CrossFit Games

Poised for an Open Payday?

February 24, 2021 by
Photo Credit: Björgvin K. Guðmundsson (
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With the Open nearly here, there is one new feature of this year’s rulebook that has received minimal attention; section 1.39 lays out the “Open Cash Prizes for 2021:”

“In addition to weekly winners, at the conclusion of the Open, cash prizes will be awarded to the top individual men and individual women performers overall on the worldwide leaderboard.” 

More specifically, the top 5 finishers worldwide will earn at least $5,000.

  • First Place: $15,000
  • Second Place: $10,000
  • Third Place: $7,500
  • Fourth Place: $6,000
  • Fifth Place: $5,000

Which five men and five women are most likely to cash in at the 2021 Open.?

The Men: 

The list of likely top-five Open finishers on the men’s side is slightly smaller than the women’s. Looking at the last four seasons (2017-2020), and removing Mat Fraser (retirement) and Lefteris Theofanidis (drug sanction) from the leaderboards, there are only four men with multiple finishes inside the top five on the worldwide leaderboard: 

  • Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson (2nd in 2020, 1st in 2019,  3rd in 2017).
  • Noah Ohlsen (4th 2020, 1st 2017).
  • Patrick Vellner (1st 2020, 4th 2018). 
  • Jean-Simon Roy-Lemaire (3rd 2019 and 2018).
    • Roy-Lemaire suffered an Achilles tendon injury in late-2020 and had two surgeries to repair it. It is unlikely that he will be at full strength for the 2021 Open.

It’s a pretty clear starting point to say that three of these four men are likely candidates to once again be a threat for a top-five finish. The next four most likely candidates for the final spot on the men’s side are:

  • Jacob Heppner 16th in 2020, but 2nd in 2019; Heppner is maniacal when it comes to Open-style workouts. With the added incentive this year, he could very well find himself back in the top five.
  • Samuel Cournoyer 10th in 2020, 7th in 2019; Cournoyer been knocking on the door, and could certainly be poised to improve his finish again this season.
  • Jeffery Adler 3rd last year on the back of one of the most dominating single Open event performances ever (20.4). It is well documented that Adler has been on the patient, steady path towards the top for years. Coming off top-five finishes in the Open and the Games makes it necessary to consider him on this list.
  • and….. Rich Froning (who despite hardly trying at all in the Open in recent years has managed finishes of 20th, 10th, 10th, and 12th; it seems that if he wants a little extra cash, it might not be that far out of reach for him).

Outside of these eight men a few honorable mentions are Alex Vigneault (2nd to Fraser in 2018, 3rd behind Fraser and Ohlsen in 2017), Uldis Upenieks (would have been 5th in 2019 if you take Fraser and Theofanidis out), and Bayden Brown (would have been 5th last year if you take Fraser and Theofanidis out), 15th the year before, and placed 11th in stage one of the Games). 

The Women:

While it seemed pretty straightforward for the men, there is considerable parity among the top flight of women in the sport which makes pairing it down to just five is very difficult (for example, in stage one of the Games last year there were three women on the outside of the top-five by less than seven points). Based on the past few years, it might be just as narrow a margin to break into the top five in the 2021 Open too; especially because every one of these women seems to have both pros and cons when it comes to their chances to make the top five:

  • Sara Sigmundsdóttir 
    • Pro: 1st in 2020, 2019, and 2017.
    • Con: 21st in 2018 and 21st at stage one of the Games in 2020.
  • Kristin Holte 
    • Pro: 3rd the last two years, also 6th in stage one of the Games missing the top five by only two points.
    • Con: 15th and 16th the two years prior.
  • Tia-Clair Toomey 
    • Con: 4th, 7th, 12th, and 18th in the last four years.
    • Pro: when the chips are on the table she dominated online competitions last season winning both Rogue’s online competition and stage one of the Games by large margins.
  • Jamie Simmonds 
    • Pro: 5th, 4th, 9th, 4th the last four seasons, she also won the Open in 2016; also took 4th in Rogue’s online competition.
    • Con: 12th in stage one of the 2020 Games.
  • Brooke Wells
    • Pro: Her second-place performance at stage one of the Games was impressive.
    • Con: 11th, 6th, 6th, 9th the last four years in the Open; close, but has never made the top five.
  • Kara Saunders
    • Pro: 2nd place in the 2018 Open; 3rd at Rogue; 8th in the Games stage one (missed the top five by seven points).
    • Con: 12th in the Open in 2020 behind most of the other girls on this list; it’s very tight at the top and we still need to see if she has that next level capacity following pregnancy.

While these athletes are probably the most likely six candidates, that doesn’t mean they’re the only women with a fighting chance. Here are the next six most likely:

  • Amanda Barnhart
    • 24th in 2020 Open; 9th in 2019.
    • 7th in stage one; missed the top five by five points.
  • Kari Pearce
    • 6th in 2020, 8th in 2019, 2nd in 2018; and she was the gatekeeper for the top five at stage one of the Games last year barely beating out Holte, Barnhart, and Saunders.
    • But, placed 20th in 2018 despite worldwide finishes of 6th, 2nd, 4th, 13th, and 5th, due to a 585th place lift in 18.2A, a one rep max clean. If a max test like that comes up this year, it might be enough to keep her out of the top five.
  • Katrin Davidsdottir
    • 23rd, 13th, 8th, 10th in the last four Opens; she also struggled at Rogue finishing in 13th place.
    • But, she did great in stage one of the Games placing 4th, and a considerable 40 points ahead of the tight battle for the final spot.
  • Emma McQuaid
    • 7th, 15th, 19th, 15th in the last four Opens.
    • Impressive worldwide Open win on 20.1; and a great finish like that could go a long way this year, especially with the likelihood of fewer tests in the three-week Open.
  • Carol-Ann Reason-Thibeault
    • 8th, 10th, 16th, 6th in the last four Opens.
    • 11th at Stage one of the Games.
    • She always seems to always be right on the brink, perhaps this is the year she breaks through into that top five.
  • Karin Freyova
    • 9th and 12th in the last two Opens.
    • 14th at stage one of the 2020 Games.
    • Similar to Reason-Thibault, she has been knocking on the door.

We’re considering these the twelve most likely women to claim the available prizes for a top five finish, but a couple honorable mentions are Laura Horvath (barring strict handstand push-ups showing up, or an increase in capacity there), Dani Speegle (who had a 5th place finish in the 2019 Open, but dropped to 18th in 2020 and finished 13th in stage one of the Games), and Carolyne Prevost (3rd place Open finish in 2018, 14th in 2019 and 26th in 2020; however, this seems to be a trend in the wrong direction).

The bottom line: The opportunity for athletes to earn money this season is a hot topic of conversation as the Sanctional events in 2019 and 2020 offered many possible paydays. The new payout structure for the Open will certainly get the attention of athletes who feel they can capitalize. Expect a battle at the top of the leaderboard very similar to stage one from the 2020 Games. We’ve identified 11 men and 15 women who will all feel they have a chance to cash-in; but that doesn’t mean there aren’t others who will feel similarly and have something to say about it. 

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