The Most Inspirational Moments of the 2023 CrossFit Games
And just like that, it was over. In what some would say was the most exciting CrossFit Games we have seen in a long time, we walked away with two new champions, Jeff Adler and Laura Horvath. Beyond the overall point totals, the final year in Madison gave us some of the most memorable moments we have witnessed in live competition.
These were some of the best:
- Roman returns to sender: After winning last year’s tweaked “Alpaca” test, Roman Khrennikov said that if the legless rope climbs were still in it as Boz had initially intended, he would have won that too. In 2023, he made that a reality when he won “Alpaca Redux” and mentioned in his post-test interview that he wanted to give both test-winning plaques to Boz so he would always be remembered.
- Jack Farlow’s clean and jerk: On Saturday night, the athletes lifted heavy in the Coliseum, and young Jack Farlow blew everyone away with a 396-pound clean and jerk, which was the heaviest recorded at a live CrossFit competition. He totaled 701 for the event win.
- “Shoeless” Alex Gazan: As one of the best legless rope climbers in the business, Alex Gazan led her heat most of the way through “Alpaca Redux.” During her final sled push, though, one of her shoes popped off, and she attempted to finish the test first with one shoe and then entirely barefoot. She was told she must put her shoes back on, and Gazan refused to give up, wedged her feet inside her shoes as quickly as possible, and pushed to the finish.
- Sam Dancer’s redemption: Last year Dancer came to the Games ready to dominate the 35-39 age division, but an injury derailed that goal and made him withdraw after the first test. Dancer came back hungry and with a mantra of “Find out what happens when you don’t give up.” He won his age division by 70 points with three first-place finishes and felt so good about his fitness that we might see him back with the Individuals next season.
- Emily Rolfe’s return: At the end of the first test at the CrossFit Games in 2022, Emily Rolfe was forced to withdraw due to a medical issue (a severe blood clot), but she made a triumphant return in 2023. She finished the weekend in 12th place with five top-ten finishes.
- Hanna Hardy and the 5K: It was hot and humid for everyone in Madison this year, and during Test four, the 5K, the teams felt it just as much as the individuals. So much so that Hanna Hardy, a Games veteran, suffered heat stroke. Her team, TTT CrossFit Black, refused to give up on her, with one member literally carrying her. The medical staff intervened to give aid to Hardy. Just as her team refused to give up on her, she refused to give up on them–she was back out there for the next test and five more before ultimately missing the last cut.
- The Power of a Dottir: Annie Thorisdottir and Katrin Davidsdottir, two of the closest friends in CrossFit, were lifting back-to-back during the “Olympic Total,” so as Annie finished her lift, Katrin started hers. After her successful lift, Davidsdottir turned immediately to Thorisdottir to ask if she, too, had made her lift. Smiling as always, Annie shook her head, yes, and the two embraced, legitimately ecstatic for the other woman’s success.
- A champ returns: It had been five years since Samantha Briggs was last on the podium at the CrossFit Games, placing second in the 35-39 age division in 2018. She arrived in Madison this year in a new-age division, ready to prove her fitness once again. And prove it she did. It was a joy to watch the former Fittest on Earth bounce back from her showing on the “Olympic Total” to win her division, having only one other test finish outside the top two.
- Justin Medeiros turned upside down: After the first two tests, everyone wondered what was happening with Justin Medeiros, so much so that there was talk that he might not make the first cut. He helped right the ship enough during Test 3: Inverted Medley. The crowd went wild as he saved a handstand pushup that, if he had failed, would have no doubt dropped him down the leaderboard. He got second place in the test, but it was his words after that moved people the most. Close to tears; he said, “It means so much just to be out here on the competition floor…I appreciate these moments so much…and I’m going to keep fighting.”
- Team Krypton lunging on one leg: In the “Olympic Total,” when it was Ben Smith’s turn to lift, he re-racked his jerk and hurt his knee. He went down writhing in pain, and we thought CrossFit Krypton’s Games were over. Smith returned to compete in every event, including the “Handstand Worm” final event, where his team lunged only on one leg across the floor so Smith could make it and preserve his injured knee.
- Proud “coach” Jacob Heppner: At the end of the first heat of the final test, “Echo Thruster Final,” rookie Olivia Kerstetter started her lunge to the finish with no other woman in sight. At the end of her lane was her long-time training partner, mentor and the president/founder of the “Olivia Kerstetter Fan Club,” Jacob Heppner cheering her on. As she got closer to finishing, lunging unbroken, Heppner got emotional fighting back tears as he beamed with pride for this incredible young athlete and the bond they had formed.
- Ellie Turner on “Helena”: As heat three walked into the Coliseum to take on “Helena,” Ellie Turner didn’t look right. Her lower back was heavily taped up, and as the run started, it was clear she was hurting as the other competitors left her in their wakes. Turner didn’t flinch and continued to work at her pace. All the women finished before Turner had returned from her final run with about a minute left before the time cap, but as she entered the Coliseum, it was to a roar that was pure CrossFit. The crowd stood and cheered for the Aussie, and the camera panned to her to show her emotion. Using the strength of the crowd, she jumped up on the bar to complete a few bar muscle-ups before leaving the competition floor.
- Roman wins our hearts and minds: The most inspirational moment of the 2023 Games no doubt belonged to Roman Khrennikov. As he walked onto the Coliseum floor for “Parallel-Bar Pull,” it was clear his left foot was injured, and the crowd assumed he would traverse the P-Bar once and call it a day. Roman proved everyone wrong as he picked up his jump rope and completed single-leg double unders so successfully that he completed multiple rounds of the test. He worked until the time cap, often with leader Jeff Adler kneeling close by with a look of awe on his face. The crowd stood and chanted his name as the buzzer sounded. Tears streamed down people’s faces as Roman explained why he did it in one sentence – “I want to be a hero for my son and have him see me fight to the end.”
This. Is. CrossFit.