CrossFit Games

What Quarterfinals Tells Us About North American Women in 2023

March 21, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Brooke Wells (@brookewellss)| The Granite Games(@ thegranitegames)|Mal O’Brien(@ malobrien_)
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For a few seasons now, arguments have been made that when it comes to finding the fittest, North American women are generally overrepresented at the CrossFit Games, at the expense of the strong European region, and to some degree Oceania.

But if the (still unofficial) Quarterfinals leaderboard has something to say about the 2023 women’s field, it’s that North America, especially the East, is a bigger force to be reckoned with than Europe, while Oceania (no surprise as both Tia-Clair Toomey and Kara Saunders are pregnant and sitting out the season) is weaker than previous seasons.

Why this matters: To ensure the fittest athletes have the chance to qualify to the Games, CrossFit LLC introduced the strength-of-field calculation this year, which considers competition data from the previous two seasons to determine which regions will be awarded additional berths to the Games. 

That being said, it can be argued that the best predictor of who the fittest are this season is to look at the recent Quarterfinals results, not last year’s results, let alone the year before that. 

Case in point: Seventeen of the top 20 women from the 2022 Quarterfinals went on to qualify to the Games (and 19th place finisher Olivia Kerstetter opted to compete in, and win, the teen division at the Games). Additionally, more than three quarters of last year’s women’s Games field finished in the top 50 in Quarterfinals.

  • The same is true of the men: Fifteen of the top 20 Quarterfinals men went on to qualify to Madison last year, and almost 75 percent of the 2022 Games field were men who placed in the top 50 in Quarterfinals.

The point is, the best predictor at the moment, in terms of who is Games-ready right now, has to be the Quarterfinals leaderboard. 

What this year’s leaderboard is saying: Though still unofficial, nine of the top 20 Quarterfinals spots belong to North American East women, including winner Mal O’Brien, while four others in the top 20 are from North America West, meaning North America holds 65 percent of the top 20 spots. The other seven spots (35 percent) of the top 20 belong to Europe.

  • And when we look deeper at the top 40, 23 athletes are from North America, (57.5 percent) while 16 of 40 (40 percent) are from Europe, and only one is from Oceania (Jamie Simmonds).

Putting it together: Of the 23 guaranteed spots to the Games this season, 10 of them, (43 percent) belong to North America—way below their Quarterfinals showing of 57.5 percent of the top 40—thus suggesting North American women may, in fact, deserve a fair amount of additional spots to the Games this summer.

  • On the other side of the fence, Oceania has three guaranteed spots to the Games this season, or 13 percent of the Games invites, yet only one athlete (2.5 percent of the field) finished in the top 40 during Quarterfinals, suggesting three spots might be more than enough for Oceania, after all. 
  • Further, South America and Asia are both guaranteed two spots this season, while Africa gets one. Only one athlete from any of these regions finished in the top 50 in Quarterfinals—Argentina’s Sasha Nievas (46th)—while Asia’s and Africa’s top performers were Korea’s Dawon Jung (55th) and Zimbabwe’s Christina Livaditakis (180th) respectively. 

This leaves Europe. They’re guaranteed five berths this season (21.7 percent of the invites), yet they made up 40 percent of the top 40 from Quarterfinals. Thus, it can be argued that they also deserve a certain number of additional invites to the 2023 Games, but not necessarily by taking these spots away from North American women, as has long been the speculation. 

The bottom line: It’s no secret that, in recent years European and Oceania women have dominated the podium at the CrossFit Games. In fact, North American women were kept off the podium at the Games from 2015 until 2020, when Kari Pearce broke the five-year podium drought. All of this perhaps was the impetus that left the community to wonder why North American women sent as many athletes to the Games as they did each year. 

But that’s all in the past now. It’s 2023, and if Quarterfinals means anything, it appears North American women (especially the East) are on track and deserving of however many additional Games invites they get awarded this summer. Arguably as many as 57.5 percent of the invites.

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