2022 CrossFit Semifinals Preview: Far East Throwdown
Live CrossFit competition finally makes its return to the Asia continent with this weekend’s Far East Throwdown. The CrossFit Games Semifinal will be taking place inside the 2nd Exhibition Hall of BEXCO in Busan, South Korea with six spots up for grabs for the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games – two each for the men, women and teams division.
Last season the Asia Invitational was set to host the Semifinal for the region in Samcheok, South Korea and programmed by PRVN. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event was switched to a virtual competition with CrossFit taking the reins of the programming.
Of the six Games qualifiers (four individuals, two teams) to come out of the Asia Invitational last year only three competed at the Games (Seungyeon Choi, Aleksander Ilin and CrossFit Al Ain) due to a combination of travel restrictions, Visa issues and positive banned substances tests. Choi and Ilin return as early favorites to return to Madison, WI.
- Games experience: A total of three men and six women in the event have previously qualified for the Games as individuals. Of the nine athletes who have competed at the Games, six of them competed at the 2019 Games as national champions.
- In the team division, 17 teams will be battling for the two Games spots with three teams appearing to be the frontrunners. KT CrossFit Kolesnikov Team, CrossFit Yas Black and CrossFit Alioth.
- Last Chancers: Roman Khrennikov and Morteza Sedaghat competed in last year’s LCQ with Khrennikov winning and earning the Games invite though he didn’t compete in Madison due to Visa issues.
Shoo-in: Seungyeon Choi in this field is the only athlete that can be considered a shoo-in. The 23-year old has built upon her 2021 Games rookie campaign by starting off strong in 2022. The CrossFit Limelight athlete from South Korea won the Asia Quarterfinal with five top-10 finishes.
Last year she placed second in the Asia Invitational Semifinal to punch her ticket to Madison. This year, with her new level of confidence and competing live in front of a home crowd, those two factors will propel her to her second-straight Games appearance and firmly entrenched her as the woman to beat in Asia for the foreseeable future.
Games Expectations: Shahad Budebs competed at the 2019 Games as the national champion of the United Arab Emirates. Unlike some of the other national champions who competed in 2019, Budebs is highly skilled as evidenced by her surviving the “First Cut” event that year and finishing 84th. She made her second appearance at the Games last season as she was a member of the Al Ain team that placed second in their Semifinal last and placed 35th.
Budebs has a wealth of live competition experience as she has become a staple of the Middle-East competition circuit including competing multiple times at the Dubai CrossFit Championship. This year she had her best Open finish, placing 257th worldwide and followed that by placing second in the Asia Quarterfinal behind Choi.
The 27-year old is highly skilled in bodyweight movements and has made great strides in increasing her strength finishing fourth with a total of 615 LBs in the “Other Total” during Quarterfinals.
Another athlete who is a favorite to secure one of the two Games spots is Turkey’s Seher Kaya. The 24-year old made a huge jump in her fitness in her third year of active CrossFit training. She went from 462nd last year to 20th this year worldwide. She was the top female athlete from Asia in the Open.
In the Quarterfinals she placed third just one point behind Budebs. She won two events during the stage. Last year she placed seventh in the Semifinal.
Bubble Athletes: Russian Svetlana Veselova just missed out on qualifying for her first Games appearance last year, placing third just eight points behind Choi. She won two events and had top-5 finishes in five of the six events. She placed 39th in the world and second in Asia in the Open this year and followed that with a fourth place in the Quarterfinals for the second-straight year.
Another athlete to keep an eye out on is Choi’s teammate and training partner, Dawon Jung. The fellow Limelight athlete also made a huge jump in her fitness this year. She placed 196th in the Open and fifth in the Quarterfinals.
Wild Card: Japan’s Yuko Sakuyama is a staple of the Asia CrossFit scene. The 35-year old has competed in 10 Opens placing as high as 69th last year. A veteran of six Regionals, she has come close to qualifying for the Games on many occasions as she looks for her first invite. The five-time “Fittest Woman in Japan” placed second as national champion in 2019 and last year she placed fourth in the Semifinal.
Shoo-ins: At this point the trials and tribulations of Khrennikov’s journey to finally compete at the Games live and in person have been well documented. Considered one of the greatest athletes to have never competed at the Games in person, he has one Games appearance albeit in the online stage of the 2020 Games where he placed 13th.
After winning the Dubai CrossFit Championship in December he followed that by winning the Asia Quarterfinal, recording top-5 finishes in all five events. Last year he qualified for the Games through the LCQ but couldn’t make the trip to Madison due to his Visa issues.
Those issues have been resolved, however what has yet to be seen is if he will have any issues returning back to the United States from Korea.
Fellow Russian Ilin has competed at the Games in person on two occasions, in 2019 and 2021. Last year he qualified for the Games by placing second in the Semifinal. This year he recorded his best Open finish in his career, placing 21st. In the Quarterfinals he placed second and is one of the few athletes in the field who has beaten Khrennikov in competitions.
Games Expectations: This list of athletes in this category took a hit when two athletes, Denis Samsonov and Hamzeh Tarefi, elected to accept an invitation to compete at the LCQ rather than travel to Korea and risk not being able to return back to the United States. Regardless there are other athletes who can push for the two Games spots.
Ant Haynes made a name for himself at the 2019 Games, when as China’s national champion he placed an impressive 27th. Since then he has been trying to make a return to Madison. A veteran of five Regionals, he placed 9th at last year’s Semifinals and this year he finished fifth in the Quarterfinals.
Bubble Athlete: As mentioned before Sedaghat joined Khrennikov as LCQ athletes last year thanks to his fifth place finish in the Semifinal. This year he improved his Quarterfinals placing with a sixth after placing 22nd last year. The Iranian had his best Open finish this year, 161t, thanks to his lifting prowess. One of the strongest athletes not only in the field but in CrossFit, he lifted a total of 1,056 LBs in the “Other Total”.
Wild Card: Eren Kim is an athlete to keep an eye out on, the South Korean has been following Mayhem programming for awhile and could be an athlete that gets a boost from the home crowd leading to some top finishes. Look for a top-5 finish in the “Barbell Complex” this weekend as his strength is considered one of the best in the field.
Frontrunners: A new team will be crowned champion of Asia and represent the continent at the Games. The KT CrossFit Kolesnikov Team was the top team to come out of the Quarterfinals. The Russian team won three events and finished third in the other two workouts in the Quarterfinals. Made up of two athletes from last year’s CrossFit Kolesnikov Team that won the Semifinal but elected not to attend the Games, they edged out a CrossFit Yas Black in Quarterfinals by one point.
Yas Black, out of Abu Dhabi, is made up of four athletes with a wealth of Regional and Semifinal experience and representing the United Kingdom, South Africa, New Zealand and Guatemala.
The Alioth affiliate is well known and has made appearances at the Games before. This year’s team boasts Games veteran Mahmood Shalan who was on Al Ain’s Games team last year.