The 2022 CrossFit Games Season Recap: Bozman’s Debut, Khrennikov’s Visa, Ropegate, and The Iconic Capitol Event
Now that the season is over, the champagne has been popped and all the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games athletes are taking much needed vacations to recover and take stock of their years (unless they’re gearing up for what is a super busy off-season), it’s a good time for us to look back as well.
The 2022 season was one filled with a number of notable events, occurrences, controversies, and also feel good stories. Far from some of the years we’ve had in the past five, given Covid and the massive leadership/ownership changes that took place, you could say 2022 was quiet, and a return to normal in what seems like the new post-pandemic landscape – whatever that means.
So, was it a success, or a failure for CrossFit, and the sport in general? That answer is a subjective one that lies in the hearts and minds of each fan, athlete, coach and affiliate owner, but it’s safe to say this year gave us a lot to chew on.
The 2022 CrossFit Open was preceded by the very public firing of Dave Castro in early January, which meant for the first time in, well, ever, there would be a new programmer at the helm for the remainder of the Games season. With the Open looming just around the corner, CrossFit needed to act quickly. Though he had been behind the scenes for years, it was here that we got our first look at Adrian Bozman as the new face of the CrossFit Games. With only a few tweaks to the Open workouts, the season was off and running…almost.
Just one week after the 2022 Open kicked off, the sport of CrossFit found that like everyone else on the planet, it was impossible to ignore what will surely be the biggest global news story of the year with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
- CrossFit announced it would be banning the use of Russian and Belarusian flags for competitors during sanctioned competitions, and the Ukrainian CrossFit community was swift in action, in both condemning the invasion, voicing their opinions and also pulling together help for those on the front lines of the war.
- On top of this was the news that Russian athlete Roman Khrennikov, who was seen as a potential podium threat, had finally, after years of trying, secured an athlete’s visa to compete in the US for the next five years.
- Though Khrennikov was the target of online attacks and death threats, he continuously handled the situation like a consummate professional, and we now know how everything turned out for him at the Games— a Hollywood ending that included a silver medal alongside his wife and newborn son.
Following three weeks of the Open came the second annual Quarterfinals, and this is where things got really interesting. Not only did the workouts leak online hours before their official announcement, there were also legitimate controversies surrounding score validations and uploading procedures including, most notably Anikha Greer, whose issues uploading her final workout cost her the season. This also was our first introduction to YouTube personality Andrew Hiller, who rose in popularity amongst the CrossFit internet community by highlighting “no reps” in Quarterfinals video submissions.
It’s safe to say, both CrossFit HQ and yes, some athletes, have some work to do when it comes to making sure they have all their ducks in a row for future online qualifiers. However, newly appointed CrossFit Games Competition Director Adrian Bozman took to the CrossFit Games podcast to address many of these issues outright, which is a step in the right direction for transparency and communication from CrossFit HQ.
It’s safe to say, both CrossFit HQ and yes, some athletes, have some work to do when it comes to making sure they have all their ducks in a row for future online qualifiers.
Semifinals had its share of controversy as well, kicking off with seeding, and who was going where and why? Travel restrictions surrounding COVID-19 came into play, and some athletes found they had to make very difficult decisions about their personal health in hopes of competing at an event. Of course, we can’t talk 2022 Semifinals without addressing “Ropegate”— the incident involving a season-ending injury for Scott Panchik that led to official Rogue Fitness ropes being sawed and shortened across the world for the remainder of Semifinals.
All of that being said, each of the ten events took place around the globe as scheduled (a mini-miracle of its own), and fans got weeks of endless competition to chew on, with new athletes and stories to discuss to their heart’s desires.
Does CrossFit have a drug problem? This is a question we asked in an opinion piece after a slew of notable athletes were found to have been using banned substances, including Granite Games runner-up Phil Toon, shaking up the CrossFit Games landscape in the process. This was the largest number of positive drug tests the CrossFit community had faced in a while, potentially caused by the sheer number of rookie qualifiers that, due to COVID or otherwise, had never been drug tested in the sport. Only time will tell if 2022 turns out to be an anomaly, or if this is a sign of things to come in the future.
Finally, we got to Madison, Wisconsin where the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games were held in what turned out to be a very post-COVID setting, given the impact of restrictions in 2021.
The competition got off to a shaky start, as Event 1: Bike to Work was marred by several athletes doing too few or too many laps on the bike course— not a great look for those working hard to legitimize and professionalize the sport of CrossFit. However, Bozman and CrossFit’s general manager of Sport Justin Bergh, addressed the controversy at a press conference, promising fans and athletes issues like this would get better as the competition went on.
Turns out they were right. Outside of weather forcing event times and orders to change, there were no major issues as the week went on and we were treated to some truly iconic events, none more so than The Capitol, which has quickly become a fan favorite for its ability to truly showcase what it means to do CrossFit. It was here that Bozman earned his stripes as the new man in charge of programming, as fans and competitors alike were given a once in a lifetime event people will be talking about for years to come.
We were treated to some truly iconic events, none more so than The Capitol, which has quickly become a fan favorite for its ability to truly showcase what it means to do CrossFit.
If all you saw from the 2022 season was the final leaderboard, it might appear that nothing really changed. Justin Medeiros won his second CrossFit Games title in a row, Rich Froning grabbed yet another team title and Tia-Clair Toomey became the most decorated individual athlete of all-time, begging the question, is she the G.O.A.T.? We got another taste of how good Mal O’Brien is becoming, as well as an official introduction to the newest female all-stars to age out of the Teen division – Alexis Raptis and Emma Lawson – who are showing the future of the sport is very, very bright indeed.
The men’s side of competition confirmed how tight margins have become as long-time Games veterans like Patrick Vellner, Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson, Noah Ohlsen, and Brent Fikowski found themselves battling podium-hungry newcomers for spots inside the Top 10. Gone are the days of tanking an event early on in the weekend and finishing on top by the end, as neither Medeiros nor Khrennikov had a single event finish lower than 18th.
When we take a 10,000 foot view, 2022 will go down as the first season after the pandemic and a quasi return to normalcy. In searching for a word to encapsulate the season, resiliency comes to mind. We saw resiliency on full display in 2022: in the CrossFit Games team that adjusted and adapted to last-minute leadership changes; in the athletes, like Brooke Wells who miraculously came back from her Games-ending injury just one season prior; and in the volunteers and fans that showed up and sold out the Coliseum, bringing a sense of normalcy back to the sport we know and love.
In the end, even HQ showed resilience in pushing forward staffing changes like bringing Dave Castro back in June, and welcoming new CEO Don Faul just days before the official kick-off of the CrossFit Games.
If there’s one thing we’re certain of, it’s change in CrossFit, and in the face of those changes, those that are most resilient will continue to rise to the top. What more can be asked for, in terms of success, from a sport that is only 16 years old? Only the upcoming season can provide true answers and insights into what from this year was a lesson learned, and what indeed landed us two steps forward, one step backwards in the grand history of CrossFit.