Five Storylines I’m Watching in Dubai
On Wednesday, the Dubai CrossFit Championship ushers in a new era of the CrossFit Games. With all that will be taking place over four days of competition, here are five major storylines to brush up on before things get going in the desert.
First to Go, First to Show
Being both the first competition to be sanctioned, and the first to take place, the execution on all levels of the Dubai CrossFit Championship stands to be a seminal moment in this new chapter of the CrossFit Games.
All eyes will be on Dubai, and therein lies the potential to either instill faith in the CrossFit community for this new system, or sow seeds of doubt in the viability of Greg Glassman’s new vision for the sport of fitness.
Under the previous format, the CrossFit Games season was a well-oiled machine, so setting a strong precedent after change will be key. Plenty of season details are unclear, but the Dubai CrossFit Championship has the goods for a great first impression.
Past, Present, Future of the Women’s Comp
Perusing over the loaded women’s roster for the competition, I can’t help but pause over the names of three athletes in particular – Sam Briggs, Sara Sigmundsdottir, and Laura Horvath.
Briggs, a critical member of the old guard of the sport, has spent nearly a decade wowing fans with ridiculous feats of endurance and sheer grit. Since winning the Games in 2013, she’s been one of the sport’s best ambassadors, but a string of injuries in recent years has slowed the Engine from England and added obstacles in her training. After competing in the Master’s division in 2018, will Briggs return to top form to teach the young guns of the sport another lesson?
Since bursting onto the scene in 2015, and nearly winning the Games her rookie year, Sara Sigmundsdottir has been one of the faces of the women’s competition. After back-to-back podium finishes to start her career, she regressed ever so slightly to fourth in 2017, before withdrawing last year due to a broken 9th rib. She’s a fan-favorite, and at her best, Sigmundsdottir has the talent to win it all. However, with coaching changes, locations changes, and injuries in recent years the question remains: will she?
Twenty-one-year-old Laura Horvath was the breakout athlete of the 2018 season. The youngarian (young +hungarian, I’m trademarking it), captured the attention of the CrossFit world by finishing 2nd overall at the Games on the back of three spectacular event wins. She pushed Champ Tia-Clair Toomey all week long, and put the women’s field on notice that she’ll be a top contender for years to come. Can she take the next step this year and live up to the lofty expectations?
Each athlete represents a different stage in the growth and development of the CrossFit Games, and each has enjoyed tremendous success along the way. All three will take the competition floor Wednesday hoping that the next chapter of their career at the CrossFit Games starts with a top spot in Dubai.
Get with the Program(ming)
Similar to the affiliate system that grants CrossFit boxes freedom to run their own business, so too will Sanctioned events have leeway with programming for their event. Most of these events have 3-5 years of quality competition under their belt, but now the stakes are much higher to produce programming worthy of the fittest on earth.
I’m extremely curious to see how the new sanctioned status affects the quality and volume of the programming for each event. Dubai has already announced a handful of workouts, and so far the outlook is promising.
No doubt other events will be watching carefully to see how the DCF programs and manages the workload for their athletes. The CrossFit Games are still 9 months away, meaning a significant amount of training and competition is on the menu for 69 individuals, and 9 teams that won’t be leaving Dubai with a ticket to the Games.
Return of the King
Three-time reigning and defending CrossFit Games Champion Mat Fraser returns to the competition floor to start his campaign for a 4th consecutive title at the 2019 Games.
I could legitimately stop right there because as long as Fraser is in the field and competing, the major storyline for the men’s competition starts and stops with him. For the last 3 years he’s been untouchable in live competition.
Since his reign of terror began in 2016, he’s taken home 14 event wins in 19 events at Regionals. Against the fittest men in the world at the Games, he’s taken part in 42 separate events and finished all but 3 of them in the top 10.
The season changes could potentially benefit him the most. If he wins in Dubai, and anything less would be a huge upset, the entirety of 2019 leading up to the Games can be spent training specifically for the Games. Yikes.
Desert Dark Horses
I have to admit, I’m a dark horse fanatic. During my last 7 plus years covering the CrossFit Games my favorite segments were always picking dark horse qualifiers.
There are a handful of dark horses that I’m excited to see compete in Dubai. The likelihood that one of them walks away with a spot to the CrossFit Games is slim, but a strong performance early in the season could be the impetus for a strong rest of the season (Laura Horvath anyone?)
Gabriela Migala — Finished sixth as a 19-year-old at the loaded Europe Regional. Competed at the Games in the teenage division in 2016, and should end up at the Games via the Open after being the fittest woman in Poland the last two years.
Roman Khrennikov — He was one of the surprise stories of 2018 after winning the 2018 Europe Regional. Unfortunately visa issues prevented him from competing at the Games and it broke my heart. Call me old fashioned but I was really looking forward to a Rocky IV style USA vs. Russia storyline between him and Fraser if he was able to make it to Madison. At least we’ll get to see them square off in Dubai.
Dani Speegle — Speegle has the distinction along with Migala of qualifying for both Dubai and Wodapalooza in January. The latter qualifier Speegle actually won. She finished 8th at the Atlantic Regional last year, but the quality of competition, and level of programming will be much more extensive. She’s shown she can hang in the classic CrossFit workouts seen typically in online qualifiers. Dubai is an opportunity to show she can compete at the next level.