Torian Pro Preview: Games Picks, Last Chance Qualifier Spots, and Team Rundown

May 25, 2021 by
Credit: Wykie Etsebeth (instagram.com/wykieetsebeth/)
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Semifinals are finally here, and in many ways, the very first one is also the most approachable in terms of what to expect. 

The Pacific Region, now known as Oceania, has always been isolated when it comes to the competitive landscape. So far removed from the rest of the competition geographically, the top athletes from Australia and New Zealand have been congregating for an opportunity to get to the Games against each other year after year for a majority of their careers. As always, there are a few new names in the mix this year, but for the most part, as you’ll see, it’s a lot of the veterans who are most likely to make it through. 

What’s at Stake?

Historically, or at least in the last few years of the Regional era (2015-2018), this part of the world was able to send five men and five women to the Games. This year, that number has been reduced to three. That number (three) is based on Open participation form last year; we published an article in February a couple months ago which demonstrates that from a competitive perspective, three is actually the appropriate number of placements the men in Oceania deserve based on performance, but for the women, they’ve proven that five is a more appropriate number of representatives at the Games on a global scale. 

However, seeing as both Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr (travel restrictions) and Jamie Simmonds (injury) will not be at the Oceanic Semifinal this year, it actually works out, and three seems to be the perfect number for both the men and women this season. 

The Women: Games Picks

Of the original qualifiers, four women who we’d projected as top ten finishers are not competing (Toomey-Orr and Emma Chapman will be at the MACC due to travel restrictions, Harriet Roberts and Marnie Sykes declined their individual invitations). 

This leaves some room at the top for other women to pounce on what could be a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

  • Kara Saunders is still the hands down, run-away favorite here. Without Toomey or Simmonds, there’s really nothing in her way. The last time a Pacific Regional was held (2018) she took second to Toomey and they were both nearly 100 points clear of the field in a competition with the same number of events (six). Last season, coming back from pregnancy, she competed at and won the Australia CrossFit Championship. She’s in a league of her own down under this year. 
  • Madeline Sturt had made the Games four consecutive years (2016-2019) before the abbreviated and drastically altered 2020 season prevented many athletes from even having the opportunity to extend streaks such as hers. It wasn’t for lack of trying though, she was fourth at the ACC behind Saunders, Mia Hesketh, and the third woman we are picking for a Games spot today… expect Sturt to get back on track with her fifth Games qualification while she’s still only 24 years old.
  • Ellie Turner might not be the most well-known name on the leaderboard, but we have featured her as a young gun to watch already this season. Certainly there are several other athletes with a bit more global recognition (Justine Beath and Courtney Haley have both made the Games twice, and Laura Clifton who was third in the quarterfinals to Toomey and Saunders made the Games last year). Turner was right behind Clifton however finishing fourth, and she did so with an impressive event win on workout three where she was over thirty seconds faster than the second best woman in her region.

Torian’s programming features workouts which seem to favor more powerful athletes as the weekend unfolds; Turner may be young, but to dominate on a workout like the wall ball rowing one in quarterfinals could transfer well to echo bike output, sled pulling, and moderate weight thrusters. Expect her to take a hit in the Clean and Jerk Ladder, but she should be strong just about everywhere else.

The Men: Games Picks

  • Jay Crouch is only 22 years old, but he’s the favorite on the men’s side here. Crouch has been training with and under the guidance of Rob Forte and Reebok CrossFit Frankston for years. He’s been on the verge of a breakthrough, and all signs are pointing to this being that year. A worldwide finish of 17th in the Open and a Quarterfinal win in the Pacific Region suggest that his time may finally be here. After taking fourth at the Down Under CrossFit Championship in 2019, he came back and won the Australian CrossFit Championship to earn his spot at the 2020 Games where he took 18th in Stage One. The rest of the podium in that competition? James Newbury and Bayden Brown, some of the best Australian men, so Crouch has beaten some of his biggest competitors in a similar setting before.
  • Royce Dunne is probably the name here that will be most surprising for many to see. Especially with so many more experienced athletes in the field. However, much like Clifton on the women’s side, it just seems that the programming is set up for him to make a surge on days two and three to get back to the Games as an individual for only the second time in his career (he was 34th in 2018 after finishing fourth in the Pacific Regional to qualify). Dunne was only 25th amongst Australians in the Open, and 10th in Oceania after the Quarterfinals, so projecting him this highly could understandably raise some eyebrows, but live competition is a different beast, and in competitions with only six workouts programming does hold some weight.
  • James Newbury’s chances to make the Games this year could just come down to how healthy he is and where he’s at with his training. However, if he’s even close to the type of fitness levels we’ve seen in the past, he should be set up to make the Games, and he could even win this Semifinal. He’s the two-time defending Pacific Regional champion (2017 and 2018), and the last time he competed at the Games (2019) he had a career best fifth place finish. He’s had setbacks and other interests outside of the sport, but if he’s ready to go, he’s amongst the favorites.

Last Chance Qualifier Spots

It is very difficult to choose only three men and three women for Games spots in Oceania, but that’s the nature of the competition. It will almost definitely be close, and there will be some exhilarating finishes for some athletes, while others will leave feeling a bit empty. 

However, unlike years past, barely missing out on the Games does not necessarily end an athlete’s season. And in the case of the athletes competing in week one, should they advance and make it to the Last Chance Qualifier, they’ll have more time to recover and prepare for that then most of their other competitors when the LCQ does eventually happen. 

  • Note: Due to the fact that one African woman who lives in Australia, Christina Livaditakis, is competing at the Torian Pro, there will be one extra spot available to qualify for the LCQ in the elite female division.

Top Ten Individual Projections: 

(green: Games spots ; yellow: LCQ spot)

**Earned a Semifinal invitation via backfill

Teams

There isn’t a ton of depth in the team competition coming out of Oceania this year, but there are two clear front-runners. 

  • 64 Army Gold is the team Marnie Sykes declined her individual invitation to compete on, the other woman on that team is Madeline Shelling who also qualified (in 11th place) for Semifinals in Oceania as an individual. Generally having the two best women in a team competition equals great success, so expect them to pick up where they left off in Quarterfinals where they had three events wins, a second, and a fourth. 
  • Reebok CrossFit Frankston technically has Rob Forte on their roster, but it’s unclear whether or not he’s competing. Both of their women have competed at the Games on teams before, Kate Gordon twice (2019 X-Terminators, 2015 CrossFit Rocks, Jayne McKay once (2017 CrossFit Moorabbin). If Forte does not compete then they do lack experience with their other men (Toby Crouch is only 20 years old, and Luke Spencer has no Regional, Sanctional, or Games experience), but with Forte guiding them, whether on the floor or off, it seems they should be able to find their way to the Games with little issue. 
  • Other teams to watch: 
    • Urban with Katelin Van Zyl and Tom Lengyel
    • Wiser 1 with Rochelle Steinbergs
    • Injustice Crew with Carly Menzies

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