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Meet the Youngest National Champion

Morning Chalk Up

March 26


Good morning and welcome to the Morning Chalk Up. We are taking a slight break from coronavirus coverage today. Over the next few weeks, Patrick Clark will profile the age group divisions, starting with the 35-39 bracket. And, our teen reporter Ava Kitzi follows up with Ava Zalman, the youngest individual athlete at the 2019 CrossFit Games and now two-time national champion from Suriname. Today:

  • What to look for in the 35-39 division.
  • Ava Zalman, at 18-years-old, is making her second trip to Madison.
  • Check out part two of our four-part mini-documentary, “Proving Grounds: Jeffrey Adler in Dubai.”

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2020 CrossFit Games Age Group Preview: Men and Women Ages 35-39

  2020 CrossFit Games Age Group Preview: Men and Women Ages 35-39  

Over the next four weeks we will preview the 2020 CrossFit Games Age Group divisions as it stands currently. These standings are unofficial after the Age Group Online Qualifier (AGOQ) scores were submitted and could change due to score adjustments as the top-25 athletes in each division must submit videos to CrossFit HQ for review.  The video review period concludes on April 13 with the top ten athletes in each division receiving an invitation to the Games.

Chad Schroeder dives into the numbers of the AGOQ even more, breaking down all the divisions with his statistical analysis.

Men’s 35-39 division: The men’s division features a mix of division rookies and veterans. Six of the athletes have competed in the division in past years including the returning, defending champion. The field also has an international flavor as six of the ten athletes are from outside the United States.

  1. Ryan Elrod is in a position to make his first appearance at the Games. The two-time Regional athlete received an invite in 2017 when he placed fifth in the Atlantic Regional. However, he failed a drug test after taking a prescription fertility medication that was on the banned list, receiving a two year suspension which concluded before the 2020 Open. He was one of two athletes in the division who won two AGOQ workouts this year. He finished in the top-ten in five of the six workouts to win the AGOQ by two points. Elrod will be one of the favorites as he won the Masters 35-39 title at Wodapalooza in February. At Wodapalooza he recorded six top-five finishes in seven events including two event wins.
  2. Nicholas Urankar is the defending division champion after dominating in his first year competing as a Masters athlete. He won three events last year enroute to a 50-point victory. The two-time individual Games athlete, finished just two points behind Elrod for the top spot in the AGOQ after winning it in 2019. Urankar won two events in this year’s AGOQ and finished second in two others.
  3. Dustin McWilliams returns to the Games after a two-year hiatus. In 2017 he made his Games debut in the division, finishing fourth. He recorded three top-ten finishes in the AGOQ with his best finish being third.
  4. Tiziano Corriga will make his Games debut after a fourth-place finish. The Italian recorded two top-ten finishes in the AGOQ with his best finish being third.
  5. Rolo Gomez will represent his home country Uruguay in his first Games appearance after finishing fifth in the AGOQ. Gomez competed on a team at the 2018 Latin America Regional. This year he recorded three top-ten finishes including a third place finish in the opening event.

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Ava Zalman, the Youngest National Champion

  Ava Zalman, the Youngest National Champion  

Haley Adams earned the CrossFit Teen phenom headlines in 2019, but Suriname’s Ava Zalman is trying to stake her own claims to these accolades too. Hailing from the small South American nation of Suriname, Zalman is just 18 years old but has already won her second trip to Madison as an individual CrossFit Games athlete.

Zalman’s path to Madison has been unique compared to most 17-year-old qualifiers. She competes with the adults in the individual division and has grabbed Suriname’s National Champion title in both 2019 and 2020 with relative ease. She punched her ticket with four Open workout first-place national finishes each year.

  • “What I learned (in the 2019 Open) is to not underestimate myself and never doubt that you can compete with the big dogs,” Zalman stated.

Once Zalman arrived in Madison, though, she was in for a reality check. Elite Games athletes like Katrin Davidsdottir and Brooke Wells were different than the caliber of athletes in Suriname.

  • “The competition level in Suriname isn’t nearly as fierce as other countries, and it’s hard to rise to the level of athletes of the US and Europe,” she said.
  • “When she competes alongside mature females it sometimes brings insecurities up,” Zalman’s coach and Head Coach of Rock CrossFit Paramaribo, Randy Badal said. “I’m not only working with her on her technical and physical skills but also guiding her mentally and emotionally when needed.”

Badal has known Zalman since she was a little girl and has seen her try every sport in the book. Nothing stuck, though, at least not until CrossFit.

  • “I started CrossFit as a hobby as I was trying new sports, but now my training is one of the most important things in my life,” Zalman explained.

According to Badal, the 18-year-old does a strength session and two to three extra workouts a day leading up to the Games. On her training schedule, Badal said, “the focus is still on improving her overall strength while maintaining flexibility and metabolic conditioning.”


Proving Grounds: Jeffrey Adler in Dubai — Part 2

  Proving Grounds: Jeffrey Adler in Dubai -- Part 2  



Armen Hammer Interviews Patrick Vellner

In this wide-ranging conversation, Armen Hammer talks with Games veteran Patrick Vellner about the state of the CrossFit world currently, including about “The Fittest,” film, Sanctional postponements, the Rogue Invitational online, and what the post-pandemic landscape might look like.

  Morning Chalk Up  




Today, LIFEAID announced the launch of their new gym support program, the LIFEAID LIFT. Gyms who sign up will receive $15 cash from every qualifying 24-can purchase members make online using their gym’s unique link. (No code necessary.) Be sure to ask your gym for their link so you can start giving back to those who have given us so much. Let’s stay strong as a community and get through this, together.

  Morning Chalk Up  


At-Home WOD with Annie Thorisdottir and Frederick Aegidius

All you need is a kettlebell or any object you can hold in one hand to hit this at-home WOD with Annie Thorisdottir and Frederick Aegidius. Annie demonstrates the movements, while Frederick coaches you through it.

  Morning Chalk Up  


Healthy, Homemade At-Home Burrito Bowl

Craving that Chipotle burrito bowl but stuck at home social distancing? Kristi Eramo O’Connell walks you through her favorite chicken burrito bowl Instant-pot recipe. Make big batches for meal prep too!





Two Big Fundraisers to Learn about Now

While the coronavirus pandemic has dominated the news, there are still other big fundraising efforts taking place across the CrossFit landscape. Here are two we are currently watching:

  • OUTWOD: The OUT Foundation, a non-profit devoted to removing barriers that block LGBTQ+ individuals access and participation in health, wellness and fitness to ensure their success, holds live events as the main source of its funding. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, all OUTWOD events in March and April have been canceled. To help make up the financial shortfall, it is hosting an online burpee-a-thon, March 26-28. Games athlete, Alec Smith will be participating.
  • Barbells for Bullies: Barbells for Bullies has been running the Situps for Pups awareness and fundraising campaign. In conjunction with AbMat, the goal is to accumulate 1.2 million situps to raise awareness for the 1.2 million dogs that are killed annually in US shelters. As of now, over 3000 athletes have been involved in the campaign, a mix of individuals and full gyms. Some gyms have had 170 or more athletes working with them to accumulate reps at home. The campaign continues until March 31. Learn more and join in from your livingroom floor! 
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