The Steady Climb: Six 2018 Regionals Athletes to Watch in 2021
In the final part of this series, we are highlighting a handful of athletes who competed in 2018 at Regionals and failed to make the Games. However, these athletes have been extremely impressive since then and could have a major impact on how the 2021 season plays out.
Lazar Dukic (8th in Europe in 2018): An eighth-place finish in Europe really isn’t that bad of a performance, but Dukic was nowhere near the caliber of athlete that he is now.
- What’s he done lately? Besides being the fittest man in Serbia in each of the last four Opens, Dukic finished fifth at the Dubai CrossFit Championships in December of 2019. The only athletes to beat him were Brent Fikowski, Pat Vellner, Roman Khrennikov, and Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson.
- Athletes he beat in that competition included Jonne Koski, Jason Smith, Jeffrey Adler, Tola Morakinyo, Elliot Simmonds, Uldis Upenieks, Alex Kotoulas, Willy Georges, Zach George, David Shorunke, Alexandre Caron, and Travis Mayer.
- Dukic is 25 years old and has been training with purpose. Keep an eye on him this year.
Giorgos Karavis (31st in Europe in 2018): Unlike Dukic, 31st was nothing to write home about. But Karavis was a young, 23-year-old athlete with little experience then. He’s quite a different athlete these days.
- What’s he done lately? Karavis has been steadily improving in the Open, going from 79th in 2018 to 74th in 2019 and then jumping up to 34th worldwide in 2020.
- His most impressive Sanctional performance came at Strength in Depth in January of 2020 where he finished in 5th place. The athletes ahead of him were Mat Fraser, David Shorunke, Lukas Hogberg, and Bronislaw Olenkowicz.
Andre Houdet (27th in Meridian in 2018): Like both Dukic and Karavis, Houdet is in his mid-twenties, has been active at Sanctionals and is a completely different athlete than just a few years ago.
- What’s he done lately? Houdet is coming off his best Open performance ever last year: 61st worldwide and second in Denmark.
- He finished in second place at Fittest in Cape Town in 2019, eleventh at a strong Sanctional field in Ireland in the fall of 2019, and sixth at Strength in Depth in January of 2020.
What about the women?
Dani Speegle (8th in Atlantic in 2018): Speegle is a household name now, but in 2018 few knew who she was. She placed 10th in 2017 with team Kings Point in the Atlantic Regional but was otherwise a complete unknown.
- Since 2018, Speegle has been among the most active athletes in the sport in terms of competition, but also in terms of expanding her social media influence. She competed in five Sanctionals in the 2018-2019 season before finishing 26th at the Games. The 2019-2020 season was off to a frustrating start for her as she was dealing with injury and wasn’t able to compete as much as she’d have liked. In the meantime, she’s expanded her social media to over 650,000 followers on Instagram.
- At 27 years old, she’s certainly still in the prime of her career and is without a doubt an athlete to watch in the new 2021 season format.
Larissa Cunha (10th in Latin America in 2018): Cunha is 30 years old and is the reigning fittest in Brazil. This past year she finished 15th in Dubai and 19th at Wodapalooza, the two deepest fields of competition on the Sanctional calendar.
Sasha Nievas (24th in Latin America in 2018): Nievas is very young at only 22-years-old. She was second fittest in Argentina last year and 36th worldwide in the Open. Everyone will recall her incredible Open performance and worldwide win on 20.4. She beat Sara Sidmundsdottir by a mere three seconds, but the third-place finisher in that event (Annie Thorisdottir) was over a minute behind the top two.
- Nievas competed in the Brazil CrossFit Championship in 2019 and finished ninth. She did not compete at a Sanctional in the abbreviated 2020 season.
Both of these women are coming out of South America. In the past, South America has had very little representation at the Games despite having a huge population of participants in the Open. All signs about the structural changes to the 2021 season suggest that South America will get a more adequate representation this season which bodes very well for both of these steadily improving athletes.