A Look Back: What Did We Learn from the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games Teams Division?
Fifteen years ago, Northwest CrossFit took home the first Affiliate Cup after CrossFit introduced a new team division to the CrossFit Games. Nearly a decade and a half later, the tradition still continues.
While the competition looks substantially different than it did at the Home Depot Center in 2009, and has undergone a number of qualification systems and team structure changes over the years, the quest remains the same, to find the fittest affiliate.
This year, that award went to one of CrossFit’s oldest affiliates. An affiliate that has sent a team to every single CrossFit Games since the inception of the team competition, CrossFit Invictus. As we wrap up the 2023 season and volunteers break down the Rogue Rig in Madison and load the truck with worms, it’s time to take a look at what we learned from this year’s team competition.
Consistency Breeds Results
Like most sports, CrossFit teams have a tendency to switch up their roster with the start of a new season.
- However, unlike most sports, because CrossFit teams consist of just four athletes, a swap of even just one or two athletes can change between 25-50% of the team.
- Very rarely do we see teams return with the same roster year after year.
- CrossFit Invictus decided to put that to the test.
- In 2022, they came in third with Jorge Fernandez, Joshua Al-chamaa, Brittany Weiss, and Devyn Kim.
- In 2023, they went back to San Diego, worked on their weaknesses and came back stronger and more united as a team.
In their second year working together, the team took the Affiliate Cup back to San Diego for the first time since 2014, beating second-place team CrossFit East Nashville PRVN by 31 points.
- By the time the final event rolled around, CrossFit Invictus already had first place on lock, only needing to place 16th or higher to secure their first-place victory.
- Invictus also took home three test wins and only finished three tests outside the top three.
Beyond that, in a world of super teams, CrossFit Invictus remains one of the few homegrown affiliate teams.
- All four members are members of CrossFit Invictus in San Diego, including Devyn Kim, who has been there since she was a teenager, and Brittany Weiss, who has called Invictus her home since 2017.
- It’s a true callback to the original intentions of the Affiliate Cup and the grassroots community of affiliates that CrossFit has created, as well as to the Invictus community out in San Diego.
Norway Is The Next Iceland
In the mid-2000s, the Icelandics reigned supreme in the sport of fitness. The Dottirs ruled the podium and it seemed like every day, a new superstar emerged from the land of fire and ice.
- While Iceland is still home to many impressive CrossFit athletes, including 11th fittest man Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson, as well as Annie Thorisdottir and Katrin Davidsdottir, who both finished top 15 this year, it seems that a new Nordic country has burst forth onto the CrossFit scene, specifically in the team division.
- This year, Norway had four teams representing the small Nordic nation of just over 5 million.
- While CrossFit Oslo has stood on the podium every year since 2021, this year they sent six teams to the European Semifinals (there were seven total teams representing Norway) and three teams to the CrossFit Games.
This unprecedented number of teams is a sign of the continuous growth of CrossFit as a sport in Norway that was first initiated by Norwegian CrossFit superstar Kristin Holte, who competed at every CrossFit Games from 2014 to 2021, where she stood on the podium once and finished top ten five times.
- The legacy that Holte created has not gone unnoticed by those at CrossFit Oslo.
- “Kristin was always such a good role model. She put a lot of effort into small, small details, and this has contributed a lot,” said Oslo coach Joakim Rygh in an interview with Morning Chalk Up earlier this year.
- He continued commenting that her incredible career in the sport of fitness proved to others that “It’s actually possible if you really go all in. That makes it easier (for others) to say, ‘Ok I’ll go all in for a few years and see where it take me,”
The Open and Quarterfinals Results Are Not Always A Guarantee
After the conclusion of The Open and Quarterfinals, CrossFit Move Fast Lift Heavy 247 had taken 24th and 52nd worldwide respectively.
- While they headed into the North America East Semifinals ranked 15th in their region (North America East only qualifies 10 teams to the CrossFit Games), they left the stands in Orlando with no doubts.
- After a second-place finish at Semifinals, the team, which consisted of long-time CrossFit Games team veterans, would go on to take fourth at the CrossFit Games.
- A truly standout performance for Games team veterans Christian Harris and Chloe Gauvin-David who announced in a Talking Elite Fitness episode earlier this season that this year would be their last year of competition.
The Team Division Continues To Draw More Competitive Athletes Each Year
While some might consider the team division to be the place for athletes who might not be able to quite measure up in the individual division yet, or a place where individual athletes head to “retire,” 2023 has started to prove that this might not be the case anymore.
- In the Cross-Country 5K test, CrossFit Trondeheim took 56th place out of all athletes (including age group athletes) who completed that test.
- Their time would have been good enough to earn 15th place amongst the individual women and 27th amongst the individual men, despite having to run together as a team holding a rope.
- Looking further back into the season, many of the team athletes had some of the top Open finishes in the world as individuals, including Tola Morakinyo, who placed second in the worldwide Open.
- While there is no doubt that the individual men and women who won the Games are truly the Fittest on Earth, the team division is becoming increasingly more competitive and elite, which could bring more opportunities for teams in the future.
The Reign of Mayhem is Over
Since 2015, CrossFit Mayhem’s primary team, Mayhem Freedom has reigned supreme (save for 2017, where CrossFit Wasatch took home the crown), largely at the hands of four-time fittest man Rich Froning.
- While Mayhem still sent a team to the CrossFit Games this year, there was one notable change.
- Rich Froning was no longer competing.
- While the four-time Fittest man on Earth certainly brought an incredible level of fitness to the team, it seemed that the magic of Rich lay squarely in his leadership and team selection.
- Each year, Froning carefully selected his roster and led his team to absolutely dominate the team division year after year.
This year marked Froning’s first year full stepping away from all competition at the CrossFit Games.
- While Mayhem Independence stepped in to take the place of Mayhem Freedom (Rich’s former team), they only managed to finish 7th overall, 2 spots lower than their 2022 finish, where they took 5th.
- For other teams, this is the start of a new era. An era where teams aren’t just asking who’s going to come in second, but rather, what will the battle for first place look like.
- Though at the conclusion of this year’s Games, it is important to note that since 2013, the Affiliate Cup has only called three affiliates home (CrossFit Invictus, CrossFit Mayhem, and CrossFit Wasatch).
The big picture: As we close out another season, it can be easy to fall into the trap of reflecting on changes over the past few years. But one thing often forgotten is where we came from. What started as a grassroots effort to give affiliates the spotlight on the competition floor has now blossomed into an international affair, stirring up an incredible opportunity for affiliates to showcase their fittest on CrossFit’s biggest stage.