CrossFit Games

2023 CrossFit Games Preview: Women’s Masters Divisions

July 20, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Stacie Tovar | @stacietovar
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Just like last year, seventy athletes across seven masters divisions will be fighting for podium finishes at the upcoming 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games in Madison, WI. 

For some, it will be their first time competing on the biggest stage of the sport, while others—like Kelly Friel and Susan Clark—will be looking to defend their title, and others still—like former individual athlete Stacie Tovar—are familiar with the Games atmosphere, but will be competing in the age-group division for the first time.

Let’s take a look at some of the close battles we expect to see in Madison.

Women’s 35-39 Division

The women’s 35-39 division was looking like it might be a showdown between two former individual Games stars, 36-year-old Chyna Cho and 38-year-old Stacie Tovar, but Cho, third in the division last season, announced today that she will be withdrawing from the Games due to an elbow injury.

As for Tovar, she competed at the Games eight times as an individual between 2009 and 2017 before stepping away from high-level competition to have two babies. She recently told the Morning Chalk Up that not only is competing as a masters athlete less pressure than competing as an individual, but she’s also having more fun than ever in the gym right now.

Though Cho is out, this doesn’t mean Tovar won’t be challenged in Madison. Two athletes we expect to challenge include Canada’s Amy Morton—10th at the Atlas Games Semifinals last season as an individual and second at the recent Age Group Semifinals (ahead of Tovar)—and five-time individual Games athlete Dani Horan—15th at the Atlas Games Semifinals last season and eighth at this year’s Age Group Semifinals.

One more to watch: Long-time individual competitor, Chelsea Nicholas—who competed at the individual Semifinals both this year and last season and just aged into the 35-39-year-old division this season—is another to keep an eye on in Madison.

Women’s 40-44 Division

The women’s 40-44 division is another that is littered with familiar names in the sport, namely 2013 Fittest Woman on Earth and nine-time individual competitor Sam Briggs, and 10-time individual competitor Rebecca Voigt Miller (third in the division last season).

After competing at the Games as an individual at the age of 39 in 2021, Briggs opted to compete as an individual again last season and went on to finish seventh at the CrossFit Strength in Depth Semifinals, narrowly missing qualifying to her 10th Games.

Now 41, Briggs has to be considered one of the heavy favorites to take the 40-44-year-old title this year, but Voigt Miller isn’t going to make it easy on her.

Two more to watch: CrossFit Invictus athlete Jenn Ryan, second at the Games last season, and Brazil’s Andreia Pinheiro also cannot be overlooked. Pinheiro topped all 40-44-year-old women at the Age Group Semifinals while Ryan was second, and both also competed at Semifinals as individuals this season.

Women’s 45-49 Division

The women’s 45-49 division might not be much of a battle at all. Last year’s 40-44-year-old champion, Kelly Friel from the UK, has aged up and has the advantage of being the youngest age in the division this season. And considering she dominated the recent Age Group Semifinals, easily winning by 84 points over Danica Rolfe, it’s safe to say the title is Friel’s to lose.

Worth noting: Friel has competed at the Games as a masters athlete four times, and has never finished lower than second.

Two others to watch: Finland’s Merituuli Kallio—second in the division last season and fourth at this year’s Age Group Semifinals—and Lauren Nielson—fourth in the 40-44-year-old division last season and third at this year’s Age Group Semifinals—are two others we have our eye.

Women’s 50-54 Division

This year’s battle of the 50-54-year-olds could very well be one between Canadian Kim Purdy and American Tea Gebbie. They went one-two last year, with Purdy beating Gebbie at the Games, and they went one-two again at Age Group Semifinals this season, with Purdy once again edging out Gebbie for the top spot. They are undoubtedly two favorites to watch in Madison.

One more to watch: Three-time individual Games athlete and 2016 and 2017 Women’s 45-49-year-old champion Cheryl Brost is another veteran we cannot forget about. She was fourth at the Games last season and third at this year’s Age Group Semifinals and is always a strong competitor on the big stage.

Women’s 55-59 Division

Much like the women’s 45-49 division, last year’s one-two from the Games are back and will be looking to finish on the podium again. They are 2022 champion Shanna Bunce and last year’s second-place finisher Leigh Coates.

Bunce beat Coates decisively last summer—by 80 points—but it was UK’s Coates who dominated the recent Age Group Semifinals, winning the competition and beating Bunce (third), by 54 points. It could be anyone’s game this summer.

Two others to watch: Kim Stambaugh—third at last summer’s Games and fifth at this year’s Age Group Semifinals—and two-time masters Games champion and nine-time Games competitor Laurie Meschishnick—eighth last season and sixth at this year’s Age Group Semifinals—are two others gunning for the podium.

Women’s 60-64 Division

The story of the women’s 60-64-year-old division has to be Canada’s Susan Clark. The 64-year-old has competed at the Games five times, and has been the champion five times (2014, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021).

Clark didn’t compete last season, but she is back this year and proved she’s still as fit as ever with a second place finish at Semifinals. She might be the oldest in the division this year, but considering her track record, we don’t anticipate this to slow her down.

One more to watch: If there is a woman who might be able to best Clark, it could just be fellow Canadian Patricia McGill, who was second at the Games last season. McGill has finished on the podium on three occasions, but has never taken the top spot. Could this be her year?

Women’s 65-Plus Division

Another woman looking to defend her title this season is Julie Holt, who dominated the 65-plus division last season, beating Marcia Yager by 80 points at the Games. We expect them both to contend for the top spot this summer.

One more to watch: We expect veteran Pauline Sciascia from New Zealand, who turned 65 this year and has the benefit of being the youngest age in the division, to factor into the mix, as well. She was 10th at the Games last year, third in 2019, and first at this year’s Semifinals.

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