Lost in the Shuffle: Five Women who Flew Under the Radar, Yet Cruised their Way to Madison
One of the biggest changes this season in the CrossFit Games qualification process was the number of invites up for grabs at the most competitive Semifinals.
At the North America West, North America East and Europe Semifinal, women were vying for 10 or 11 Games tickets, more than twice as many as years gone by.
Remind me: Both in the Regionals days, and at Semifinals in 2021 and 2022, only five spots were available in North American and European regions. But this year, CrossFit LLC reduced the number of Semifinals from 10 to seven, meaning the number of competitors increased from 30 to 60, while the number of invites in the most competitive regions essentially doubled.
- This, not only, created a slightly different competition for the athletes, but it also affected the fan experience, as it was more challenging to keep track of how everyone was doing. Essentially, the two places we paid the most attention to were the dramatic race for the podium and the volatile and always-changing bubble—the spots between eighth and 15th—arguably at the expense of the not-as-flashy, but consistent performers in the middle.
These athletes—the quiet qualifiers—maybe didn’t ever make waves by winning a workout, nor were they ever really in the podium conversation, but they hung out solidly in the final heat and were never really in jeopardy of falling out of a qualification position, and yet they got lost in the shuffle of the weekend.
Meet Five Silent Assassins of the 2023 Semifinals
Fee Saghafi: Saghafi finished eighth at the North America East Semifinal, although she was sixth after Day 1 and seventh after Day 2, and never dropped out of the top eight all weekend.
- Saghafi was never flashy but had two top 10 finishes—her highest finish was sixth on Test 2—helping her quietly, but confidently punched her ticket to Madison for the second time, a feat she had been trying to do since qualifying for the first time in 2019.
Paige Powers: A former teen podium finisher, a 2022 Games rookie and the 2023 Wodapalooza champion, Paige Powers showed up in Orlando, FL with poise and confidence that helped the 20-year-old keep herself in a safe spot all weekend at the North America East Semifinal.
- Powers was eighth after Day 1 and fifth after Day 2 before eventually finishing sixth overall, 171 points ahead of the final qualification spot (11th). Even more impressive, Powers had six top 10 finishes, her highest placing being third on Test 3, proving that consistency is truly the key.
Christine Kolenbrander: After topping her weekend with back-to-back top 10 finishes, 2022 CrossFit Games rookie Christine Kolenbrander qualified in fourth out of the North America West Semifinal.
- Though she came close to the podium in the end, missing it by 18 points, she wasn’t really in the podium conversation all weekend, possibly because she never had an event win.
- Kolenbrander’s highest finish was third on the max snatch (205 pounds), and she also had four top 10 finishes. What set her apart, however, was that she never had a finish lower than 20th. In comparison, Alex Gazan, who topped all competitors had a 43rd place finish, while second place finisher Katrin Davidsdottir’s lowest placing was 23rd.
Matilde Garnes: Norway’s Matilde Garnes is another who cruised her way to a CrossFit Games ticket thanks to her consistent performance in Europe, which helped her qualify in sixth place.
- Garnes, a 2022 Games rookie, was seventh after Day 1 and sixth after Day 2 with a solid 78-point buffer over the 12th place athlete at the time. She was able to do this all without a top three finish all weekend (her highest finish was fourth on Test Five).
- That being said, Garnes logged three top 10 finishes, and never fell out of the top 19 on any event, helping her stay confidently above the cut line from start to finish in Berlin, Germany.
Manon Angonese: Belgium’s Manon Angonese had an eerily similar-looking weekend to Garnes. Sixth after Day 1 and seventh after Day 2, Angonese scooped up four top 10 finishes en route to making Games qualification look all too easy.
- Particularly noteworthy: The 30-year-old will be a rookie this summer in Madison.
The big picture: Though they didn’t have any exciting, come-from-behind Baylee Rayl or Emily Rolfe-style comebacks at Semis this season, Saghafi, Kolenbrander, Powers, Garnes and Angonese shouldn’t be overlooked this summer.
Their power is their consistency, and considering the Games will likely feature twice as many tests of fitness than Semis, consistency over flash, is even more likely to set athletes apart.