CrossFit Games

2022 CrossFit Semifinals Preview: Torian Pro

May 17, 2022 by
Image Credit: Darren Stockwell
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The 2022 Semifinal stage will officially kick off with the Torian Pro at the Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane, Australia. The lone Semifinal event for Oceania will also have the distinction of handing out the first qualifying spots at the CrossFit Games for the individual and team divisions. 

With only three allocated Games tickets per division, the race for the podium will ultimately leave some familiar names on the outside looking in or relegated to the Last Chance Qualifier. Before digging into the separate divisions, here are some bigger picture stats to keep in mind heading into the weekend.

  • Games experience: A total of five women and six men in the event have previously qualified for the Games as individuals. All eleven athletes have also managed to qualify through live in-person competition and five of the six individual qualifiers from the 2021 Torian Pro–which was one of four Semifinals to hold live competition–return this season. 
  • That group is led by Tia-Clair Toomey, who qualified for the Games last year through the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge, the five-time “Fittest Woman on Earth” is joined by fellow Games podium athletes Jamie Simmonds and Kara Saunders. The men’s field has perennial top-20 Games athletes including 2019 top-10 finishers James Newbury and Matt McLeod.
  • In the team division, two of the three qualifying Affiliate Cup teams from 2021 are back, with CrossFit Urban Energy and CrossFit Awaside returning to try and supplant a Plus64 Army Gold team that disbanded after 2021 and members switched to the CrossFit Selwyn team that finished first in Quarterfinals.
  • Last Chancers: Newbury and Madeline Sturt are the lone returning athletes that narrowly missed the cut of qualifying, but earned themselves a crack at the Last Chance Qualifier last season. 

The return of Toomey, Simmonds, and Ricky Garard have added more parity to an already crowded competitive field and the aforementioned underserved three Games spots. The organizers have promised to ramp up the theatrics in the hopes to make the CrossFit-crazed “Down Under” CrossFit community a factor to get the best performances out of the athletes on the competition floor.

Torian Pro Women

Shoo-ins: Two obvious women fall into this category with Toomey and Saunders once again being the top of the class in the region. The two Aussies seem to bring the best out of each other when they are both healthy. Saunders was the last athlete to beat Toomey in a live competition back during the 2017 Games season. She edged the eventual five-time champ by ten points in the Pacific Regional in Wollongong, Australia. That Regional match-up was a preview of what was to come at that year’s Games as Toomey and Saunders had perhaps the most memorable finish in Games history. Toomey exacted her revenge and won the first of her titles, besting her countrywoman by two points. 

Toomey has been nearly unstoppable since that moment winning every live competition she has entered, 13-straight live competition wins dating back to her victory at the 2017 Games.

Saunders has had a stellar 2022 season so far finishing behind Toomey in the Oceania Quarterfinals and finishing second worldwide in that stage. She is the reigning and defending Torian Pro Champion and should easily secure one of the three Games qualifying spots.

Neither of these athletes should have an issue with the Torian programming and it will be fun to watch them each tackle the “Barbell Complex” CrossFit programmed. 

Games Expectations: With realistically one spot left up for grabs, the two names that stick out that will be fighting for the final Games invite are two contrasting athletes. 2021 Games rookie Ellie Turner and five-time Games veteran Jamie Simmonds will be battling for that coveted Games spot.

Turner burst onto the scene last year as a 23-year-old and punched her ticket to the Games after placing third at the Torian. This came on the heels of impressive placing in both the Open and Quarterfinals. Her first trip to the Games had some highs including a heat win in Event 9 but she also had a number of lows, particularly in gymnastics movements with handstand walks being a noticeable weakness. 

She seems much improved from last season after making a move to Canada to train under the tutelage of Michele Letendre to start the season. She had an impressive start to this year’s Wodapalooza, leading the competition after the first 2 days before she once again struggled in workouts that had high-volume gymnastics. She made a change in her coach and training soon after the Quarterfinals, training with 2022 Games Champion Justin Medeiros under his coach Adam Neiffer at CrossFit Fort Vancouver.

Simmonds’ 2021 season was one that started off promising but ended during the Open when she suffered a shoulder injury that required her to get surgery. The Kiwi took her rehab seriously as she looked to regain the form that had her on the podium at the 2019 Games.

She placed 10th in the Open which also placed her third in Oceania behind Toomey and Saunders. She started the Quarterfinals strong but eventually finished sixth after struggling in the final two events. Not known for her top-end strength and more for excelling in classic CrossFit workouts, Simmonds could struggle in the “Barbell Complex” and “Strongman Diane” at Torian so will need to have top-3 finishes in the other four events to secure a return ticket to the Games.

Bubble Athletes: Maddie Sturt and Bailey Rogers are the athletes that stick out in this category. Both athletes competed in the Last Chance Qualifier based on their performances in the Torain last year. 

Sturt is a multiple Games veteran despite just being 25 years old. She competed in four-straight Games from 2016-2019 before being shutout the last two seasons. Last year she placed fifth in the Torian and finished in the same spot in this year’s Quarterfinals. Her finishing in third wouldn’t be a surprise and if anything she can definitely play spoiler to athletes who are ahead of her fighting for the same spots.

One of those athletes could be Rogers, her lone Games appearance being in 2017 as a team member of Functional Strength CrossFit. Last year she placed seventh in Torian but impressed with a win in the clean and jerk ladder at the Semifinal. This year she placed fourth in the Oceania Quarterfinal and could be an athlete that hangs with Toomey and Saunders in the “Barbell Complex” workout, perhaps winning it.

Wild Card: 23-year-old Gemma Hauck and 22-year-old Georgia Pryer are athletes to keep an eye on, like Turner, these two athletes represent the future of CrossFit in the Oceania region. Both are talented but in different ways. Pryer is higher-skilled in gymnastics and body-weight movements while Hauck’s specialty is strength-based.

Torian Pro Men

Shoo-ins: Like the women’s field, the men’s include a number of talented athletes who could compete at the Games and finish in the top-15. Unlike the women’s field however it’s hard to consider all of them as automatic Games qualifiers. Two names stand out however, Ricky Garard and Jay Crouch.

Much has been made of Garard’s comeback from his suspension for performance enhancing drugs. After four years he seems to be the favorite to win in his first live competition in the friendly confines in his home country. He edged out Crouch by one point in the Quarterfinals to win after Crouch got the better of him in the Open.

Garard will have plenty of support in the crowd and he’s the type of athlete who thrives off of that. The workouts programmed are the type that he should excel in as he’s perhaps the most complete athlete in the field.

At just 23-years old, Crouch is a veteran of four Games including the last two years as an individual. The Rob Forte understudy placed second at the Torian yet had some difficulties at the Games and eventually got cut, placing 22nd.

Both athletes should be fun to watch go back-and-forth as they are similar types of athletes who thrive in classic CrossFit workout programming.

Games Expectations: Bayden Brown could easily be considered a shoo-in, especially after his Games performances the last two years, placing 11th in 2020 and 17th in 2021. However, through the first two stages of the Games season, he ranks behind both Garard and Crouch. In the Quarterfinals he actually placed fourth behind Kiwi Bayley Martin, however, Brown’s experience gives him an inside track for that third and final Games spot, the same spot he fought off contenders last year to earn his ticket to the Games.

He’s going to have to battle last year’s Torian Champion and Games veteran Royce Dunne. Dunne has historically struggled in online competitions in comparison to live competitions. He proved that last year and that led to him placing 16th at the Games. Dunne is also one of the strongest athletes if not the strongest in the field.

Bubble Athletes: It’s odd putting James Newbury as a bubble athlete, especially since he is just three years removed from a fifth place finish at the 2019 Games. Since that time he has suffered some setbacks including getting hit by a car and he has also taken on other fitness challenges. But the four-time Games veteran is a threat whenever he’s on the floor as evidenced by his performance last year in a similar situation, he finished fourth at Torian, one spot out of qualifying and then 10th at the Last Chance Qualifier.

Wild Card: Two names to look out for are Matt McLeod and Bayley Martin. Like Newbury, McLeod is just three years removed from a top-10 finish at the 2019 Games, placing seventh. After taking time off after the Open last year he qualified for the Semifinals after placing eighth in the Quarterfinals. Experience goes a long way in live competitions and that’s how McLeod earned his ticket in 2019, competing in four Sanctionals and winning the Down Under CrossFit Championship. Perhaps he can conjure up some of that nostalgia and make things interesting for the names ahead of him in this preview.

Experience is what the 22-year old Martin lacks but has shown huge strides from last year. He placed 22nd in Quarterfinals in 2021 and made a 19-place improvement this year, finishing third. A Games qualifier as a teen in the heralded 2017 class which included the likes of Guilherme Malheiros and Angelo Dicicco, he placed eighth in last year’s Torian. The Kiwi has a great balance of strength and skill similar to Crouch and Garard and could be making a case to join those two in Madison, WI.

Team Competition

Frontrunners: The 2021 Games was a banner year for teams from Oceania as all three teams finished in the top-11. However, as mentioned before, two of those teams have disbanded with CrossFit Selwyn being the early favorite after winning the Quarterfinals for Oceania and fourth worldwide behind Mayhem Freedom, Invictus and Mayhem Independence. The team of Kiwis includes Madeline Shelling and Marnie Sykes who were on the Plus64 Team that placed sixth at the Games last year. They are joined by the Fowler brothers, Luke and Ben who each competed as individuals at Torian last year. 

CrossFit Urban Energy returns their whole team that placed seventh at the Games last year and this year they finished 18th worldwide in Quarterfinals.

CrossFit EXF is a team to keep an eye on though, placing eighth in the world in Quarterfinals.

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