CrossFit Games

Tia-Clair Toomey is Out for 2023, so Who’s the Next Women’s Champ?

January 1, 2023 by
Credit: Instagram @essence_images
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In the Chicago Bulls era of the 1990’s, everyone was competing for second place, and the only chance of winning was when Michael Jordan retired. The women’s CrossFit field has just received a similar gift this holiday season, with Tia-Clair Toomey announcing that she is pregnant and will be sitting out the entire 2023 CrossFit Games season. 

Toomey has won six consecutive championships from 2017-2022, making her the winningest individual in history of the CrossFit Games (male or female), and don’t forget she took second in both 2015 and 2016 as well. 

Now however, there’s officially blood in the water and for the first year in a very long time, we all get to speculate about who is going to take over as the new women’s CrossFit champion. 

What we’re all thinking: The first impulse is to assume we’ll see a race between the other two women’s podium finishers from 2022. These two athletes have proven to be in a class of their own from other top 10 athletes in the past, but which has a better chance of winning?

  • Mal O’Brien: Consistency is the word that comes to mind when thinking of Mal O’Brien. For someone who is only 18 years old, she is extremely well-rounded and only getting better. The protege of Mat Fraser has shown a competitive fire that makes it very clear she is not there to participate, she is training to become a multi-year champion. The absence of Toomey at the 2023 CrossFit Games may have sped up the timeline for this young phenom. 
  • Laura Horvath: Dominance is a word that fits well when describing Laura Horvath. The three-time podium finisher has the ability to hit home runs and dominate events that line up well for her. Horvath was in a class of her own at the 2022 Rogue Invitational, winning four straight events and taking the top spot amongst a strong competitive field. Will Horvath be able to limit her finishes outside the top 15 and be consistent enough that her home runs can outshine O’Brien’s consistency?

Do they have what it takes? Some other big names come to mind when considering who could be a contender for the crown on the women’s side, but the real question is if any of these ladies will be able to rise to the competitive level of O’Brien and Horvath over a 12-15 event weekend. 

  • Danielle Brandon: Brandon has quickly become a fan favorite since her rookie debut in 2019 and can best be described as a rare athletic talent. She made big strides in 2022, nearly finishing on the podium, but was ultimately held back by a lack of overall consistency across 14 scored events. Brandon has the ability to put up multiple top five finishes across a weekend, but will need to limit her finishes outside the top 15 if she hopes to compete for the top spot. 
  • Brooke Wells: Wells finished fifth less than a year after a major elbow injury and surgery. The comeback was a display of her incredible resiliency and showcased the progress she has continued to make despite major setbacks. Wells is an eight-time CrossFit Games athlete, qualifying every year since 2015. The most important thing to note is that her two best finishes have come in the last few years, signifying that she is still improving. 
  • Emma Lawson: The 17-year-old put on an incredible performance at the 2022 CrossFit Games, finishing sixth overall in her rookie season. Lawson started her weekend strong, wearing the leaders jersey and taking all top 10 finishes in the first four events. The back half of the Games is where Lawson struggled, with several consecutive finishes outside the top 20. The young star is still developing her strength base and will need to rely on her incredible gymnastics capacity and endurance if she hopes to be a podium contender in 2023. 
  • Kara Saunders: Saunders nearly beat Toomey back in 2017, finishing only two points back of the top spot. She is a ten-time CrossFit Games competitor and has finished inside the top 10 in six of her appearances. She has been very public about being in a different phase of life, spreading her energy between motherhood, family, business ownership and training. She is so ridiculously fit that she still finished eighth overall in 2022, despite juggling all of these responsibilities. Saunders has the physical ability and competitive experience to win the CrossFit Games, the real question is if she can compete for the top spot despite her shift in priorities. 

Don’t forget the Dottirs: The only two competitors on this list that know what it feels like to win the CrossFit Games are both from Iceland. To think either of these athletes are past their prime would be a silly underestimation. 

  • Annie Thorisdottir: Iceland Annie is expected to come back to the individual division after a year as a team competitor. Thorisdottir has won two CrossFit Games and finished on the podium four times since beginning her career in 2009. Most recently, she took third as an individual in 2021, less than a year after giving birth to her daughter, Freya. If there is anyone that can push O’Brien and Horvath for the top spot, Thorisdottir has the strength, engine and competitive fire to put up a fight. 
  • Katrin Davidsdottir: Davidsdottir is a two-time champion and has finished inside the top five in four of her nine CrossFit Games appearances (not including her first place victories). She recently switched camps and is now training with Mat Fraser and HWPO after missing the Games in 2022. If she’s able to stay healthy, expect to see a big comeback from Katrin Davidsdottir in 2023. 

The bottom line: It’s fun to speculate, but the truth is none of us know who will win in 2023. The one thing we do know is that Tia-Clair Toomey won’t be standing atop the podium this year for the first time in a very long time. Who will capitalize on this opportunity and become the next women’s CrossFit Games champion? Only time will tell.

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