Young Guns 2021 Revisited

May 20, 2021 by
Image: Dean Kyritsis
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Back in February we asked our expert group of CrossFit Games analysts to predict the top men and women athlete’s under 23 years old to break out during the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games season

Our experts, Tommy Marquez, Patrick Clark and Brian Friend are batting 1.000 heading into the Semifinal stage of the season with all of their selections making their mark during the Open and Quarterfinals and are all one step closer to making their first trip to the Games as individuals.

Here is a recap of their picks:

Tommy’s Picks:

Dallin Pepper

Age: 19  Country: United States  Notable Finish: 1st at the 2019 Games (16-17 division)

It has already been quite the year so far for the 19-year old from Spanish Fork, Utah. The most decorated athlete in teenage division history is making his claim to become the top alum to graduate from the male teen division to individual competition after qualifying for the West Coast Classic Semifinal on June 18-20. His appearance in Las Vegas will be his individual, live competition debut.

Completely dedicated to becoming a full-time CrossFit athlete, he started off the season with an impressive 95th place worldwide in the Open, stringing together a pair of top-50 finishes in the first two workouts. His 2021 Open placing was a huge jump from his 628th place during the 2020 Open when he was completing his final year of high school.

In the North American Quarterfinals, Pepper did even better as he finished 31st in the continent ahead of well-known, established Games veterans like Sean Sweeney and Brent Fikowski. Pepper placed in the top-100 in four of the five tests including three in the top-30. In Test Five, Pepper placed sixth in North America, finishing the couplet in 2:04.

Recently married, he will be among the favorites to earn one the of the five automatic Games invites from his Semifinal.

Anikha Greer

Age: 18  Country: Canada Notable Finish: 2nd at the 2020 Games (16-17 division)*

Unlike Pepper, Greer has yet to step onto an official CrossFit Games competition floor having had that opportunity taken away from her last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic when she placed second in the Age Group Online Qualifier (AGOQ). That streak may continue if she fails to qualify for the Games out of the Atlas Games on June 18-20.

After aging out of the teen division this year, she has shown she is a force to be reckoned with during the first two stages of the Games season. She placed 58th worldwide in the Open but it was her performance in the North American Quarterfinals that has people talking about the 18-year old Canadian becoming the new “Queen of the North”.

She finished 26th in the Quarters ahead of 2020 Games finalists Kari Pearce and Haley Adams. It was during this stage that she showed that despite her age she is one of the strongest athletes on the continent, placing 19th in the four-rep max front squat with a lift of 269 pounds.

Greer was disappointed that she was selected to compete online in the Atlas Games, once again denying her the chance to compete live alongside other athletes, but has performed very well in online formats dating back to last year’s AGOQ. She will have her work cutout for her though to earn her Games invite as her Semifinal field boasts numerous Games veterans including Chyna Cho, Tennil Beuerlein, Alexis Johnson, Dani Horan Jenny, Paige Semenza and fellow Candians Carol-Ann Reason-Thibault, Emily Rolfe and Carolyne Prevost to name a few.

Patrick’s Picks:

Cole Greashaber

Age: 21  Country: United States  Notable Finish: 37th in the 2020 CrossFit Open

Almost exactly a year ago, the then 20-year old Greashaber was in Quebec, Canada preparing to compete in the Atlas Games, his second Sanctional of the 2020 season in preparation for what would have been more than likely his individual Games debut. Instead the competition was cancelled due to the pandemic and with it his Games dreams. Fast forward to this year and he once again finds himself competing in the Atlas Games but this time it will be from his home in Lee’s Summit, Missouri as the snake-bitten competition once again is victimized by the pandemic forcing them to make their Semifinal an online competition.

Online competitions do not appear to bother Greashaber as he has shown in the early stages of the season. After finishing a career-best 37th in the Open last year, the former teen division Games athlete placed eighth worldwide this year showing consistency across all four workouts.

In the North America Quarterfinals he punched his invitation to the Semifinal stage when he placed 57th. He had four finishes in the top-150 highlighted by his fourth place finish in Test Three, using his 6’0, 200 pound frame to help him finish the wall ball, rowing couplet in 7:53.

He will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to finish within the top-five of the Atlas Games and earn that elusive Games invite. His Semifinal field includes numerous Games standouts including Patrick Vellner, Brent Fikowski and Jeffrey Adler, throw in Games veterans such as Alexandre Caron, Tyler Christophel, Samuel Cournoyer, Alex Vigneault, Logan Collins, Adam Davidson, Griffin Roelle and Pete Shaw and Greashaber will have a difficult task ahead of him but he’s ready for the challenge.

Ellie Turner

Age: 23  Country: Australia  Notable Finish: 6th at the 2020 Australian CrossFit Championship

Turner’s odds of moving onto the Games from the Torian Pro Semifinal were given a huge boost when CrossFit announced that reigning, defending four-time Fittest Woman on Earth Tia-Clair Toomey would not be competing there next week due to travel issues. What that did was essentially open up another available Games invite coming out of Oceania. 

A relative unknown coming into the 2021 season, the former basketball player committed herself to her Deka Comp training and Michele Letendre’s coaching placing 35th in the worldwide Open, a huge jump from her 2020 finish when she finished 485th. She recorded the world’s fourth best time in 21.2 showing her capacity to deal with pain finishing the grueling couplet in 9:03.

Moving to the Quarterfinals, she placed fourth in Oceania thanks to three top-ten finishes. Among those finishes was setting the women’s world record in Test Three, going unbroken in the 120 wall balls and finishing the 120-calorie row in 9:11. 

With just the top three finishers moving on from Torian Pro, Turner is one of the favorites to secure her first Games appearance.

Brian’s Picks:

Haraldur Holgersson

Age: 22  Country: Iceland  Notable Finish: 94th (2nd in Iceland) in the 2020 CrossFit Open

Holgersson is the veteran athlete of this list of up-and-comers having made numerous Games appearances as a teen athlete and in 2017 as a member of CF XY in the team division. Since then he has trained nonstop in hopes of finally qualifying as an individual. This season has been his best effort to date.

As Brian predicted, Holgersson improved in his Open placing finishing 85th worldwide after placing 94th last year. Once again he was second to Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson in Iceland but continues to gain on his countryman, finishing just 12 spots behind the Games veteran in the Open.

Holgersson started off the European Quarterfinal with an impressive 10th place in Test One but struggled over the next three needing a solid finish in the final test to secure himself a top-60 placing in the Quarterfinals and an invite to one of the two European Semifinals.

His 55th place in the Quarterfinals slotted him in the German Throwdown which will be an online competition programmed by CrossFit. The 22-year old will need to be in top form to earn his invite to the Games against a field that includes a number of veterans and national champions.

Sydney Michalyshen

Age: 21  Country: Canada  Notable Finish: 1st at 2020 Wodapalooza (Rx Division)

Michalyshen continued her meteoric rise through the CrossFit ranks that started with her 712th Open placing in the 2019 Open. The former collegiate volleyball player placed 38th this year in just her third-ever Open.

She made the jump from winning the Rx division at Wodapalooza in 2020 to beating some of the top athletes in the world in the Open. After starting this year’s Open with a 509th place, she strung together three top-75 finishes highlighted by her 33rd place in workout three, finishing in 8:55.

She was even more impressive during the North America Quarterfinals, placing 15th and was just two spots behind Alessandra Pichelli for the top Canadian finish.

Her worst finish during the Quarterfinals was 141st in Test One, but just like in the Open she rallied in the final workouts, this time stringing together four top-75 finishes including three in the top-30.

Just like Greer, Michalyshen will have a tough field to compete against in the Atlas Games Semifinal to earn one of the top-five spots and Games invite. Due to the competition being online, her high seeding will not offer much of an advantage, but regardless, don’t count this woman out.

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