Top Storylines to Watch in the First Post Dave Castro CrossFit Games Season
It’s less than 20 days away from the 2022 CrossFit Open and with it the 16th CrossFit Games season. With a full off-season of competitions and no shortage of news, here are some storylines to keep an eye out on as we begin the new season.
- A new Games regime: the shock has subsided, Dave Castro is no longer a part of the Games, so what does Justin Bergh, the new general manager of sport and his staff have in store for the community and athletes? The Open may not answer that question initially but I wouldn’t expect any major changes from the format and programming but rather the presentation.
- Paid like professionals: last season athletes were not happy with the pay structure of the season, especially when it came to Semifinals and the lack of payouts for the Quarterfinals. With former CEO and current Board Chairman Eric Roza vowing to make the sport more professional can we expect those things to change this season?
- The final two: speaking of Semifinals, there were two glaring omissions from the Semifinal announcement two weeks ago. With less than five months till the beginning of the Semifinals, who will be the final two North American Semifinal hosts? Will the Granite Games and the West Coast Classic return or will we see new hosts?
- The Medeiros Era: we caught some flack for proclaiming that the Justin Medeiros era has begun after winning his first “Fittest” crown in 2021. After seeing his performance at the Rogue Invitational and hearing he’s hitting PRs in all his weightlifting metrics, he could be preparing for a long run as the Alpha of the men’s division.
- Vellner’s time? Medeiros will no doubt be challenged by Patrick Vellner who is coming off a successful off-season, finishing second to Medeiros at the Rogue Invitational before winning his third-straight Wodapalooza. Will this be the year the Canadian stands atop the Games podium?
- More than a two-man race: the men’s title isn’t just between Medeiros and Vellner as podium favorites Brent Fikowski, Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson and Noah Ohlsen will have something to say about the podium. Will new names like Guilherme Malheiros, Lazar Đukić and Saxon Panchik breakthrough as contenders?
- Ricky’s redemption continues: Ricky Garard’s comeback from his four-year suspension had a setback after a promising performance at the Dubai CrossFit Championship. He was hit with COVID-19 prior to Wodapalooza and then got food poisoning which forced him to withdraw from what would have been a great test for him to see where he measures up to the top CrossFit athletes. Eyes will be on him during every stage of the Games, especially in the tough Oceania Semifinals if he makes it there.
- Tia-Clair Toomey’s chase for greatness: with her Olympic aspirations taken away, the reigning, defending five-time “Fittest Woman on Earth” has moved her attention back to CrossFit a month earlier than she wanted to. Will her bid to become the most dominant athlete in CrossFit history with an unprecedented sixth Games title be her last?
- The European women are here: who will challenge Toomey? All signs point to the women of Europe with two-time runner-up Laura Horvath and 22-year old up-and-comer Gabi Migala leading the way. Don’t count out two-time champ Katrin Davidsdottir or 2022 Wodapalooza champion Emma McQuaid as prominent European athletes who all could collectively make Toomey’s bid for her sixth title a difficult one.
- Will the teen girls make another splash? One of the major storylines last year was how teenagers Mallory O’Brien and Emma Cary not only made the Games but performed admirably on the big stage alongside their idols. How do they follow-up their 2021 performance? Will both O’Brien and Cary improve after making huge changes to their training? Who will be the next teenager to make a run at the Games? Signs point to Emma Lawson, Olivia Sulek and Anikha Greer making a similar run.
- Rich’s last ride: back in September Rich Froning announced this season could be his final year competing as a Games athlete. His pursuit for his unprecedented 10th Games championship (four individual, five team) would be the end of an era of dominance for him and possibly the last chance we see him competing on the Games floor.
- The return of the super team: there’s a number of teams that could challenge Froning and his Mayhem Freedom team from that 10th title. Most notably the CrossFit Reykjavik team Annie Thorisdottir has formed in Iceland with Lauren Fisher, Khan Porter and Tola Morakinyo. Look for a few more “Super teams” to make their name known and intentions clear that they will give Mayhem Freedom a fight.
- Welcome back: some of the top names in CrossFit didn’t compete last year due to injuries, Sara Sigmundsdottir, Jamie Simmonds and Willy George lead that list. What can we expect from them after a year of recovery?
- Spots up for grabs: with the retirements of Kari Pearce, Kristin Holte, Scott Panchik, Alessandra Pichelli, Sean Sweeney and Thorisdottir competing on a team, spots atop the leaderboard are now Open. Which athletes will step up to fill the voids of some of the great athletes of the sport?
- Year two of the adaptive division: last year the inclusion of the adaptive division to the Games season was met with much fanfare however low participation rates. With a year to work bringing more adaptive athletes into the fold by Crossfit, will the numbers justify bringing more divisions to compete at the Games for future seasons?