2023-24 Offseason World Tour Memoirs: TYR Wodapalooza

January 30, 202428 min read

Image Credit : Rafael Paredes

Wodapalooza was one of the first competitions I ever went to. After going to the North Central Regionals in 2014, and the CrossFit Games in 2016, it was WZA in 2017 which was my third ever elite CrossFit competition I attended as a fan. In one way or another, I haven’t missed one since then. 

The jobs I’ve had over the years there have changed, and this year not only did it feel like a culmination of all those years combined, it felt like the entire offseason was building towards this week. 

Although I have done color commentary once before at Wodapalooza, it was behind a paywall then, and therefore less available. I’ve had a goal of being able to call more action alongside Sean Woodland, and I believe this is the first time I’ve been able to since I did one event with him at the Filthy 150 several years ago. 

That event in Ireland is also one of the few times I remember having a rotating cast of talent on the broadcast as well. Part of the rotation this year would involve me being on the sidelines in a reporter role, something which I have never done previously and was quite curious to see how it would go. 

In addition to the forward-facing role with the broadcast team, I was able to be in pre-production meetings with the producer, director, and cameramen (on the broadcast side). This is something I’ve done in various capacities over the years as well, and it’s always nice to be in these meetings and know that even if things don’t always go as planned, there is a great deal of planning that happens ahead of time- sometimes I think people lose sight of that. 

Finally, the big man himself, Dylan Malitsky, invited me to be involved in conversations pertaining to the competition. And in a year in which three of the four days were weather effected, this once again proved to be a very valuable opportunity to see behind the curtain. It’s really easy to sit at home after the fact and say what you would have done to make it better (I’ve done this many times in the past), but it’s totally different to be in the room and have an understanding of all the variables in play, weighing the cost of each of those, and needing to make the hard decisions in real time. 

Day 1: Thursday, Elite Individuals begin

As was the case in 2023, the 2024 version of TYR Wodapalooza for elite athletes featured individual competition on Thursday and Friday, followed by team competition on Saturday and Sunday. 

The elite individuals would have three events on the first day of competition, followed by two events on the last day, Friday. The three Thursday events were:

  • Double or Nothin: a snatch plus hang snatch complex for max weight with an option for Overhead Squats as a tiebreaker.
  • Cortadito: which was forced to be changed considerably due to the weather conditions, but ended up including parallel bar dips and deadlifts then front squats and bar facing burpees. 
  • Deja Vu: a three round increasing interval style workout with two separately scored parts each worth 50 points. This one was also changed due to weather conditions removing the chest to bar pull-ups and replacing them with strict chin over bar pull ups. 

The changes to the two metcons absolutely impacted the competition, and there has been much conversation about how it has and whether these were good changes, etc. And to me, regardless of how it played out, the changes were responsible ones. Dynamic gymnastics on pull-up bars and parallel bars were removed and replaced with either static movements or movements that take place much lower to the ground. Athlete safety was regularly touted as an important element in their partnership with the PFAA this year, and these decisions were in alignment with that. 

Day One Leaders

As far as the competition went, Gabi Migala was most consistent amongst the women that day, but Emma Cary closed with a flurry. Migala went 4-4-3-7 in terms of event placement, while Cary started with a 12th on the lift, but then went 2nd, 1st, 1st on the metcons. 

For the men, Ricky Garard had a very similar day to Cary; he started with a 13th on the snatch complex, then went 3rd, 1st, 3rd over on Flagler. Both Patrick Vellner and Samuel Kwant had similar goes taking 13th and 17th respectively on the lift before notching top five finishes on the remaining three scores for the day. Brent Fikowski on the other hand started with a second on the lift, then went 10th, 4th, and a very surprising 33rd on the second of Deja Vu- thankfully for him that was only a 50 point event, so the damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been on a different workout or in a different scoring format. 

Stand Out Performances

Although these names didn’t filter to the top of the leaderboard come the end of the day, there were several athletes who left their mark on day one of competition with highlight reel performances: 

  • Gui Malheiros on the Snatch Complex hitting 310 lbs, when the next best lift was 285.
  • Colten Mertens with a walk off, one finger, win on Cortadito and an extremely memorable interview on the heels of it.
  • Julia Hannford making a statement on the Snatch Complex by stealing the win from Dani Speegle, who was expected to win it (and very well may have if she’d not been given a no rep for lowering the bar from overhead before extending her hips all the way on the snatch). 
  • Arielle Loewen doing Arielle Loewen things by winning another event that featured the parallel bars (she won Elizabeth Elevated at the CrossFit Games in 2022 as well).

Day 2: Friday, Elite Individuals End

There were only two opportunities to earn points on Friday, and the first one took the elite individuals to the Barge, which played host to the Bayside Stage this year in Miami. 

“Wipe Out”

None of the other major competitions on the calendar included swimming this year (CrossFit Games, Rogue, Dubai), so it was nice to know that WZA still included it. And in fact, the athletes had to swim twice during this one. 

In a field full of good swimmers, Australians Emily De Rooy, who won her heat and took third overall, and Gracie Walton who both won her heat and the event outright, had a strong showing (Emma Cary middled them taking second on the event and extending her string of top 2 finishes to four consecutive scores). Migala (5th), Loewen (6th), and Danielle Brandon (8th) all notched top finishes as well to keep themselves in the hunt for the podium positions heading into the final.

The finish to this event on the men’s side was one of the stand outs of the competition, and the Morning Chalk Up helped highlight the historical nature of how this played out too. James Sprague and Brent Fikowski emerged as the front runners here, and although Kwant and Roman Khrennikov weren’t far behind, it seemed clear that one of those two was going to win. 

Sprague narrowly lost on a swimming workout at WZA that also ended on an air runner two years ago and was determined not to let it happen again.  Upon realizing he won, he tossed a fake ball up in the air to himself and hit it out of the park into the stands eliciting both laughter and cheers from the crowd. Garard notched another top five finish, while Vellner took his biggest hit placing 18th. 

“El Circo”

Buy in and cash out with a kettlebell lunge (great for storytelling to close a competition), and three rounds of rope climbs, toes to bar, and handstand walking in between. 

This was the only day the workouts and competition weren’t affected by the weather, so we got to see this one play out as it was intended, and, with the way everything shook out, this ended up being the best workout by far in terms of individual success on it correlating to overall finish. 

On the women’s side the top four overall on this workout, were the top four overall for the competition, and 14 of the top 15 finishers on this event singularly placed in the top 15 overall as well. For the men the eventual podium finishers placed 2nd*, 1st, and 7th on this event, while the top 10 from the competition as a whole placed 13th or better on this workout.

*Garard placed 5th on this, but if you watch it back it seems pretty clear he would have actually won the event had he needed to. 


Both Garard and Cary were simply too good following the snatch for anyone else to keep up. Garard had top five finishes on everything other scored event, while Carry placed 1st or 2nd on everything that wasn’t the snatch complex. They were clearly the best in the field at the workouts which were tested and rightfully stood atop the podium. For Garad this is his second consecutive win at WZA and he has stated he’ll be back for as long as he can be to defend the title. Cary ascends from third in 2023 to the top spot on the podium on 2024 and given everything we know about her should be on the radar of every female athlete in the world who has top five aspirations at the Games because she is more than likely to be in the mix for one of those spots this season. 

Day 3: Saturday, Elite Teams Begin

In an effort to encourage more of the top athletes to compete in both the individual and team competitions at WZA, the only curious demand on athletes who decided to do so this year was the late finish on Friday night and then the turn around to do an offsite run Saturday morning. 

In the past, when running has been programmed for team competitions, often times a rope is used, which has been met with some criticism because while it certainly forces athletes to run together, in the end it’s really just identifying which team has the fastest, slowest runner. 

It would be like having a 1 RM snatch, everyone snatches, but rather than rewarding the best snatches, you take the lowest scores and use those. 

In my opinion, Wodapalooza did get this right with the run. If you’re going to have one, let them all run and take the total time. That way the fastest runners can still excel and contribute as they would in a weightlifting event. And the slowest runners still want to do the best because every second for every runner counts. 

Although there aren’t individual times available for all the runners (and boy do I wish competitions would start doing that!) I know through conversation that the top two men’s times finished :10 apart, but got there in very different ways. While Team GOWOD finished in 1:08:20 cumulative time, they told us in our offsite BTS pursuit  that they all ran pretty close to 23:00. 

Top Teams, Different Strategies

Team TYR, who took second to them by 10 seconds, saw Ricky Garard run much faster than the other two, with Jayson Hopper coming in next, and then Dallin Pepper. In the “rope” format, GOWOD’s time wouldn’t have changed much (from the sounds of it), whereas Garard would have essentially been jogging (relative to the pace he could go at) and draggin the others along; they’re team would have done worse despite his proficiency for running. 

Offsite Events

It is often asked whether or not offsite events are a good idea to program or not, and for whom, and how. Should they be broadcasted or streamed? How do you get to and from those locations? Who is welcome to come or not come? These are among the things you should consider when deciding to program them or not in your competitions. 

In general, I think it’s nice when competitions are able to offer something “outside the gym” for athletes at their competitions. However, if you don’t have the logistics of how and when and why etc nailed down really well, it often ends up causing more frustration than it should and detracts from what it’s supposed to be about. 

Back at Bayfront Park

Elite teams would face two more tests on day one of their competition which didn’t start until much later in the day. With the intent of making this a competition environment that encourages the best athletes to do both team and individual divisions, I probably would have scrapped the offsite run in the morning for the elite only, and proceeded with five events (as the individuals had), which were all on site (so everyone could watch the best athletes in the world) that started later in the day providing a nice opportunity for those who did both to sleep in and feel ready for a new two day competition. 

“Worms Can’t Swim”

One of two worm workouts that would take place over the next two days, and while the volume was high (65 worm clean and jerks and 150 two person synchro burpees), it seemed like more importantly than anything was having three good swimmers. 

“Uno, Dos Tres”

A three part workout which began with one person working on three different inverted gymnastics movements, progressed to two person synchro double under station, and finished with 120 three person synchro barbell movements. There was simply A LOT happening here, some might say too much. Especially because from what I could gather, the majority of the emphasis here was on the barbell cycling.

The day as a whole saw three workouts which rewarded the best runners, then the best swimmers, then the best barbel cyclists. It would seem that some gymnastics specific test or tests were needed on the following day to balance things out a bit. 

Day 4: Sunday, Teams End

Second and final day for teams, and it would also include three events, on three different competition floors. 

“Sandbag Send” 

A fast and furious relay style event which all in all produced some excitement, but also left a bit to be desired. Each individual was working for between two and two and a half minutes total, meaning that every time it was their turn to go it was, as the name suggests, a full send. There was no real chance for athletes this good to fatigue, which meant execution, but also just basic elasticity of muscle fibers, were going to be the critical factors here. The sandbags weren’t heavy enough, and the working time for each athlete when it was their turn to work wasn’t long enough, for much else to matter.

 “Waterfall on the Bay” 

Inclement weather set in again, forcing some changes. Being on the barge and involved in the conversations felt like a privilege. The pressure is high, and the event organizers want to get it right. What impressed me most was the way the team leads responded to change. Upon getting a directive, no unnecessary questions were asked- they rallied their troops and communicated what needed to be communicated. 

Earlier in the week it had been communicated to me from athletes that in wet conditions the decals on the floor get slippery and it’s advantageous to be in lanes without them. The competition team took this into consideration and removed the decals from the floor for this event. Seeing things like this play out in real time makes me feel good about the people in critical positions who I see at many competitions. The thing is, a lot of times I see them there, but never really get to see what makes them so good; that was different for me this weekend and I’m very grateful for both the chance to see it first hand, and them as people in general. 

“Worm Fran” 

We still haven’t seen any gymnastics specific tests for the teams, and although the intended gymnastics complexes each athlete was supposed to have to do were significant, the worm seemed to be just as much so (or potentially more). 

Weather once again changed this, and as we saw with the individuals, dynamic pulling movements on the pull-up bar were replaced with strict pull-ups. The way it played out was basically that the best teams (or teammates, as a couple teams had an athlete that did very few or no strict pull-ups) at strict pull-ups, won this one. And while it definitely took some of the flare out of the workout compared to what was originally programmed, in some ways it balanced the overall test a little bit. 


I didn’t mention top teams on most of those events because I felt the events themselves offered more in the way of learning. The elite teams of three competition at WZA is fun, and full of big names (particularly on the men’s side), but it doesn’t offer too much insight into where most of these athletes are necessarily at with regards to their fitness. 

Elite Male Podium

The top six teams on the men’s side were as expected, but perhaps the order was not. The GOWOD team, who returned Jay Crouch and Willy Georges from last year (when they took second), added two time Games champ Justin Medeiros en route to the overall win. 

Taking second gain was last year’s teammate of Crouch and Georges, Roman Khrennikov- this year paired with Saxon Panchik and Jorge Fernandez. 

And it wouldn’t be a WZA in Miami if Noah Ohlsen didn’t find his way onto a podium. This year he did it with long-time WZA teammate Chandler Smith, and upcoming 2024 Games season teammate Tola Morakinyo. 

Elite Female Podium

The women’s results were for the most part surprising, as the two teams almost everyone was picking to win, didn’t even make the podium. Instead, a team full of team experience in Kelly Baker, Kelsey Kiel, and Emmelie Lundberg claimed the top spot. The strict pull-ups in the final workout were a huge blessing for them as Lundberg and Baker are clearly amongst the best in the world at those, and Kiel stayed on the front of the worm the entire time (an impressive feat in its own regard). 

After coming into the final with the lead, another experienced team, this time out of Sweden, consisting of Antonia Falt-Kottulinsky, Camilla Salomonsson Hellman, and Maria Langfors with an 11th on the final (their only finish outside the top 5). 

Rounding out the podium was a team which saw multiple changes to their roster in the run-up, and therefore a late name change too, Scandinadian. The trio of Rebecka Vitesson (who had already taken 5th place in the elite individual women’s field), Matilde Garnes, and Miami native, but Canadian representative Anhika Greer started with a 10th on the run, but reeled off five consecutive finishes between 2nd and 6th to sit solidly in third place. 

The Ins and the Outs

Having such a forward facing role on the broadcast at a major competition like that, while also having the chance to work with the competition team presented two new and somewhat opposite WZA experiences for me this year. 

As with every competition I go to, I try to look back with a critical eye at ways it could have been better. However, as I get to be involved in more conversations in the build up to, and execution of, several of these events, an appreciation for the complexities of making certain decisions starts to come more and more into focus. 

Based on the other media I’ve consumed, I think others are starting to appreciate that too. I really liked that Chase Ingraham and Bill Grundler invited Dylan Malitsky onto their podcast (Get With the Programming) to help provide some clarity and insight into everything that goes into putting on a festival like TYR Wodapalooza, and I’m hopeful we get to see more of that going forward as well. 

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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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