2023 CrossFit Semifinal Preview: Far East Throwdown
The 2023 CrossFit Games Semifinals stage enters its third and final week on Friday June 2nd, and runs through until the 4th. Throughout the three days, 28 individual women and 29 individual men will be taking the competition floor at Busan Exhibition and Convention Center (BEXCO) in Busan, South Korea.
After completing all 7 tests programmed for the 2023 Semifinals, just 6 percent of the athletes — or, 2 women and 2 men — will progress to the final stage of competition: The 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games.
Who will wind up in Wisconsin in August, however, is as unknown and unknowable as CrossFit. As it goes, the top athlete from each division will not be competing.
Missing in action
On the women’s side, the dominant Seung-Yeon Choi will be absent due to a nagging shoulder injury.
Meanwhile, the usual shoo-in on the men’s side at the Asia Semifinal, Roman Khrennikov, competed in North America East earlier in May.
In a move uncharacteristic of CrossFit athletes, the podium-finisher relocated from Russian to Cookeville, Tennessee, along with his wife Anastasiya Khrennikov and son. As a result, he competed in an arguably more-competitive Semifinal this year where he finished 4th overall.
So, while the Russian athlete will be competing at the 2023 Games, he will not be competing this weekend.
Aside from Choi, last year Seher Kaya was the other individual woman to qualify out of Asia in the 2022 Asia Far East Semifinal. The two placed first and second at the event, respectively, by a significant 50+ point margin.
In the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit games, the two women were neck-and-neck from start-to-finish. Choi placed 26th overall, while Seher Kaya placed 29th. Despite how close the two finished to one another, Choi has long been considered the most dominant athlete from the Asian region.
Seher Kaya: With Choi out, a runway is cleared for Kaya to show her dominance and get the kudos she’s long-deserved. A Games veteran and well-rounded performer, Kaya is the fave going into the weekend.
Who to watch
Dawon Jung: Jung, who finished third at the 2022 Far East Semifinal, and thus narrowly missed a spot at the 2023 games is another athlete to watch this year.
While Kaya had three 1st place finishes in her region during the 2023 Quarterfinal, she had a subpar finish on Quarterfinal test 3 with a time of 8:07. Finishing the strength test nearly three minutes faster in 5:12 — which for frame of reference is faster than Alexis Raptis, Katrin Davisdottir, and Madeline Sturt — Jung was able to solidify a first place standing in Asia.
Given how many of the 2023 Semifinals tests require strength, Jung may be at an advantage compared to the other competitors who struggle under a heavy barbell.
Yuko Sakuyama: This do-it-all athlete from Japan, isn’t just a five-time CrossFit Games Regional athlete and two-time Semifinal athlete, but also a national Weightlifter and Powerlifter. The six-time “Fittest Woman in Japan” placed in the top 5 during both the 2021 and 2022 Semifinals she competed in. With her background, tests 4 and 5 should be great for her.
Shahad Budebs: This two-time former Games athlete competed as an individual in 2019, and then on a Team in 2021. She finished Quarterfinals with double the points of the third-place finisher, Takeyeva, but that was mainly because of a 27th placing on Quarterfinal Test 2. If her barbell snatch is better than her dumbbell snatch, this 28-year-old may have a chance at placing well this weekend.
Kamila Takeyeva: Takeyeva, who took 2022 off, is another Asian athlete with an impressive 2023 Quarterfinal finish. The athlete, who competed in the 2021 Asia continent Semifinal and finished 9th, finished 4 of the 5 Quarterfinal tests with a 3rd or 4th place finish in her region. How much progress did this athlete make in her year off? Let’s find out.
Dema Zebdieh: The Fittest Woman in Jordan, Zebdieh may be 37-years-old, but she’s as good as the best of them. With a top 1000 world-wide finish in the CrossFit Open and top 500 world-wide finish in 2023 Quarterfinals, this 2019 Games Athlete may have a chance of returning to the stage in Madison. Given her gymnastics prowess, she’ll be especially fun to watch during Test 2 and Test 6.
Khrennikov isn’t the only man usually present at the Asia Semifinal who will be absent.
Nasser Alruwayeh, who was awarded silver at the 2023 Far East Semifinal, prior to having his second-place finish revoked, will also not be competing this weekend. Last season Alruwayeh was disqualified from the sport for two years due to a doping ban.
Without these athletes in Asia this weekend, there are no obvious shoo-ins on the men’s side to mention. The competition for the two 2023 NoBull CrossFit Games men’s spots from the Asia region will be tooth-and-nail.
Who to watch
Arthur Semenov: Semenov wound up gaining permission to compete in the 2022 CrossFit Games after Alruwayeh’s DQ. But he came in last in Madison overall last year, so it’d be inaccurate to call the athlete, who came in 5th during the 2023 Quarterfinals, a shoo-in. Still, the added in-person competition experience may give him the edge he needs to punch his return ticket to the Games.
Andrei Fedotov: This Mayhem athlete earned bronze at the 2022 Far East Throwdown. Seeded second coming out of Quarterfinals, he’s worth keeping an eye on. However, his worst 2023 Quarterfinal finishes were on Test 3 and 4, which suggest he could struggle with all the heavy-weight workouts Bozman programmed for Semis this year.
Morteza Sedaghat: Sedaghat may have been the 5th place finisher at the 2022 Far East Semifinal, but his 1st place finish for his region in the 2023 Quarterfinals suggest his hard work has been paying off. Both gymnasty and strong, this Iranian athlete’s biggest weakness is his endurance. So while Test 1 may prove a challenge, the other 6 are in his wheelhouse.
Eren Kim: If his tied-for-second 2023 Quarterfinal finish is any indication, Kim logged hours hounding his weaknesses in the off season. As it goes, Kim attended the Far East Semifinals in 2022 and finished middle of the pack with a 15th (out of 30). But given that Kim beat out other bubble-athletes competing in Busan this weekend — like Ruslan Miftakhov and Seung Jong Kim — he’s one to track the next three days.
Hamza Abdalfatah: Abdalfatah has been at the top of this pack since 2019, when he qualified for the CrossFit Games for his first and only time. Since then, his CrossFit career has been marked by a series of near-misses. In 2021 he came in 7th at the CrossFit East Regional, and in 2022 he placed 15th overall in the Last Chance Qualifier. The Palestinian athlete, however, may be poised to make a return trip to The Games. An endurance athlete who is good on his hands, Tests 1 and 6 should be good for him.
The bottom line: Without consistent Choi and powerhouse Khrennikov on the floor this weekend, the two qualifying spots from Asia Semifinal are going to go to whoever is able to rise to the level of their off-season training day after day after day.