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Young Guns: The Next Generation Of Games Athletes

Jan 2, 2020 by

It’s Saturday morning of the 2019 CrossFit Games, and the whole community is reeling after the final cut narrowed the field to just ten athletes – eliminating a host of big names in the process. Among the final ten women was 18 year-old Haley Adams, who finished the weekend in sixth overall and earned herself rookie of the year honors in the process. Adams’ performance ushered in discussions about the future of the sport and who might be the next wave of CrossFit Games athletes.

The current leaders of the individual elite divisions came to the forefront during the 2014 and 2015 seasons when they inherited their spots from legends like Rich Froning, Kristan Clever, Jason Khalipa, Chris Spealler, and Julie Foucher. Eventually, Mat Fraser, Tia Toomey, and the rest will step aside for the next generation of athletes like Adams, but she won’t be alone. Below are a handful of talented young men and women who could step up to the plate and join her as future stars.

Justin Medeiros 

Age: 20  Country: United States  Notable Finish: 1st at the 2019 CrossFit Filthy 150

Why he’s legit: Years ago I wrote about Medeiros, who has been on the brink of breaking through to the Games for quite some time. His perseverance in the face of adversity points to an athlete mature beyond his years. In 2016 he finished 19th in the Open for the teenage boys 16-17 division, but that was the last year that they only took 10 athletes to the Games. The next two seasons, Medeiros would finish 15th, and 14th respectively at the California and West Regionals against an increasingly deeper talent pool as Regional reorganization combined the entire west coast and parts of Canada. In 2019 he was painfully close to earning a spot at the Games, missing the invite at the Granite Games by one place as he finished 4th after falling out of a podium spot on the final workout. Unfazed, Medieros and his coach Adam Neiffer went back to work and six months later Medeiros finally booked his Games ticket by winning the Filthy 150 ahead of a collection of Games veterans. He’s battle tested, and proven in live competition. 

Gabriela Migala 

Age: 21  Country: Poland   Notable Finish: 17th worldwide in the 2020 Open

Why she’s legit: Migala has been towards the top of the sport for the larger part of five seasons, starting with her third place finish at the Games as a teenager in 2016. Two years later, Migala finished 6th at the 2018 Europe Regional – missing the Games by one spot and setting an event record for the Triple 3 event that would stand until the final week. She’s finished in the top 30 worldwide in the Open for three consecutive years and once again qualified for the Games as the fittest in Poland with her best worldwide finish ever this season. Despite finishing 75th at the Games last year, she’s already shown improvement against the sport’s best, finishing fourth in Dubai last month (ahead of Jamie Greene) and never finishing lower than 8th in an event. That’s the type of consistency that will ensure her Games weekend lasts longer this year.

Luis Oscar Mora 

Age: 20  Country: Mexico  Notable Finish: 1st in Mexico in the 2020 Open

Why he’s legit: Luis Oscar Mora started his CrossFit Games career by finishing fourth at the Games as a teenager in 2016. That year he became a fan favorite, as a sizeable mexican fan base at the Games brought an infectious energy to the soccer stadium. In 2018 he barely missed qualifying by one spot after finishing second at the Latin America Regional. This year he’s in line pending review to become the fittest man in Mexico for the second time, earning himself a rookie trip to the Games as an individual. Latin America has yet to truly make it’s mark at the Games on the individual side of the house, but an athlete like Mora does provide hope for the future. At just 20 years old, he could be a perennial qualifier out of Mexico for quite some time, and taking the long term approach to his career means he can build experience at the Games for a handful of seasons before he even really starts to hit his athletic prime. 

Emma Cary and Olivia Sulek

Age: 16  Country: United States Notable Finishes: 1st at the CrossFit Games (Sulek ‘18, Cary ‘19, 14-15 division)

Why they’re legit: This would be tough to comprehend with only one athlete, but the fact that both Emma Cary and Olivia Sulek are in the same boat for this discussion is mind-boggling. Both are CrossFit Games champions in the teenage girls 14-15 division, and both very nearly became the first athletes since the creation of the teenage division to qualify as individuals for the CrossFit Games – a feat they could still accomplish next year. Through two weeks of the Open this year Cary was in the top-10 overall, and despite falling to 80th, she finished three of the five workouts in 12th or better worldwide, which is insane. Sulek didn’t have the flashy finishes that Cary had, but she kept things between the buoys better overall and finished 50th worldwide in the Open. We should get to see them battle it out at the Games in the teenage division, but their time at the Games as individuals could come sooner than later even though they’re barely old enough to get a driver’s license. 

Dallin Pepper

Age: 18  Country: United States  Notable Finish: 1st at 2019 CrossFit Games (16-17 division)

Why he’s legit: Pepper is the most accomplished teenage athlete in CrossFit Games history, and the only one to win three titles – winning consecutively in both the 14-15 and 16-17 division the last three seasons. His first Open this season as a full fledged adult wasn’t tremendous – he finished 628th worldwide – but he’s still in high school and spent this fall finishing his senior season of football for Spanish Forks High School. He’s got plenty of room left to grow still, but his track record at the Games, and top end strength (280lb snatch anyone?) set the foundation for Pepper to be one of the next American youngsters to rise the ranks in the next couple seasons. A bonus point for Pepper is that he’s a multi-sport athlete for his high school, playing baseball as well, which points to a level of athleticism that’s often rewarded in the upper echelons of the sport when programming steps outside of the normal confines of the affiliate.

CrossFit Open

Justin Medeiros | Gabriela Migala | Emma Cary

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