On paper, Canadian Brent Fikowski does not appear to be the men’s favourite at this year’s Asia CrossFit Championship (ACC).

But you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would bet against the 28-year-old who came fourth at last year’s CrossFit Games, which are held annually in Madison, Wisconsin.

CrossFit commentator Brian Friend noted Fikowski is a bit of an oddity when it comes to the top men in the world.

“Historically the (CrossFit) Open is not a place where Fikowski shines, and this year wasn’t any different. His finish of 186th worldwide actually places him behind eight other athletes in the field of men showing up for the ACC. That, however, will be of little concern for Brent because where he has done well historically is at Regionals, and even better than that, is at the Games.”

Friend said Shanghai, which will feature six events over three days of competition much like a Regional, is right in Fikowski’s wheelhouse and the Canuck made his intentions clear this was the Sanctional he was targeting to book his ticket.

“This format is one Fikowski knows how to approach and execute. He’s won his region three years running. He staked his claim on this sanctioned event early on, and we can be sure his level of focus will be at his highest when the competition gets underway.”

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Still, Friend said there is room for potential upsets, and he noted the three competitors that he will be keeping his eye on. He said Poland’s Bartek Lipka, who came 29th in the CrossFit Open, barely missing the cut-off for a spot in the Games, is Fikowski’s biggest challenger.

“Three time individual Games athlete Zeke Grove and Games hopefuls Matt McLeod and Kristof Horvath are in the field and have shown their merit already this season. Grove was third in the Open among all Australian men and was also third at the Australian CrossFit Championship in January.

“McLeod has been nipping at his heels in both instances, he currently sits fifth among men in Australian in the Open, and finished fourth at the Australian CrossFit Championship. Horvath was impressive in a deep men’s field at [the London Sanctional] Strength in Depth. He finished eight, but was hovering in the top three, and even held the overall lead at one point in the middle of that competition.”

Friend also noted two Hong Kong boys – Ant Haynes and Alex Younger – who both work as coaches at Coastal Fitness in Causeway Bay, could finish in the top 10. Haynes has already booked his ticket to the Games as he was the top Open finisher in China and Hong Kong.

On the women’s side, Friend said the field is a bit more open however there is still one clear favourite. He said Norway’s Kristin Holte, who finished third in the Open and is her country’s national champion, could still win even though she has already booked her ticket to the Games.

“Holte will be the favourite to win, which means that it’s likely the second place podium spot other Games hopefuls will be fighting for with hopes of receiving the invitation to Madison. There are three women in particular who is likely to be battling for that position: Eik Gylfadottir of Iceland, Alethea Boon of New Zealand, and Pip Malone of Australia.”

Friend said the best competition may actually come from the team event. He said Mayhem Freedom (which features four-time CrossFit Games champion Rich Froning) have their work cut out in Shanghai this weekend.

“Mayhem Freedom has yet to qualify for the CrossFit Games, but two teams who will be looking to dethrone them in Madison this summer have: Invictus Grown Strong and Project X. This weekend, these two teams get the chance to prove whether they have the capacity unseat the reigning Games Champions.”

Friend said Mayhem Freedom had a slip up as they finished fifth at Wodapalooza in January in Miami and they have picked up a ringer for Shanghai looking to rectify the situation.

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“Perhaps as a result of that finish, they have adapted to the changing landscape and rule book, and added Chyna Cho to their roster. Chyna brings more than just individual talent to the team. To begin with she has team experience with Rich Froning from the CrossFit Invitational in 2015. She’s also participated in, and won, in a team of three format at Wodapalooza on multiple occasions. And she was at Wodapalooza this year on a team which finished ahead of Mayhem Freedom.”

Check the South China Morning Post’s sports page for blog updates and articles from the ground during the Asia CrossFit Championship, as well as links to the live video feed of the competition, which will be released Friday.