2023-24 Offseason World Tour Memoirs: Milan, Italy

January 24, 202414 min read

The final stop for the 2023 calendar year (but not the final stop on our offseason tour which will continue with Wodapalooza, Fittest of the Coast, and the Fittest Experience in January), brings us to Milan, Italy for a competition which began over a decade ago, the Fall Series Throwdown.

One of the Oldest in Europe

As I understand it, Giorgio Beltrami started this competition in a parking lot back in 2012 (there may have even been an online version of it the previous year, 2011, which was the same year the Worldwide Open made its debut). Regardless, this is one of the oldest and longest standing competitions in Europe. And, having found out about it, seeing it was the weekend after Dubai, I reached out to ask about being involved. 

Arrival and Structure

One of the core team members, who oversees the media team, Matteo Marenzi, picked me up from the airport, took me with him to run a few errands, and then we made our way to the venue. It’s outside of the city of Milan in Northern Italy and takes place inside a circular stadium which is primarily used for basketball and gymnastics. It’s a unique venue which satisfies multiple purposes because besides hosting an elite division, there were over 700 total athletes competing in 20 total divisions. The rig runs down the middle providing an opportunity for 20, or 40 athletes (depending on space needed for each event), to take the floor at once. Perhaps most impressive of all is that even with 20 teams of 3, or 40 individual athletes, swinging on the massive structure provided by Italian equipment supplier BLOR company, it didn’ shake at all and showed tremendous stability relative to nearly any other I’ve seen. 

Additionally there was an offsite event at a track nearby which happened on day one allowing divisions to run simultaneously in two different locations. Dialing in the logistics for big competitions with many divisions is challenging and can be an overlooked element of executing a positive competition experience for a large number of athletes and fans. 

Day One

Two events on the first day with the individuals starting outside on the track and teams starting inside. The first elite individual was a pure running test- 1200 meters without weight, 1200 meters with a 6 or 9 kg backpack. A generous time pack was provided so that everyone could finish and there would be no issues in terms of how to assess a cap + score for athletes in the middle of a lap. This is a very smart idea, and yet the competition took scrutiny for having a “wrong” timecap online. This is a good lesson in general, there are far too many critics out there who like to point out what they see, without asking why first (more often than not there’s a reason). 

The second event was titled “Grippy ” and it was a very demanding version of Fran using dumbbells which had fat grips on the handles for the thrusters AND farmers’ carries. While the thrusters and chest to bar pull ups descended from 30 to 20 to 10, the distance of the carries increased each round and was certainly a critical part of the workout. 

Day Two

Athletes would take the floor twice again on day two, but this time would have three chances to earn points. The morning event was sponsored by a shoe company and the winner of each division got a pair of shoes for taking the event win- a pretty cool nuance to an individual workout without the context of the entire competition and something that might be possible for other competitions/sponsors to find a way to incorporate as a little added bonus. 

The workout itself was an interval style workout of shuttle runs, sandbag carries, and burpee box jumps for reps; the elite divisions wore the backpacks from event one throughout their event. It was a two to one work to rest ratio style event with three rounds of 3:00 work followed by 90 seconds of rest. The intensity was high in all three rounds and the scores were close.The only difficulty here was no great way to count or track reps between rounds so a little bit of the racing element was lost for spectators, but other than that it was a fun and intense start to day two. 

Barbells Come Out

For the first time in the competition barbells were on the field of play, and they would play a factor in both parts of a two part scored event to wrap up the middle day of competition. First, a five minute window to find a one rep max hang clean. Then, after a 1:00 reset, two rounds of 30/24 cals rows and 20 reps cycling the barbell at 60/40 kgs (round 1- snatch, round 2- clean and jerk). 

Two women eclipsed 100 kgs on the lift, and both of them backed it up with top five finishes on the second part. Liisa Laiko from Finland (103 kgs) would hold the lead heading into the final day, while Kristina Visic of Serbia (105 kgs) would be in second. Albania’s Joana Skendaj, competing in her first ever CrossFit competition, occupied the third spot, but veterans Valentina Magalotti (Italy) and Emiko Naets (Switzerland) were well within striking distance of the podium.

There was a tie atop the men’s lifts with Dorde Duric (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Tommasso Pieri (Italy) both successfully hang cleaning 165 kgs. Pieri, under the guidance of Andre Houdet, would follow that up with an event win on the second part, Duric would have a top five on that as well. But, at this point it was still Artemis Anestis, a young man from Greece being coached by Giorgos Karavis, who retained the overall lead. 

Day Three

The biggest gymnastics test of the competition was saved for Sunday morning, and with cuts taking place following it, the name, “Unbroken or Die”, certainly served a double meaning. Five rounds of double unders, an unbroken ring complex, and pistols meant both skills and execution needed to be on point to do well here. 

A bit of a specialty event that saw some athletes from outside the top ten make some impact on the leaderboard, and a few of the leaders stumbled on this really tightening up the leaderboard heading into the final. 

Unannounced Final, Cuts, and Scoring

As the day wore on the final still was yet to be announced, something which can go very well, or can go very poorly depending on how well prepared the competition is to distribute the necessary information to all parties that need to know (athletes, fans, judges, media, etc). 

With the field being cut down (from 30 to 20 for the elite women, and from 60 to 20 for the elite men), and a scoring system which is both new to me and creates big opportunities for point swings, I was very curious about several things with regards to the final. Despite the cuts, the scoring system will be unchanged. Since the scoring system is different depending on the size of the field, and the elite men’s field had many more people in it than the women’s field did, this means the margin of scoring discrepancy from top to bottom of the remaining 20 is over twice as big as on the men’s side. To keep it simple, I would have made an adjustment to the scoring based on the new size of the field for the final. 

Final Event and Final Results

The final, much like the first event in the arena on Friday afternoon, is scaled up in difficulty version of an old classic, Diane. Three rounds of increasing reps for deadlifts and handstand push-ups with handstand walking sprinkled in as the transitions between barbells and the wall on the rig. 

Gymnastics would factor in again on the final day, and for Valentina Magalotti it could not have come at a more welcomed time. She followed up a fifth place in the morning, with a second place in the afternoon. Once again both of the women ahead of her finished outside the top ten which allowed Magalotti to pass them both by and walk home the winner of the 2023 Fall Series Throwdown, her third time winning this competition (she has competed at it every year it’s been in existence). Liisa Laiko would finish second, Kristina Visic would maintain third place narrowly edging out Maria Ntasi. 

Less drama on the men’s side as there were fewer points per place differential in the scoring system, and bigger points separating the top men from each other heading into the final. Valerio Proietti continued his impressive performance taking the event win and guaranteeing a podium finish. However, he wouldn’t be able to move up from third and Artemis Anestis finished fourth and Tomasso Pieri finished sixth on the event. Those results would all be good enough to keep Pieri first, Anestis second, and Proetti third. 

There were several athletes from different countries would were in contention to the win here throughout the weekend, but when all was said and done an Italian stood atop the podium in both divisions. Congratulations to Magalotti and Pieri on their victories in Milan! 

Closing Thoughts

Stop sixteen since August, averaging about four per month, or one every week and half… I’ve seen a lot, and there’s a lot to process. If you are just finding these now, there are twenty of them, full of little insights and observations which competition programmers and directors around the world could potentially learn from or be inspired by. 

Every competition brings good things with it, especially the people. And every competition has areas of opportunity for growth. My hope is to be able to continue to build relationships with many of these in the pursuit of continuing to provide the best possible experience for athletes and fans around the world. 

The tour will take a break until early January, but we’ll be in Miami for one of the biggest events of them all, Wodaplooza. See you on the road! 

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Brian Friend

Brian stumbled upon CrossFit in the Fall of 2013. He has been a writer, data analyst, content creator, commentator, and broadcast coordinator. He's worked at a majority of the largest CrossFit competitions over the last three seasons, is a regular guest on the Sevan Podcast, and has been amongst the leading sports analysts in the sport in recent years. He has a passion for advancing the sport of CrossFit, and spreading the CrossFit methodology, by living it out in both his personal and professional life.


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