CrossFit Games

Where Does Mal O’Brien’s Open Performance Rank All-Time?

March 16, 2022 by
Photo Credit: Eric Castaños
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The 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Open concluded on Monday and with it came the crowning of two new Open Champions. Saxon Panchik and Mallory O’Brien respectively become the sixth and seventh different Open champions in their divisions (unofficially as of the time of publishing). Despite the decreasing value and the importance of the Open for elite athletes, compared to previous years, it’s still considered a reference point for athletes and coaches as they prepare for the long grind that is the 2022 season.

As impressive as it is that Panchik won the men’s division by three points (needing a 9th place finish in 22.3 to edge out Matt Poulin, who finished 11th in the final workout), it’s the women’s division that has the community buzzing. O’Brien was even more impressive in her win, as the 18-year old made history by becoming the youngest athlete to ever win the Open. 

Inside the numbers: Let’s take a look at what O’Brien did during the last three weeks to join the likes of greats Mat Fraser, Rich Froning, Samantha Briggs, Annie Thorisdottir and Tia-Clair Toomey.

  • 4 – O’Brien’s 4 points is the lowest point total in the history of the Open, besting Briggs’ 13 points to win the 2013 Open. Something to note is that the 2022 Open had three scored workouts, the 2013 Open had five scored workouts.
  • 2 – Open wins that O’Brien had this year, winning the opening workout with 392 reps (two more than runner-up Gabriela Migala) and the final workout with a time of 4:11 (one second better than Toomey). Her two wins in the Open are the most since Briggs won three events in 2014.
  • 1.3 – O’Brien’s average finish during the Open thanks to her two first place finishes and her runner-up in 22.2 (four seconds behind Toomey). That average finish is the best ever recorded in the Open.
  • 4 – Just three women athletes have won the Open while winning a workout during that same year, O’Brien became the fourth woman to do that joining Toomey, Thorisdottir and Briggs who did it in 2013 and 2014. Her coach Fraser and Froning are the only men to accomplish that feat.
  • $19,044 – If O’Brien’s results hold, CrossFit will write her a check for that amount. It will be the second largest payday for the teenager, trailing the $43,000 she earned from her fifth place Games finish in 2021. Not bad for doing three workouts that took just a total of 26:20 of her time.

Historically speaking: So where does O’Brien’s performance rank all-time in the Open? Is it the most impressive Open performance ever? Let’s take a look at some past Open performances for reference.

  • Briggs (2013 Open): “The Engine” had a two-year stretch where she laid waste to the women’s field starting with the 2013 season. Brigg’s average finish was 3.2 as she won two of the five workouts and placed no worse than eighth in any of the workouts. Her 2013 Open win is just the fourth instance where a champion finished in the top-10 in every workout (Thorisdottir – 2011, Froning – 2014, O’Brien – 2022). Her 16 points were the lowest point total ever until O’Brien won with four points this year.
  • Briggs (2014 Open): Briggs was just as dominant the following year as she recorded a record three wins across five workouts. Her 127-point victory over runner-up and that season’s eventual Games champion Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet is the largest margin of victory in the women’s Open. Briggs’ average margin of victory was 25.4 points across the five tests. Her average event finish was seventh due to a 27th place in 14.2 but she still recorded four top-5 finishes.
  • Clever (2012 Open): Clever was the first athlete to win three Open workouts and her average finish was 5.2. Her worst finish was 13th as she finished with four top-10 results across five tests.
  • Fraser (2017 Open): The five-time “Fittest Man on Earth’s” average finish was 8th place, the third best average in the men’s division ever. All five of his workout finishes were in the top-20 which included two workout wins and a third place finish.
  • Fraser (2018 Open): Fraser’s third Open win might have been his most dominant as he won by 342 points, the largest margin of victory by an Open champion ever. He placed in the top-50 in all six workouts including three in the top-5, winning 18.5. 
  • Fraser (2019 Open): Fraser’s fourth and final Open title included an average finish of 13.2 across five workouts. He had four finishes in the top-3 including two event wins as he bested Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson by 27 points.
  • Froning (2012 Open): Froning’s first Open title was his best work during the Open, he recorded top-3 finishes in four of the five workouts including back-to-back wins in 12.2 and 12.3. His average placing was 8.2, tied with Noah Olsen (2016 Open champion) as the fourth best average ever in the men’s division. He finished ahead of runner-up Sean Thomson by 103 points.
  • Froning (2014 Open): In his final Open as an individual competitor, Froning won his third-straight Open championship. His 18 points across five events is the lowest final total in the men’s division ever. His average placing of 3.6 is the lowest ever in the men’s division. He finished in the top-8 across all five tests including three in the top-3.

The bottom line: Where O’Brien’s 2022 Open performance ranks all-time is up for debate with her numbers stacking up and in some cases surpassing those of Briggs, Fraser and Froning. However having just three tests to compare to the five (six in 2018) that those athletes have makes it hard to have an accurate comparison and leaves a lot of potential data off the table. Whatever the case, the 18-year old’s performance definitely deserves a mention and consideration as the greatest Open performance in history.

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