Alex Kotoulas and Jamie Simmonds Take Iconic Burj Khalifa Challenge to Kick Off Dubai Fitness Championship

Photo Credit: Preslie Hirsch
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The 2022 Dubai Fitness Championship started with a bang on Friday as athletes climbed 160 flights of stairs in the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. Oh yeah, they did it in a weight vest too.

One big thing: The Dubai Fitness Championship is known for its innovative and interesting programming. Last year the competition started with two events on the slopes of Ski Dubai, the only indoor ski resort in the Middle East. In previous years the athletes have run up and down sand dunes and completed open water swims in the Arabian Gulf.

The details: The Burj Kahlifa is 2,722 feet tall (829.8 meters), or just over half a mile.

  • The building was opened in 2010 and took five years to build. 
  • All together it has 57 elevators and eight escalators, but that wouldn’t help the athletes as they had to traverse the 2,909 stairs from the ground to the 160th floor.
  • Athletes were sent up the stairs one at a time–one athlete every two minutes–as the staircase is narrow, so there was no way for them to know how they were faring against the rest of the field.
  • One stipulation in the rules was that, if an athlete asked to pass another, they were required to allow it and step aside.

The men: Greek athlete, Alex Kotoulas—seventh at the 2022 Strength in Depth Semifinal—was the first athlete, male or female, to reach the top of the stairs, finishing in a time of 30:37, with Aniol Ekoi from Spain nearly one minute behind him and 2022 CrossFit Games rookie Guillaume Briant finishing third in 32:09.

  • Rounding out the top five were perennial Games athletes, Australian Khan Porter and Canadian Brent Fikowski.
  • Serbian athlete Lazar Djukic—the eighth fittest man in the world and a contender for the title—struggled in the event. Visibly in a lot of pain, he crawled to the top of the stairs and almost collapsed over the finish line. After being attended to by medical staff, Djukic later told the Morning Chalk up that he didn’t eat breakfast that morning, and was now feeling fine. He finished 18th out of 20 athletes. 

The women: 2019 CrossFIt Games podium finisher Jamie Simmonds has something to prove in Dubai after she missed qualifying to the 2022 Games by two spots at the Torian Pro Semifinal. And prove herself she did. Simmonds had the fastest female time (32:10) by 21 seconds over British athlete Aimee Cringle. 

  • Canadian Emily Rolfe finished third, leaving no question that she has fully recovered from emergency surgery for a blood clot she suffered at last year’s Games that left her rehabilitating for a number of weeks in the summer and fall. She finished just three seconds behind Cringle, while Andrea Solberg and Oihana Moya rounded out the top five.
  • It’s worth noting that four of the top 10 times belonged to women.

The bottom line: With seven events remaining, it’s still anyone’s game. So far four of the remaining events have been released, but three remain a mystery. One of them will be released on Saturday afternoon and the remaining two will be revealed on Sunday.

With the long endurance event out of the way, look for more sprint and middle-range time domain workouts, as well as some of the classic movements that the Dubai event is known for (flying push-ups, A-jumps, devil’s press and deck squats).

To stay up-to-date, visit our Event Hub and Instagram throughout the weekend.

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