As one of the pundits charting how erratic the 2019 CrossFit Games were supposed to be given the new qualification process and country champions, I’m already eating my words.
Despite a sense of unfamiliarity heading into day one, which featured an opening ceremony that would rival the Olympics when it comes to country counts, the Games are surprisingly going to script.
Atop the list is three-time defending champion Mat Fraser, who leads the men after two events and looks well on his way to an unprecedented fourth straight title. This win would put him equal with Rich Froning, who won from 2011-14 and is, to no one’s surprise, leading Mayhem Freedom in the team division. And then on the women’s side, there’s no revelation there either: Australian Tia-Clair Toomey still has a great shot at her third straight title as she sits third behind Karissa Pearce and Annie Thorisdottir.
Both Fraser and Toomey put in clinical performances in various events that at times made the other competitors look silly. While everyone was expecting this, to see it happen once again is mind-boggling. It’s also not surprising the two now regularly train together.
When it comes to the Canucks, Brent Fikowski is living up to his nickname, “The Professor”, as his first and second event seemed timed to the millisecond, leaving him in 14th. Once again, fellow Canadian Patrick Vellner looks like his own worst enemy as he sits in fifth. Neck and neck with Fraser during the first event, aptly titled “First Cut”, he hung around through the rope climbs and a few laps, but then some failed snatch attempts looked eerily similar to 2018 when he started off the competition with a malfunctioning bike and a hard fall on the obstacle course which resulted in a trip to hospital.
You have to love Vellner, he’s like a dog without a bone, chasing his own tail half the time, and impressing everyone for the other. But it appears his slip-ups will probably cost him a chance to dethrone Fraser at this point, a repeat of 2018.
The men’s First Cut is happening. pic.twitter.com/gcN0dN2yCl— The CrossFit Games (@CrossFitGames) August 1, 2019
Sara Sigmundsdottir, like Vellner, looked like she got knocked out of the competition after the first event, a sorrowful look on her face – her appearance last year resulted in a poor placing due to a nagging injury. At times, Sigmundsdottir, who is 26th, seems like she can go neck and neck with Toomey, but much like Vellner, her inconsistency appears to be her Achilles' heel. She just about got to the end of the handstand walk during the second event in first, but fell mere feet from the finish line.
The only asterisk to all of this is rookie Chandler Smith (18th after day one), who burst onto the scene when he won the Rogue Invitational in Columbus, Ohio. However, he’s been touted as a premier rookie for months so anyone who follows CrossFit closely is definitely not hearing his name for the first time.
CrossFit’s country representative push seems to have fallen a bit flat, as pretty much all of the fringe athletes from fringe countries were cut after the first event, moments after the illustrious opening ceremony.
I get what CrossFit was trying to do here, but they asked a lot of people to travel from far away on their own time and dime to basically spend 20 minutes struggling to complete a first lap of the first event. The rope climb stopped a number of women in their tracks, showing just how much of a drop off there is from the premier athletes to the high-end amateurs. At least Hong Kong’s Ant Haynes sneaked in by the skin of his teeth to day two as the 50th competitor.
Who ya got?— The CrossFit Games (@CrossFitGames) July 31, 2019
Now more than half of the competitors in the men’s and women’s divisions become glorified spectators who got some cool swag. Good on CrossFit for trying to diversify the sport, but this idea definitely needs a hard look before 2020.
As day two gets set, one wonders if we went back in time instead of moving forward in 2019, because this year is turning out to be a lot like last year. Whether this is good for the sport in a season of massive changes for CrossFit remains to be seen. There’s an oft used quote around the sport, that it is crazy just how fit you have to be to suck at the CrossFit Games. You can say that again.