CrossFit Games

Five Things We Learned from 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games Semifinals

June 12, 2023 by and
Photo Credit: Ava Kitzi
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The last three weeks of the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Semifinals proved to be a difficult competition for rookie athletes to veteran Games athletes, as individuals and teams took on a range of intense tests. 

Since the three weeks have now concluded Morning Chalk Up writer Teaganne Finn and analyst Joey Adduci give us five takeaways from Semifinals and what we can learn as we now move closer to the Games in August. 

1. Winning Tests Isn’t Enough: Over the last three weeks we saw a number of seasoned athletes win tests and still not qualify for the next stage of competition, which goes to show just how important it is to be able to show up and lead in almost every test of the weekend. 

One example is Guilherme Malheiros who had an extremely impressive three first-place finishes during the South America Semifinal competition, which unfortunately wasn’t enough to advance him to the Games. Similarly, Isaac Newman (8th overall at Oceania) and Katelin Van Zyl (4th at Oceania) both had two test wins and didn’t qualify. 

Interestingly enough it was athletes who stayed consistent the entire weekend who would prove to come out on top. Two-time CrossFit Games champion Justin Medeiros finished his Semifinals weekend in fifth place with only one test win and even a 24th place finish. But he was consistent and averaged a 10th place finish overall. 

2. Rookie Takeover: While many seasoned athletes finished right where they expected, it was a number of rookies who stole the show over the last three weekends. Many of those being from the North America East Semifinal including Sydney Wells, Shelby Neal, Caroline Stanley, Luke Parker, Jack Farlow, and James Sprague. 

Five European rookies also punched their ticket to the Games; Ella Wunger, Rebecka Vitesson, Jelle Hoste, Michal Wesolowski and Fabian Beneito. The Torian Pro Semifinal also had rookies Jake Douglas and Bayley Martin and Emily de Rooy. Every season there are a number of rookies who make their Games debut, but this year is a notable one with so many of the popular top contenders not competing, such as Tia-Clair Toomey and Mallory O’Brien. 

The athletes missing from the roster will set the stage for a very interesting Games come August. These rookie athletes aren’t only making the Games, but some could very well be at the top of the leaderboard or even on top of the podium. Please note, this is likely not a complete list of rookies. 

3. Semifinals Gave a Regionals Feel: Over the last couple of years CrossFit has changed the format for how athletes qualify for the Games. Since 2010 most people were used to the regionals format until 2019 when sanctionals were introduced as a way to be more inclusive. Following that year came a couple of years of big changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which ultimately moved Semifinals to an online competition. 2023 was the first big year when athletes could compete in person and had the same tests. 

The last three weeks of competition were exciting and brought back a feeling that many athletes and spectators have likened to the original regionals style competition. The athletes were all given the same test descriptions ahead of time and divided into seven regions based on their country of citizenship. 

4. Running is Now a Season-Long Priority: Running has always been a staple at the CrossFit Games, being tested in short, medium and long distances across a weekend of competition. In 2023, it became clear that running was a major priority of testing fitness with the inclusion of shuttle runs in both the Open and Quarterfinals, followed by three running tests in Semifinals.

Each stage has offered a different stimulus, with shuttle runs involving more agility and the air runner rewarding bigger, heavier athletes. It will be exciting to see road running tested at the Games, testing true endurance and stamina in a way we haven’t seen yet this season. 

5. Semifinals Rewarded Strength and Speed: Reflecting back on three weeks and seven regions performing the same series of tests, it’s become apparent that the Semifinals style of programming is very different from that of the Open, Quarterfinals and Games. There seems to be a clear emphasis on heavier loads, higher level skills and shorter time domains at the Semifinals stage. 

Six of the seven tests had a loaded implement, with a total of 8 loaded movements across the full weekend. The programming also favored strength over stamina/capacity on the gymnastics front, with the only real test of capacity being the toes-to-bar in Test 7. 

Beyond the strength demands, nearly 60 percent of the programming emphasized short, powerful efforts. Test 2 was an interval workout with three minute repeats, Test 4 was a six minute strength event, followed by a three to four minute sprint in Test 5. The weekend wrapped up with another sprint workout, with Test 7 being in the three to four minute range as well. 

The bottom line: CrossFit HQ’s decision to bring back in-person Semifinal competition and standardize the tests across all regions really changed the road to the Games this season. Fans and athletes alike seemed to be enthralled by each competition over the three weeks and seemed to bring back those “OG” CrossFit feels. All eyes will be on the athletes over the next few weeks as we see who put in the work ahead of Madison.

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