Behind The Legends: Rogue Men’s Field
Continuing our coverage of the Rogue Invitational legends event, the men’s field is stacked with three former individual champions, two affiliate cup champions, and eight podium finishers amidst the ranks.
Just as we did with the women’s field, below is a historical guide behind each athlete and how their legend came to be through their successes on the competition floor.
Spealler has the distinction of being one of only two athletes in the field who competed at the very first CrossFit Games at the Ranch in 2007. That year he won the Trail Run en route to a 4th place finish despite a 22nd place finish in the CrossFit Total. A regular on crossfit.com, he became a quick favorite of the community thanks to his ability to unleash massive scores on workouts in contrast to his relatively compact stature.
- After near misses in both 2008 and 2009, Spealler finally got his first piece of CrossFit Games hardware in 2010. In dramatic fashion, he bested a field that included six of his fellow legends to win the opening event – the newly created hero workout Amanda.
- At the 2012 South West Regional Spealler battled back from a sizable deficit to qualify for a 6th consecutive CrossFit Games, an unprecedented feat at the time. After the 2014 season, he stepped away from individual competition, only to return to the floor and podium as a masters athlete in the 35-39 division at the 2017 Games in Madison.
Spealler felt like CrossFit’s David in the fight against Goliath, and his performances at the Games, coupled with his steady presence as an affiliate owner and member of CrossFit’s seminar staff made him a champion of the community as someone who embodied CrossFit’s ethos at every level.
In our sport the heavy lifters and athletes that perform wizardry with a barbell in various capacities instantly garner attention and steal the spotlight rather quickly. In the early days of the sport, anytime lifting was involved, Josh Everett was the man most athletes feared on the competition floor.
- At most times soft spoken and reserved, Everett would seemingly transform into an intense, formidable alter ego, so much so that one of the famous lines from the 2008 documentary involved former NFL offensive linemen John Welbourn marveling at his ability.
- Everett backed it up on the leaderboard too, finishing 3rd overall in 2007, and was runner-up to Jason Khalipa in 2008. In 2009 his run through the deadlift ladder was the stuff of legend, and if there’s one video you should watch before you max it’s this one, be sure to let it play all the way through his 505-lb lift.
Everett’s career at the Games ended after 2009, but his presence at the early days of Aromas, and his performances on early CrossFit benchmarks – including destroying King Kong over 13 years ago, cemented him as one of the OG legends in the community.
The story of Jason Khalipa’s victory at the 2008 CrossFit Games and subsequent arrival at the top of the sport is one that never gets old. In fact, the way he obliterated the final event and came from out of nowhere to win would be better characterized as “kicked down the door and made himself at home.”
- If it weren’t for one of Khalipa’s crew, there wouldn’t be any footage of his performance and moment of victory, which tells you how many people actually expected him to win. All of a sudden, this 22-year-old kid who just graduated college was the CrossFit Games champion.
- The following year he would finish 5th after collapsing and nearly not making it through the trail run. Miraculously he would recover and go on a tear to finish back towards the top and earn him spirit of the games honors in the process.
- Over the next six seasons, Khalipa would grow into one of the powerhouse personalities in the sport and community. Racking up multiple podium finishes and expanding his network of affiliates to include multiple locations including global corporate partnerships.
Khalipa’s NCFit brand has grown into a formidable force, providing resources and programming to gyms all over the world as he shifted focus away from competing and towards family and the business side of the space.
The same year Khalipa conquered the Games in 2008, Matt Chan made his first appearance at the Games as well, taking 8th as a rookie ahead of 2007 champion James Fitzgerald. It would kickstart a run of six consecutive appearances as a fixture of the South West region at the Games during a critical period of growth for the sport.
- In 2010, Chan narrowly missed out on a coveted podium spot, finishing 4th just behind his friend and fellow seminar staff member Chris Spealler. Another top 10 finish in 2011 would set Chan up for a career year in 2012.
- The 2012 CrossFit Games were a big step forward as far as the size and scope of the event and programming. The number of events grew from 10 to 15, and the opening events offsite took place at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. Chan would rack up 10 top 10 finishes to finish 2nd behind Rich Froning, and earned a spot on the inaugural USA team for the Invitational.
After stepping away from competition, Chan continued his career as a firefighter, then in 2020 he was chosen as a contestant for season 2 of the Titan Games. Chan’s fitness paid off huge as he crushed the entire field to become the season 2 champion alongside fellow CrossFitter Dani Speegle
Before the start of the 2009 CrossFit Games, Mikko Salo was relatively unknown athlete in the sport. By the end of the first event, Chris Spealler most definitely knew his name after Salo famously introduced himself to Spealler during the hill run as they were in contention for the top spot in the event.
- By the end of the weekend, his name was forever etched in CrossFit Games history as a champion. Salo won the final event chipper to take the crown away from Tommy Hackenbruck – instantly becoming a star as the first European to win the Games.
- Unfortunately for Salo, his career at the Games was much shorter lived than most would have hoped. After finishing 5th at the 2010 CrossFit Games, injuries derailed multiple seasons and ultimately put an end to his competitive career.
Mikko’s stoicism and willingness to lean into particularly grueling training was the hallmark of his imprint on the sport. The SISU documentary produced in 2009/2010 highlighted this very fact, and led a generation of CrossFitters to no long lay on their backs after a workout. His performance inspired a new generation of European athletes, and he most notably helped Jonne Koski’s rise in the sport as the next in line from Finland.
During the same time that Salo was taking the Games by storm, Tommy Hackenbruck was turning heads as an underdog story about belief in oneself above all else. Hackenbruck qualified for the 2009 Games through the last chance qualifier and nearly missed an opportunity to earn his right to compete in Aromas.
- At the time Hackenbruck had to hitch a ride to California from his home in Salt Lake City with some local CrossFitters and ended up crashing on the floor of their hotel room the first night. Among that group was filmmaker and Buttery Bro Heber Cannon, but all Hackenbruck needed was an opportunity.
- When the dust settled the former University of Utah linebacker was in 2nd overall behind Salo, making a spectacular run to the podium that no one saw coming. From there he finished 9th in 2010, and 23rd in 2011 before making arguably his biggest contribution to the sport the following year.
In 2012 Hackenbruck formed the first super team dubbed “Hack’s Pack,” and they would go on to become the first to win back to back Affiliate Cups in 2012, and 2013, setting in motion a new evolution for the Affiliate Cup competition. Hackenbruck returned to the individual side in 2014, finishing 6th at the Games, before one final podium run in the Affiliate Cup in 2015.
Few athletes have been able to elicit as visceral a response from the fans from their performances. From the outset of his career at the Games, Bridges earned his reputation of being able to light a workout ablaze, then following it up with an equally fiery celebration.
- In his first season competing, he won two Open workouts worldwide, four events at the Southern California Regional, and three events at the Games, including the opening beach event, on his way to a 2nd place finish overall.
- Bridges had a knack for dialing up his best performances when the lights were brightest, winning marquee events like Legless, 2007, and Push Pull under the lights of the tennis stadium, and his post win celebrations were equally exhilarating. He won an event at the Games each of his first four appearances.
- Bridges greatest hits: 2014 Regional Event 4, 2014 Push Pull, and 2016 Murph are three of my particular favorites across his career, and stand as proof that no one else could bring the unbridled energy that Bridges unleashed every time he won an event.
Bridges regularly defied the odds with his grit and willingness to suffer which endeared himself to fans. In his final season at the Games, he battled through issues with his knee to finish the weekend in its entirety. He’s since remained active in the community through his Good Dudes coffee company, and training programs.
Many moons before his alter ego “Danny Broflex,” captured the hearts of the community, Dan Bailey first entered the competition scene at the 2010 Central East Regional, missing out on the Games by just two spots after an injury hampered his weekend. One year later he would become the first ever winner of the worldwide Open, before winning the 2011 Central East Regional, earning his first berth to the Games.
- Bailey would finish 6th in his rookie season and kickstart a run of five consecutive seasons at the Games inside the top 10 overall, making him one of the premier athletes on the men’s side.
- In 2015 Bailey had a career year, winning the newly formed California Regional before heading to the Games in Carson and winning his first ever events at the Games. The wins would propel him to his career best finish – 4th overall and just 36 points shy of a podium finish.
The next few years would see Bailey battle multiple injuries that kept him from returning to the Games as an individual. This season he earned his first trip back to the Games in five seasons, this time as a 35-39 year old masters athlete. Dan Bailey’s humility and demeanor made him one of the sport’s “good guys,” and a exemplary ambassador for the community.
Few people can claim a larger impact on the modern sport today than Rich Froning. Just as the popularity of the CrossFit Games began to blossom and growing media efforts put the sport of fitness in front of increasingly larger audience, Froning stepped into the spotlight as the sports champion on the men’s side, rewriting the record books in the process.
- After a 2nd place finish in 2010 that saw his struggles with rope climbs prevent him from winning the title, Froning ripped off four consecutive titles to become the face of the sport. For four consecutive seasons he won every in person competition he showed up to.
- Froning stepped away from individual competition to focus on family, while pivoting to the team competition. Seven years later he’s got six more medals and a record five Affiliate Cup titles to his name.
Froning is in elite company, to put it succinctly you can’t tell the story of the CrossFit Games without him. 12 years in the sport have produced 11 medals – two silvers and a whopping 9 gold. The lone absent year coming from the 2020 team season being cut short due to the pandemic.
The Rogue Legends competition is a fantastic way to honor the athletes in the sport that laid the foundation for today’s athletes to shine. It’s fitting that this weekend the Legend got another chance to own the spotlight.