Competition

Karin Frey, Bronislaw Olenkowicz Lead Dubai Fitness Championships after Day 1

December 8, 2023 by
Photo Credit: @bronislawolenkowicz
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The Dubai Fitness Championships in the United Arab Emirates kicked off on Friday with two quick off-site events: An obstacle course with a 7-minute time cap and an Olympic total.

The women: In a field stacked with mostly European CrossFit Games veterans, it was Slovakia’s Karin Frey, a four-time Games veteran and last year’s Dubai women’s champion, who showed the best, closing out the day with a fifth and first-place finish on the first two events.

  • Mia Hesketh, a three-time CrossFit Games team competitor from Sweden, sits in second while the two-time Games veteran from Italy, Elisa Fuliano, sits in third after Day 1 of the three-day competition. 
  • The fourth and fifth spots right after Friday’s two events belong to two women without individual Games experience: France’s Claudia Gluck and Norway’s Veslemoy Kollstad. Gluck has been knocking on the door to qualify for the Games for three years now but hasn’t quite broken through, while the 25-year-old Kollstad competed on the CrossFit Oslo Black team that placed 14th at last summer’s Games.

On the men’s side: Poland’s Bronislaw Olenkowicz made a statement on Friday against heavy favorites Roman Khrennikov and Ricky Garard, snagging a sixth-place finish on the obstacle course before taking an event win on the max clean and jerk and snatch, positing a combined total of 300 kg (660 pounds).

  • Khrennikov currently sits eight points behind Olenkowicz in second, while the four-time Games vet Chandler Smith sits four points behind that in third. 
  • Two other European men—Serbia’s Lazar Djukic and 2023 Games rookie Fabian Beneito Selles from Spain, both expected to contend for the podium—round out the current top five.

Worth noting: Olenkowicz might be somewhat unknown, but the 34-year-old made big strides last season when he qualified to the Games and placed 26th overall. He also competed at the Games in 2019, where he finished 42nd.

Where are the Other Podium Contenders?

Ricky Garard: After withdrawing from the 2023 season because of a shoulder injury, Garard has a monster off-season planned that included competing at the Rogue Invitational in October, the Down Under Championship in Australia last weekend, this weekend in Dubai and at Wodapalooza in Miami in January. After the first two events in Dubai, Garard sits in16th overall and has a bit of a hole to dig himself out of heading into Saturday. 

Moritz Fiebig: Germany’s Moritz Fiebig, fourth last year in Dubai, surely has his sights set on the podium this year, but after Day 1 he sits in 12th overall. The 2022 and 2023 Games competitor had a strong showing on the Olympic Total (third place) but finished 26th on the obstacle course.

Emma Tall: After finishing 11th at the 2023 Games—the highest finish of any of the women in the field in Dubai this weekend—Sweden’s Emma Tall has to be considered a heavy podium favorite. But after two events, she sits way back in 10th overall, and 51 points out of third.

Emily Rolfe: Canada’s Emily Rolfe was third overall in Dubai last year, but had a tough Day 1 on Friday, placing 16th on the obstacle course and 21st on the Olympic Total. That being said, Rolfe isn’t known for her strength, but she excels at both gymnastics and endurance events, so she’s likely to start climbing her way out of 20th overall as the competition unfolds.

Jacqueline Dahlstrom: Finally, Norway’s three-time Games athlete Jacqueline Dahlstrom finished fourth and 17th in the first two events and sits in ninth overall after Day 1, 40 points outside of a podium position.

The big picture: The weekend is young in Dubai as the athletes move to the Duty Free Tennis Stadium for the remainder of the competition. And as they say, one day doesn’t mean much. 

That being said, one day can go a long way in boosting confidence in athletes looking to break through, like current men’s leader Olenkowicz, as well as athletes like Hesketh, Gluck and Kollstad. Then again, we can also expect contenders who had slow starts—like Garard, Rolfe and Tall—to feel a serious fire under their butts heading into Event 3 on Saturday. 

Bottom line: It’s still anyone’s game in Dubai.

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