2023 CrossFit Games Preview: Team Division
This year marks the 15th anniversary* of the Affiliate Cup. Back in 2009, no one could have imagined the scale that team competition would grow to in CrossFit.
What started as 50 North American gyms sending their top athletes to represent their affiliates in Carson California has turned into an international sport drawing some of the highest caliber athletes in the sport of fitness.
This year, 38 teams, representing seven regions of the world and fourteen countries will take the floor in Madison to once again fight for the Affiliate Cup. Here are the big things to watch for next week.
Stories To Watch:
East Nashville PRVN Fields a Powerhouse Team: In 2021, Taylor Williamson and Andrea Nisler paired up with CrossFit legend Rich Froning on CrossFit Mayhem Freedom to win the Affiliate Cup two years in a row.
- In 2023, they’re back representing East Nashville PRVN with Tola Morakinyo and Timothy Paulson in what might be the first team other than Mayhem to claim the Affiliate Cup since 2017.
- The team has already won the worldwide Open, worldwide Quarterfinals, and the North America East Semifinals, where they bested CrossFit Move Fast Lift Heavy 24/7 by 24 points.
- Aside from their impressive ability to work together on the competition floor, the individuals comprising the team are also some heavy hitters themselves.
- This year, Tola Morakinyo came in second worldwide in the Open, while his teammate Tim Paulson finished 14th.
- Overall, the team had an average worldwide Open ranking of 57th, making their presence as both a team and individuals, not one to overlook.
CrossFit OBA Looks to Make a Name for Themselves in Year Two: Last year, CrossFit OBA surprised themselves with a top ten finish at the Games. This year, they hope to turn that into a spot on the podium.
- Though they’re one of the oldest teams to take the floor this year, with no one on the team under the age of 30, they hope that their experience will pay off as they work to prove that last year was not just a fluke.
- “We know for a fact that we deserve to be there and people should be worried about us taking their spot,” said team member Kelsey Kiel in an interview this April.
- OBA went on to take 7th at North America East Semifinals.
- While it wasn’t the podium finish they had hoped for earlier in the season, their top-ten finish, despite competing in arguably one of the most difficult team semifinal weekends, is a credit to their hard work and dedication and proof that they might just be able to pull off their goal at the Games.
The Norwegians take Madison: In 2009, the first Affiliate Cup featured only North American-based teams. By 2022, that representation had grown to include 14 different countries. But one country especially should be acknowledged for its size-to-representation ratio.
- This year, Norway sent seven teams to the European Semifinal, with six of them representing one affiliate (CrossFit Oslo).
- Norway will be sending four teams to the CrossFit Games, which makes their affiliate to Games team ratio 20:1, compared to 263:1 in the United States.
- Norway will also comprise just over 10% of the teams at the Games, which is more representation than any other country besides the United States.
CrossFit Invictus Celebrates their 15th Year at the Affiliate Cup: In 2009, CrossFit Invictus sent their first team to the Games where they would take fifth overall.
- Fifteen years later, CrossFit Invictus will continue their streak by sending at least one team to every Affiliate Cup championship.
- This year, they broke their own record, by becoming the first affiliate to qualify three teams from one affiliate location.
- Most notably, CrossFit Invictus’ third-place team from 2022 will be returning to fight their way back onto the podium this summer.
- With no changes to their roster and another year of experience under their belt, they will be one of the teams to watch coming off a second-place finish at North America West.
North America West’s Podium Gets to Battle it Out Again: In an unprecedented end to a Semifinal competition, North America West ended the weekend in a three-way points tie for all three podium spots.
- CrossFit Franco’s Misfits, CrossFit Invictus, and CrossFit Omnia all held 555 points at the end of the North America West Semifinal.
- The final rankings came down to tiebreaker protocols and ended with CrossFit Franco’s Misfits in first, CrossFit Invictus in second, and CrossFit Omnia in third.
- Despite the technicalities of tiebreakers, this three-way tie proved the incredible competition at the top end of the North America West Semifinal.
- One of the most competitive Semifinals in the world, with four teams in the top twenty worldwide after Quarterfinals and an average Quarterfinals worldwide rank of 142 (just one point lower than North America East’s average), the Games will be a second shot for these teams to fight for their place on the podium again.
Angelo DiCicco Returns to Lead Mayhem Independence: In 2018, former teen superstar Angelo DiCicco had to withdraw from team competition due to degenerative back disease.
- Four years later, DiCicco returned to join Mayhem Independence in 2021, where the team took fifth behind their sister team CrossFit Mayhem Freedom.
- With Rich Froning’s retirement from team competition, Mayhem Independence remains the only CrossFit Mayhem affiliate team competing at the CrossFit Games this year.
- This gap leaves an important space for DiCicco to step in and lead as he captains Mayhem Independence to break out of the top five and onto the podium this year.
Teams To Watch:
Affiliate Cup (top of the podium) Contenders: The obvious pick for the top of the podium would of course be CrossFit East Nashville PRVN.
- Three of the four athletes have stood on the Affiliate Cup podium at least once in their careers and the fourth, Tim Paulson, is a six-time individual Games athlete.
- However, as always at the Games, nothing is guaranteed, and if we’ve learned anything from CrossFit, it’s to expect the unexpected.
- Coming out of the North America West region, are three powerhouse teams, including CrossFit Invictus, who took second in Quarterfinals and second at North America West Semifinals, though they tied for first in points.
- While Invictus’ individual athletes don’t carry the same track record as CrossFit East Nashville PRVN, one key area they have the advantage in is experience together on the competition floor.
- Last year, CrossFit Invictus took third at the Games. This year, they’ll return with the exact same roster, giving them a full extra year of training and competition experience to hone their teamwork skills. A pivotal part of the team competition.
- CrossFit Oslo Navy Blue, who took second at the Games last year and second during the European Semifinal this year, could definitely make it back for another podium spot this year and with another year of experience under their belts could put up an exceptional fight alongside CrossFit Invictus to contend with CrossFit East Nashville PRVN.
- Also not to be overlooked, is CrossFit No Shortcuts coming out of Denmark in the European region.
- Assembled and led by former Games athlete, Andre Houdet, this team took fourth in Quarterfinals worldwide and then went on to dominate the European Semifinals.
- During the Semifinals, they finished four of the six workouts in the top three in one of the most competitive regions in the world.
- Last, but certainly not least, we cannot forget CrossFit Torian Mayhem who took second worldwide in Quarterfinals and then went on to absolutely dominate the Oceania Semifinal, finishing only one workout outside of first place.
- The Australian team led by four-time Games athlete Royce Dunn could put up a serious fight this year to be the first Australian team to take home the affiliate cup.
- Despite all this, these teams will need to put up a serious effort against a team consisting of two former Mayhem Freedom athletes and only finished one workout outside the top three the entire weekend at North America East Semifinals.
Podium (second and third place) Contenders: With CrossFit East Nashville PRVN’s dominance so far this season all but locking them in for a first-place finish at the Games this summer, this leaves two additional podium spots up for grabs.
- While the four teams mentioned above have a solid shot at fighting for the first-place spot, they’ll also need to fight for the remaining two podium positions with what is potentially one of the strongest team fields we’ve ever seen at the Games.
- CrossFit Franco’s Misfits, who won North America West in a tie, will also be a strong podium contender, with three of the four athletes having previous CrossFit Games experience.
- It’s also important not to forget CrossFit Mayhem Independence, who took fifth at the Games last year and is looking to come back this year and fight for a podium position, led by Angelo Dicicco.
- While they took fourth at North America East Semifinals, their previous experience working together as a team at the Games could work to their advantage when out on the floor this summer.
Top Ten Contenders: With potentially the strongest Team Division Games field in history, we will see an unprecedented number of squads jockeying for the top three positions.
- With the seven teams above having the potential to secure a podium position, the remaining teams will need to fight for the three spots inside that top-ten bubble.
- We’ll likely see teams who placed high in some of the more competitive Semifinals, but are lacking some of the individual power or team experience needed to crack the top five or even the podium.
- Move Fast Lift Heavy 24/7, who placed second behind CrossFit East Nashville PRVN at North America East Semifinals, could put up a good fight to crack the top five, but will almost certainly end up in the top ten.
- With several former team Games athletes, the team had an incredibly strong performance at North America East.
- While CrossFit Krypton finished fifth at Semifinals, their roster of individual athletes makes them a strong contender for the top ten.
- Featuring 2015’s fittest man on Earth, Ben Smith, and his brother, multi-year Games athlete Alec Smith, the team has some serious firepower behind them to crack the top ten, if not compete with some of the teams contending for the podium in some workouts.
Potential Wildcard Teams: While these teams certainly have the power to crack the top ten, they also have the potential to throw a wrench into certain workouts for those teams contending for a podium or top-five position.
- In their second year returning as a team, CrossFit AB Mayhem surprised everyone with a third-place finish at one of the most competitive Semifinals, North America East.
- After a last-minute invite to the Games last year left them with little time to train, they still managed to place 23rd overall, giving them the confidence that they belonged at the Games.
- While they didn’t have a great Quarterfinals finish, their podium placement at Semifinals proves that they have the power to work together as a team on the competition floor.
- In a similar position, CrossFit OBA finished seventh at North America West Semifinals. However, their seventh-place finish worldwide during Quarterfinals proves they have the fitness to potentially contend with some of the teams working to break into the podium slots.
- This will also be their second year returning with a nearly identical roster (Emelie Lundberg will replace Ashleigh Wosney), meaning their experience working together as a team could play to their advantage when it comes to certain workouts in Madison.
The big picture: With one of the most competitive fields to date, the team competition this year will be one for the history books. For the first time, not only do we have the very real possibility of a non-US based team standing on the podium for the first time in history, but it will be the first year since 2015 that Rich Froning is not competing. Regardless of how it all shakes out, the 15th year of team competition is sure to be interesting.
*While this year marks fifteen years since the initiation of the Affiliate Cup at the CrossFit Games, it will be the fourteenth Affiliate Cup to take place due to the Affiliate Cup being canceled in 2020 due to Covid (though there was a team season leading into the Games pre-covid).