hunter McIntyre and Spartan pro Aaron Newell. During the Spartan Cross, the first event of the competition, McIntyre smacked Newell in the stomach as he was passing him. Understandably upset and caught off guard, he launched the bucket he was carrying at McIntyre's back.
"You suck a** dude," an amped-up McIntyre told Newell. "Welcome to the f***ing jungle. It's all weekend long, baby."
When asked to explain what was behind the slap, the Million Dollar Mile defender maintained that he was just having fun, and argued that it was a harmless gesture that shouldn't be taken too seriously.
"I slapped you," he protested when recreating the incident. "You threw a bucket at my back. That's called assault vs. assault with a deadly weapon ... Watch the guy. His heart rate got up. He couldn't hang with the pros, and he f***ing fell off."
2) As Many Laps As Possible
When you think of Spartan races, swimming doesn't come to mind. But at the Spartan Games, athletes were forced to come out of their comfort zones and tackle unfamiliar disciplines. Cue the XTERRA Open-Water Swim. The athletes entered the 55-degree Vermont water and had to perform as many laps as possible in 45 minutes. (The laps are approximately 200 meters.) HYROX Home Series winner Lauren Weeks and triathlete Jarrod Shoemaker prevailed in this event.
3) Let's Go to the Tape
More McIntyre drama ensued during the Highland Games, the third event of the day. McIntyre edged former NFL linebacker Curt Maggitt in the Tug of War — or did he? After McIntyre was declared the winner in excruciatingly close fashion, Maggitt requested that the footage be reviewed to see if his opponent's foot had touched the line.
"He f***ing touched the line," the former University of Tennessee star said. "I want to see the video."
For the second time on Day 1, McIntyre felt that he had been treated unfairly, and the two strongmen had some words. Maggitt, for his part, just wanted to see the tape. (Virtually all close plays in the NFL are reviewed to confirm that calls are correct. Spartan agreed that the request was a reasonable one.)
After further inspection, it was deemed that there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the decision, and the controversial call was upheld.
4) It's Anybody's Games
None of the athletes really knew what to expect upon arriving at Joe De Sena's farm, and that was evident on Day 1. Take Lindsay Webster, for example. One of the most successful OCR racers in the world — of all time, for that matter — she was at a disadvantage in the strength events, and she was visibly surprised by what she was being asked to do. Spartan fans are used to seeing her win almost everything — it feels that way, at least — but the Spartan Games are a different animal entirely.
"I guess coming into the event, I thought that it would be more obstacle racing-oriented," the two-time Spartan World Champion said. "I didn't expect there to be so much heavy lifting-related sort of things. I was at such a disadvantage because I wasn't able to lift any of the heavy stuff."
Discount her at your own peril, of course. She generally finds a way to come out on top regardless of circumstance, and we know better than to doubt her. But if you're trying to handicap these Games, good luck. This event truly is the first of its kind.
5) Setting the Strength Standard
Faith Cooke stole the show during the Heavy Stones portion of the Highland Games. The competitors had to lift five extremely heavy rocks and set them down (or throw them over the wall) as fast as possible. The elite CrossFit competitor dominated the competition, lifting and heaving stones of 70 pounds, 95 pounds, 125 pounds, 150 pounds, and 160 pounds in a ridiculous 16 seconds.
"It was incredible to watch her do her thing," McIntyre said.