2022 CrossFit Games Preview: Team Division
This Wednesday, 36 teams will vie to hold the Affiliate Cup overhead atop the podium while champagne is being sprayed on them on “Championship Sunday” at the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games. However as we have learned from past years most of those teams’ dreams of that moment will quickly be dashed as only a select few teams will separate themselves from the pack and give the defending champions from Cookeville, TN a run for their money.
This marks year two of the current format for the division and like in past years, it has brought out more talented teams stacked with superstars of the sport. This season’s team division has been hyped more than ever and for good reason as some of the top teams from last year return and new ones were formed all with the goal of having their names etched on the “Cup”.
Death, taxes and CrossFit Mayhem Freedom winning the Affiliate Cup, those are constants. The team from Tennessee has won a record five Games titles including the last three. Each year they have won by larger margins. Last year they were 279 points better than their closest competitors. In 2019 they won by 198 points, 2018 they were 112 points behind. Across their five title reign, the average margin of victory has been 142.6 points.
Last year they won a team record seven of the 12 events including the first five events. As dominating as that team was, this year’s team is set to be the best team Rich Froning Jr. has ever assembled. Returning are Andrea Nisler and Taylor Williamson, considered the best women team athletes of all-time.
Joining the trio is Canadian Samuel Cournoyer, a person who many predict will be a future individual Games podium contender. Cournoyer proved that with his third place finish in a stacked individual field at Wodapalooza. The 26-year old has three Games appearances finishing as high as 10th in 2020.
The newly formed team placed second in the Open, first in the Team Quarterfinals and won all six events at the Syndicate Crown Semifinal. In the two CrossFit programmed workouts of the Semifinals, Freedom had the third best weight lifted in the snatch ladder (935 LBs) and the fourth best time (11:20.83) in the “Thruster + Legless” workout amongst the Games field.
If this is indeed the last Games for Froning, considered the “Greatest CrossFit Athlete” of all-time, then he has put together a team that makes him reaching a record 10 combined Games titles all but a given.
The major reason why this year’s team division has gotten so much attention is the formation of a star-studded team in Iceland. CrossFit Reykjavík makes their return to the Games for the first time since 2017 but with a much different look. Two-time Games champion Annie Thorisdottir decided to give the team competition a shot after her podium run as an individual at last year’s Games.
She was able to recruit Americans Lauren Fisher, Tola Morakinyo and Aussie Khan Porter, who unlike Thorisdottir have experience competing at the Games on teams. Morakinyo has three Games appearances on a team and is considered one of the strongest men in CrossFit. Fisher last appeared at the Games in 2019, finishing third with the CrossFit Invictus team. Lastly, Porter has six Games appearances including a team appearance in 2019.
Reykjavík won the “Snatch Ladder” workout in the Semifinals with a total weight lifted of 955.5 LBs and had the second best time in the “Thruster + Legless” workout. The combination of superstars provides a serious threat to Mayhem Freedom on paper.
CrossFit Oslo came out of nowhere last year to finish second at the Games behind Mayhem Freedom. This year the team returns with a different name, adding some color to their name, going by CrossFit Oslo Navy Blue. The team for the most part stayed intact with Ingrid Hodnemyr, Lena Richter and Eivind Dahl Ringard returning. The addition of three-time “Fittest Man in Norway” Nicolay Billaudel makes a good team even better. Billaudel competed at the 2019 Games as Norway’s national champion, finishing 40th.
Hodnemyr and Richter are giving Mayhem’s Williamson and Nisler a run for their money as the fittest duo of women in the division. The Norwegians (with Kristin Holte) already have a win under their belt against their Mayhem counterparts when they finished ahead of them (with Haley Adams) in their Wodapalooza win in January.
As expected the team easily won their Semifinal, finishing 120 points ahead of their closest competitor at Strength in Depth. Oslo Navy Blue joined both Mayhem Freedom and CrossFit Reykjavík as the only teams to win all six of their Semifinal workouts.
The Podium Dark Horses
If there’s a team that knows how talented and prepared Mayhem Freedom is – not that there’s any doubt about that – it’s Mayhem Independence. The team consists of four very talented individuals with varying degrees of competition experience. Alexis Johnson is a name that sticks out due to her Games experience as both an individual and on a team. She has appeared at the Games three times with her last appearance being a member of the Don’t Stop team that finished sixth at the 2019 Games.
Angelo DiCicco was on the path to stardom as a two-time “Fittest Teen” but a back injury forced him into an early retirement. That retirement was premature as he continued to CrossFit to keep him prepared for his career as a firefighter. That led him to competing at the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge as an individual last year and making it to the Last Chance Qualifier. He’s joined by Argentinian Sasha Nieves who competed at the Games last year as an individual, the former Olympic weightlifter brings untapped strength and potential. Luke Parker also brings a high level of strength and output to the team that trains alongside Froning’s Freedom team.
The team won four events at the MACC, winning their Semifinal by 80 points. In the Semifinal they actually tied their Freedom counterparts with a weight lifted of 935 LBs in the “Snatch Ladder”. Their time of 11:55.21 in the “Thruster + Legless” workouts is the eighth best among the Games field.
CrossFit Invictus’ name is synonymous with the team division, having representation in every Games since the team division was started in 2009. This year’s team looks to return to the podium, something they have accomplished three times in their storied history including an Affiliate Cup championship in 2014.
Brittany Weiss and Jorge Fernandez are holdovers from last year’s team that finished 19th. They added former teen star Devyn Kim, who had her first Games team experience taken from her last year when Invictus Unconquerable was disqualified for having an athlete testing positive for a banned substance. Joshua Al-Chamaa will finally make his Games debut after many years of tough breaks and close calls. The Brit is considered one of the fittest men in the United Kingdom and paired with Fernandez gives the team a potent 1-2 punch in strength and power output events.
They were the top team at the Granite Games Semifinal, winning against a stacked field with a consistent effort across the board. All six of their finishes were in the top-3 including three event wins.
Top Ten Contenders
Some other teams that can cause some headaches for Mayhem Freedom and the teams chasing them include Russia’s KT CrossFit who actually holds the record in the “Thruster + Legless” workout with a time of 10:44.00 when they won the Far East Throwdown.
CrossFit Urban Energy returns after a seventh place finish at last year’s Games. They put on a show at the Torian Pro Semifinal winning three workouts.
Canadian teams CrossFit Taranis Lifetree and CrossFit Pro1 Montreal are teams that are no strangers to the Games in terms of experience.
American teams CrossFit OBA, Move Fast Lift Heavy and CrossFit Greater Heights Ascend finished behind Invictus at the Granite Games but are considered threats to the podium due to their wealth of Games experience from the individuals on each respective team.