Canadian Women Confident They’re on the Rise
2016: That was the last year a Canadian woman finished in the top 10 at the CrossFit Games.
- That woman was Alessandra Pichelli, who at the time was competing with an American flag next to her name. She placed ninth. Since then, Canadian women have had a number of top 15 finishes, but for the most part they haven’t been much of a force at the highest level of the sport.
Remind me: In 2017, Pichelli was, once again, the highest Canadian woman in 11th, and in 2018 the strongest Canadian finisher was Camille Leblanc-Bazinet — the only Canadian woman to ever podium at the Games when she won in 2014 — who placed 13th.
- In 2019, Carolyne Prevost was the top Canadian in 12th, and last season the only Canadian woman on the Games roster was Carol-Ann Reason-Thibault, who placed 11th.
- Furthermore, last year, only two Canadian women placed in the top 50 in Open total — Thibault and Prevost.
Turning a corner in 2021: Improving upon last season, seven Canadian women cracked the top 50 in the recent Open, and 11 Canadian women have gone on to qualify for the upcoming North American Semifinals.
- These women include: Pichelli, Prevost, Reason-Thibault, Sydney Michalyshen, Emily Rolfe, Emma Lawson, Anikha Greer, Chloe Gauvin-David, Amy Morton, Karine Shrum and Freya Moosbrugger.
What they’re saying:
Emily Rolfe: Rolfe, who placed 18th at the Games in her rookie season in 2019 and qualified last season until CrossFit LLC changed the qualification process due to the pandemic, is arguably one of Canada’s top hopes this year.
- The 32-year-old completed the Quarterfinals events alongside three-time Games podium finisher Patrick Vellner and 2020 Games competitor Adam Davidson, and said she’s confident in her chances this year.
- “I have trained hard throughout the many lockdowns and I’m excited to show what I can do…I think the Open was kind of a warm up, and then (Quarterfinals) I wanted to have a stronger showing, which I did. Now I can really ramp up and peak for Semifinals,” Rolfe said, adding that having people like Vellner to train has been invaluable for her continued development.
- “It’s a huge help to spend time, train and compete with Pat who is more of a seasoned veteran athlete than myself. Being in the same space as Pat and Adam (Davidson) is going to really benefit me going forward,” she added.
Anikha Greer: Though Greer is only 17, she has already experienced her share of success and heartbreak in the sport, making her only hungrier to break through and qualify for the Games this season.
- In 2018, Greer missed qualifying in the 14-15 year-old division by one spot. The following year, she missed out in the 16-17 year-old division by five spots. Last year, Greer finally punched her ticket to the Games when she placed second overall in the Age Group Online Qualifier, but never got the chance to compete in Madison, as the teen competition was cancelled due to COVID-19.
- Greer admits she was surprised how well she did in the Open and Quarterfinals, saying she’s “miles ahead of where we thought I’d be at this point in my career,” but her performances have only made her more confident in her abilities heading into Semifinals.
- “I am beyond confident in the work I put in. I know I can hang with the big girls now, and I also know I don’t have any gaping holes in my game anymore,” she Greer, who has been running 45 kilometres a week to improve her aerobic base. “I’m not afraid of anything showing up. Can’t wait to throw down and fight for that top five.”
Sydney Michalyshen: Michalyshen also said she was somewhat surprised how well she did in the Quarterfinals, placing 15th overall, especially because she broke two ribs last year and spent July 2020 to January 2021 rehabilitating. Considering she was able to do as well as she did coming off a serious injury only serves to show just how good she is.
- “It was not the easiest year, but it taught me a lot about myself, who I want to be, and what I really want to do. Once I got healthy, I was more focused than ever to get back to training,” said the 21-year-old.
One big thing: Not only do the Canadian women appear to be on the rise in 2021, the future beyond this season also looks promising as three of the 11 women competing at the North American Semifinals are 21 or younger. Along with 21-year-old Michalyshen and 17-year-old Greer, 17, Moosbrugger is 19 and Lawson is just 16.
- Michalyshen said she thinks this year is only the start for Canadian women. “I think there is so much potential on the rise in the country and I can’t wait to see what everyone brings to the table during the Semifinals. I think the Games will have a solid group of Canadian women within the next couple years,” she said.
The big picture: The Canadian men have been strong since the inception of the CrossFit Games in 2007 when two Canadians — James FitzGerald and Brett Marshall — finished in first and second, but the Canadian women have always been playing catch up to their male competitors, men like Vellner and Brent Fikowski. But with 11 women on the Semifinals roster this year, including a handful of young up-and-comers, the Canadian women are looking poised to show the world they’re a force to be reckoned with.
- Rolfe admits she has taken inspiration from the men: “I think (the men have been) showing that even though we have a lot less people in Canada than the USA, we can still be very competitive,” she said.
- Greer added: “I think there have been some really good Canadian (women) in the shadows for a while and some of them really broke through this past year. It has been great to see and I love the fact we’re starting to form a solid group of high level Canadian women.”