With just one Sanctional left to go before the 2019 CrossFit Games, it is a good time to look at some initial trends from the inaugural Sanctional season.

Two things that stand out: Seven women will be competing at the CrossFit Games as Individuals who did not do the Open.  Also, there is a significant participation difference between Games-qualified men and women in the Sactional season.

  • The seven: Michelle Merand (Fittest in Cape Town), Emma Tall (Strength in Depth), Erin Vandendriessche (Italian Showdown), Hanna Karlsson (Reykjavik CrossFit Championship), Rachel Garibay (Rogue Invitational), Alice Mille (CrossFit Lowlands Throwdown), and Emily Rolfe (Granite Games).
  • This equates to half of all CrossFit Games athletes invited through Sanctionals to date.
  • Also interesting about these seven, so far they competed in only one Sanctional as an Individual (Garibay and Vandendriessche did another as well on a Team). Note that Tall and Mille are qualified for the French Throwdown as Individuals.
  • By comparison: Every male athlete going to the CrossFit Games did the Open.

Food for thought: This phenomenon is either a very interesting coincidence for the women only, or there is something to be said about skipping the Open in lieu of Sanctionals preparation.

One potential factor for all the women Games-qualifiers who did not do the Open is that more of the top women from the Open participated in more Sanctionals compared to the top men.  Thus, the backfilling process went further down the Sanctionals’ leaderboards to find their Games qualifier.

  • Of the current 148 Games-qualified men, 47 (32%) have competed in at least one Sanctional as an Individual.
  • Whereas for the current 135 Games-qualified Women, 61 (45%) have competed in at least one Sanctional as an Individual.

Where the numbers really start to stand out are with the top women and men from the Open (see table below).

Sanctionals Competed Did not compete in Sanctionals as Ind.
Women Men Women Men
Open Top 5 16 5 0 2
Open Top 10 23 10 0 2
Open Top 15 31 20 0 4
Open Top 20 35 27 1 4
Open Top 25 41 30 1 6
Open Top 30 48 35 1 6

Significantly more top women in the Open were competing in Sanctionals than men. Thus, there were more chances for women qualifying spots out of Sanctionals to be passed down than men (assuming the top people in the Open would be expected to fill up more of the Sanctionals podiums, etc). You can see how this played out in the table below of Sanctional qualifiers.

Woman Qualifier Place Man Qualifier Place
Dubai CF Championships Bethany Shadburne 7th Roman Khrennikov 5th
Wodapalooza CF Festival Taylor Streid 9th Noah Ohlsen 3rd
Australian CF Championship Maddie Sturt 2nd James Newbury 1st
CF Fittest in Cape Town Michelle Merand 5th Sean Sweeney 1st
Strength in Depth Emma Tall 8th Bronislaw Olenkowicz 1st
Mid-Atlantic CF Challenge Meg Reardon 1st John Paul Hethcock 1st
CF Italian Showdown Erin Vandendriessche 1st Lukas Esslinger 4th
Asia CF Championship Eik Gylfadottir 2nd Brent Fikowski 1st
Reykjavik CrossFit Championship Hanna Karlsson 5th Hinrik Ingi Oskarsson 2nd
Down Under CrossFit Championship Lindsay Vaughan 5th Matt McLeod 1st
Brazil CF Championship Paige Semenza 2nd Will Moorad 1st
The Rogue Invitational Rachel Garibay 11th Chandler Smith 5th
CF Lowlands Throwdown Alice Mille 1st Ryan Sowder 1st
Granite Games Emily Rolfe 1st Nick Bloch 3rd

It will be interesting to see if this phenomenon continues next season. There may be more Sanctional Games-qualifiers that skip the Open given nearly double the number of Sanctionals on next season’s calendar along with keeping the Open Top 20 as a qualifier to the 2020 Games.

One key factor that could change this trend is how the 2019 CrossFit Games play out. We have been told that 2019 Games seeding would be based on Open performance. Having a better seed is advantageous for getting in the later heats where the best times/scores will be mostly coming from. More importantly, given the number of individual competitors will be roughly tripled from recent Games fields, better seedings could potentially grant initial byes from the earlier “weed-out” events.


Hanna Karlsson | Emma Tall | Michele Merand | Erin Vandenriessche


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