CrossFit Games

Was there More Room for Error at Semifinals this Season?

June 19, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Ava Kitzi (@avakitzi)
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When CrossFit LLC first announced the changes to the 2023 Semifinal season in October 2022, one of the questions that arose was: How would twice as many tickets to the CrossFit Games and twice as many athletes in North America and Europe affect the overall competition?

Eight months later with Semifinals behind us, the answer to the question proved to be that under the new format, in the larger fields, there was more room for error than in seasons gone by. In other words, you could afford to have a weakness exposed, even have a bad event or two, and still qualify for the Games.

Some notable numbers: Alex Gazan placed 43rd on the max snatch event at the North America West Semifinal and still managed to take the top spot at the end of the weekend, the lowest placing on a single event for a champion in Semifinals history.  

  • Similarly, Emily Rolfe had a 30th and 41st place finish and snagged the sixth qualification spot in North America West, Sydney Wells had a 58th and a 34th place finish and qualified in seventh out of North America East, and, on the men’s side, German’s Moritz Fiebig qualified third out of Europe with a 36th place finish.
  • In comparison: Last season, when looking at the four North American Semifinals on the women’s side, the lowest placing by any winner was Haley Adams, who won the Syndicate Crown Semifinal. She was 23rd on the first event, but was able to climb back due to five other top three finishes. Meanwhile, the lowest placing on a single event of any qualifier, male or female, last season was Colten Mertens (27th).

Average placing comparison: Another great way to highlight the point is by looking at the average placing of qualifiers in any given region.

  • In 2022, the average event placing among the qualifiers in the four North American Semifinals on the women’s side was sixth, while on the men’s side the average placing amongst qualifiers was seventh. These numbers were the exact same in Europe: seventh for the men, sixth for the women.
  • This year, on the other hand, in order to qualify to the Games as a woman, you only needed an average finish of 15th or better in North America West, 17th or better in North America East, and 15th or better in Europe.
  • On the men’s side, to qualify to the Games this season, you needed an average finish of 12th or better in North America West, 13th or better in North America East, or 15th or better in Europe. 

One big thing: At the Semifinals with smaller fields this season—Oceania, South America, Africa and Africa—there was much less room for error. 

  • In Oceania, for example, you needed an average finish of sixth or higher as a woman to snag one of the three qualification spots, while in Africa, Asia and South America, you needed an average finish of fifth or higher to snag a Games invite. 
  • As a man in Oceania and Africa, the magic number was seventh, while in Asia the number was sixth, and in South America, third.
  • Meanwhile, the lowest finish on any single event from any qualifier, male or female, in the latter four regions this season was Shahad Budebs’ 21st place finish in Asia.

The big picture: North America East, West and Europe are undoubtedly the three most competitive, deepest regions in the world. However, with twice as many spots to the Games available and twice as many competitors this season, there was also considerably more room for error. On the flip side, in the less competitive regions, although on paper you might not have needed as much overall fitness to qualify to the Games, there was less room to make a mistake on game day.

  • Case in point: The overarching favorite in South America, two-time top 10 Games finisher Gui Malheiros, failed to qualify this year due to one 15th place finish on Test 1. He rallied back with three event wins, a second, a third and a sixth, yet it still wasn’t enough for him to snag one of the two spots available.
  • Similarly, in Asia, Russian athlete Anastasya Dodonova was sitting in the top two all weekend until a 15th place finish on Test 6 ultimately cost her a trip to the Games.

All this is to say that the athletes who competed in Oceania, Asia, South America and Africa this year had arguably more pressure to show up on game day, as one mistake was enough to knock them out.

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