CrossFit Games

Emma Cary is Back as She Obliterates CrossFit Open 23.1

February 22, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Ava Kitzi
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Eighteen-year-old sensation Emma Cary dominated 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Open workout 23.1, getting first place by two reps ahead of Mallory O’Brien. Cary is getting ready to attack the weeks to come as she ramps up her comeback year after a back injury took her out of the 2021 and 2022 season. 

CrossFit HQ has yet to verify the scores from 23.1, but unofficially Cary is in first place. She completed 269 reps of the workout, meaning she made it through 1 round of: 

  • 60 calories on the rower 
  • 50 toes-to-bar
  • 40 wall balls
  • 30 power cleans
  • 20 ring muscle ups 

Plus, 60 more calories and nine toes-to-bar (unofficially). If her score holds, Cary will not only be number one on the women’s side, but it will also be one of her biggest wins since coming back after taking last season off. 

Remind me: Cary pulled out of the 2022 season after sustaining a back injury during Quarterfinals in 2021. The injury kept her out of two seasons, but she’s feeling healthy and better than ever.  

Her first return to competition was 2023 TYR Wodapalooza where she placed third and put on an impressive performance. Now, she is looking to dominate the Open and make a splash ahead of the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games season.

  • “Seeing something like this and feeling like I’m back to competition. It’s just the best feeling. And it’s a really special way to say that I’m back,” says Cary. 
  • “It’s a testament to myself that this last year, as hard as it’s been, it’s been worth it. And now I’m past it, my back is completely healthy. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.”  
  • “It’s not like there weren’t several months of kind of an awkward in between stage where I felt mostly healthy. But I didn’t feel super fit and it was more like ‘Will I ever be back,’ and now to be on the other side of that and see actually how much better I am because of that, like that’s a statement that I made to myself, which makes it really special.”

Cary adds, she is analytical when it comes to planning her workout approach and that didn’t differ when it came to 23.1. 

She said she watched the live announcement and recorded Laura Horvath’s and Gabriela Migala’s split times. Cary used those figures as a baseline for her own performance. 

  • “I watched the live announcement of course and I timed all their splits, all the rest and I knew that I would be breaking more. But my breaks could be shorter and I knew just with the kind of athlete I am I do better when I break more. So I had to trust that plan.”
  • “I had my rest planned out. I got to the rower exactly when I wanted to and had a lot more in the tank than I even expected myself to. I mean I was hurting like I was in a lot of discomfort. But I could still produce a lot of power on the rower.” 
  • “And like even that just small win that small little thing in the middle of the workout. I just feel how much better of a rower I was than the last time I did a similar workout to this.” 

The next open announcement will be today at CrossFit Bison in Midland Park, New Jersey. 

A piece of advice Cary has for those doing the Open for the first time “is to have a couple of super intentional focus points for each movement, instead of trying to worry about doing everything perfectly all of the time because that’s not going to happen.” 

She says an example was the power cleans in 23.1. Instead of making sure each clean was perfect, her focus was on getting her hands to the bar as fast as possible for each rep. 

“Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but being able to choose where you focus, I think that that’s a really powerful thing, not just during the Open, of course, but like that skill can be practiced in training, but it especially matters in the Open because scores are typically so close,” she said.

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