2023 Offseason World Tour Memoirs: Dubai Fitness Championship (Part 2 of 3)

December 19, 202314 min read

Image Credit: Athlete’s Eye Photography

Part 1 can be found here if you missed it. 

Saturday: Day Two

With two off-site events in the books, it was time to head back to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium for a full slate of action on Saturday. The athlete’s would be tasked with three events, two of which were known and had been briefed on Thursday, one of which would be announced prior to it happening that evening. As a general rule, I don’t have a problem with late announcements like that, however, if it’s not well-thought and organized across all necessary groups, it’s not worth it, you will only create more work and problems for yourself, more frustration for athletes and coaches, and a worse viewing experience for fans. So, if that is something you want to do in your competition, you must ensure that all boxes are checked, all parts of the team are informed, and all lines of communication are consistent and ready to be sent out to accordingly. 

Event 3: Altitude and Attitude

I am always excited to watch CrossFit events, but this one came with a little extra excitement since Mathias (La Perf) had done a study in collaboration with BFriendly Stats in the build up to the competition diving into the history of successful strategies of how to win 10 rounds events  throughout the history of the sport. 

Women, and Scoring Accuracy

Three overarching things about this event: 

  1. Every heat produced close and exciting races
  2. Either the time cap or the format should have been adjusted
  3. The floor layout was limiting from a storytelling perspective which detracts from the viewer’s experience, and also produced a scoring inaccuracy which lasted far too long in real time. 

I wanted to get those three things out of the way upfront, and together, because writing a workout which is compelling and exciting heat after heat is great. But, when the floor layout, time cap, format, and ability to accurately score the event quickly aren’t up to the same standard, it greatly reduces the quality of the individual event. On the competition organizing side of things we have come too far as a sport to continue to have regular problems as far as those thing are concerned- especially for one of the biggest competitions of the year. 

For over 15 hours following the conclusion of the women’s division Elena Carratala Sanahuja as listed on the leaderboard and on instagram (in fact she still is there) as the winner of this event despite the fact that the athletes, including her, myself, the scoring team, the judging team, and the event team all knew it was not correct. She was credited for one extra round than she had done, a scoring error that took place on the floor because of poor markings for each advancing round. Once something like that is learned about, it should be corrected immediately. 

The actual winner for the women all along was American Kyra Milligan, who edged out Karin Frey by two reps and Elisa Fuliano by 3 reps. Claudia Gluck was fourth, and finished one rep ahead of a seven woman tie for 5th (including Carratala). No woman came anywhere close to finishing under the time cap, which isn’t great unless it was intended to be an AMRAP, and is even worse when a quarter of the field is tying exactly. 

Elite Men Bail Us Out

Through the first two heats of men it was more of the same, no finishers under the cap. And once again, despite close races, the excitement of having a winner of each heat was missing. 

Finally, in the last heat, three men managed to finish the 10 round workout under the cap. Lazar Dukic had called his shot on this one, and boy did he deliver. He came in casually across the line, dusting off his shoulders as he finished :24 ahead of Roman Khrennikov. Lazar’s younger brother Luka Dukic would sprint to the line as the time expired and be the third athlete male or female to finish under the cap at 11:58. 

Ricky Garard notched a 9th place finish as he continued to claw up the leaderboard, and Greece’s Alex Kotoulas notched an 11th rebounding from a missed snatch in the total the night before. 

Event 4: EMOM Enterprise

In partnership with Brandon Luckett’s EMOM Company, Saud programmed an event as an EMOM which had most people very curious about how exactly this would play itself out. 

Once all the details were known it became more clear that this was going to take on a format similarly to the intervals style workouts that are in pursuit of a specific number of reps (think 2-2-2-3 from the 2017 Games, only as an EMOM). 

Basically, it was a four round workout with the goal of accumulating 60 front squats at 95 and 65 kgs. However, in each round the first minute was designated for 25 toes to bar, the second minute was for 16 or 12 cals on the echo bike, the third minute was for front squats, and a final minute was to rest and reset. 

Another nuance of this workout was that if at any point you failed to accumulate the required toes to bar or calories on the echo bike in the designated minute:

  • You could not advance within that round to any subsequent movements
  • You could not score higher than any athlete who did achieve the buy-in reps in the allotted time throughout their workout. 

Claudia Gluck continued her impressive weekend taking her second event win by :05 over Karin Frey and :09 over Norway’s Jacqueline Dahlstrom who notched her first top three finish of the weekend. 

On the men’s side it was a repeat of event 3 with Lazar Dukic taking the event win and Roman Khrennikov taking second, this time by only :01 it one of the closer races of the competition. Simon Mantyla, from a previous heat, edged out Fabian Beneito by less than a second for the third spot in the event. Beneito had at this point reeled off a 5th on the lifting, a 4th on the 10 rounder, and a 4th on the EMOM to put himself firmly in the podium conversation. Garard finished 7th, a respectable finish, but still leaving something to be desired as Dukic and Khrennikov continued to extend their lead at the top of the overall standings. 

Event 5: Elimination

There was never a formal event briefing for this event, which is something I would not recommend. It simply leaves to much room for error and miscommunication. Outside of that, this was one of the more cleanly executed elimination style events we’ve seen- minus one potentially important error. 

The workout itself was four rounds of calories on a c2 bike, burpee box jump overs, and a heavy Husafell sandbag carry of about 35 meters to the finish. The rounds would consist of:

  1. The full field
  2. The top 20 athletes
  3. The top 10 athletes
  4. The top 5 athletes

With scores resetting completely between rounds. 

On the men’s side Kristof Horvath and Roman Khrennikov looked like the men to beat through the first two rounds, but Roman ended up missing the final by one spot, and Kristof fell off the pace finished fifth out of five in the final. 

Instead, it was Bronislaw Olenkowicz taking his second event win of the competition by a tenth of a second over Germany’s Moritz Fiebig. Ricky Garard logged his best finish thus far in the competition of third, three spots ahead of Khrennikov and 12 spots better than Lazar Dukic’s 15th place finish as he continued to attempt to claw his way back into the podium race. 

For the women Brazil’s Julia Kato was the story of the event. She was 20th after round one, taking the final spot in round two. She was 10th after round 2 taking the final spot in round 3. She fought into the final, and ended up taking second overall in the event by four tenths of a second behind Norway’s Ingrid Hodnemyr. Andrea Solberg, also from Norway, finished third and was starting to make a push towards the top five as well. 

The one error came between rounds three and four for the women. It appeared that Karin Frey had crossed the line fifth, but when the announcements were made it was Claudia Gluck who was awarded the final spot in the final heat. This ended up being incorrect, and was corrected as much as it could have been that evening. Both Frey and Kyra Milligan had crossed before Gluck, so Frey was awarded fifth (but did not have a chance to improve in the final), while Milligan was given sixth and Gluck appropriately was placed seventh. The race for the overall lead appeared to be between Frey and Gluck at this point, so getting that right certainly mattered, but the missed opportunity for Frey also hurt. 

Day Two Thoughts

Saturday in Dubai was one of the more exciting days of competition I’d seen in a while. Every heat of all three events was compelling and produced dramatic races. However, as mentioned in the beginning, the excellence of designing the events to create those races was diminished by not dialing in other details regarding floor layout (event 3), easy ways to count and track reps between rounds (event 4), and a critical error at the final cut (in women’s event 5). 

Dubai is certainly not alone in terms of major competitions which have had similar incidents during their competitions that leave some frustrated with the proceedings, and in general, not just with Dubai, these are mistakes which I think are preventable given a little better pre-competition organization. 

One of the carry over practices from the way Dave Casto introduced this sport to us for the first 15 years of its existence is the element of surprise, the unknown and unknowable. And while that is a very cool part of this sport, which certainly can be integrated to an exciting degree, if not done well it has the power to do the opposite. 

Nevertheless, the competition was taking form, and with three more events on Sunday, there was still a lot of opportunity for athletes to make big moves. 

Part 3  coming next. 

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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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