Image Credit: Athlete’s Eye Photography
The second major offseason competition of 2023 is upon us and this year’s version of the Dubai Fitness Championship features a return to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, some classic Dubai programming with several unknown components for nearly every announced event, and a field of athletes which is certain to both educate and entertain. We’ll begin with the men’s field today, and follow up with the women’s field tomorrow as we await the start of competition on Friday.
Those Who Can Win
The state of the global CrossFit scene for the elite men in the world is in a very exciting place right now. On any given weekend if we had all the best men in the world competing there are at least three and potentially as many as five or six names which could be realistically picked to win. Of that group, only two are in this field: Roman Khrennikov and Ricky Garard.
Both men are coming off a 2023 Games season that did not go as planned, Ricky missing Semifinals and the Games after an injury while mountain biking, and Roman breaking his foot on the morning of the final day of the Games when he was one of two men in the hunt to win it.
Both men have been busy this offseason as well. Ricky went through the “Q” to earn a spot at the Rogue Invitational where he competed live for the first time this season. Ricky would take fifth place there. Roman was also in the field, competing for the first time since breaking his foot; he placed third.
Since then Roman has made a trip to South Korea before coming to Dubai, while Ricky is coming off a team competition at the Down Under Championship last weekend where he captained a team of relatively unknown Oceania athletes to a second place finish.
The list of podium contenders is where we really start to see the depth of this field:
- Fabian Beneito is the returning champion
- Moritz Fiebig was second place here last year
- Lazar Dukic middle Roman (1st) and Ricky (3rd) in 2021
- Chandler Smith is coming off his best season taking 7th at the Games (yes we’re counting this as a better season than 6th in the online stage one of 2020)
All of these men have the fitness and confidence to show up believing they can not just podium, but possibly even win. Yes it will be difficult to unseat the two favorites, but this is the group most likely to be in the fight.
The Pack That is Hunting
There are a host of other men who are looking to stake a claim that they belong in one of the aforementioned groups.
- 6 of them are coming off a Games appearance this year:
- Uldis Upenieks (20th 2023)
- Bronislaw Olenkowicz (26th 2023)
- David Shorunke (29th 2023)
- Ant Haynes (30th 2023)
- Kalyan Souza (32nd 2023)
- Kaique Cerveny (37th 2023)
- 3 others were in the Games recently, but missed out this season:
- Guillaume Briant (26th 2022)
- Giorgos Karavis (37th 2022)
- Luka Dukic (29th 2021)
- And there are 3 other wild cards in the field who may not have the Games pedigree of late, but certainly will make their presence felt at some point this weekend. I expect at least one of these three to surprise in the sense of keeping some of the names listed previously out of the top 10:
- Alex Kotoulas (5th Dubai 2022)
- Jorge Fernandez (1st place on Team Invictus 2023 CrossFit Games)
- Griffin Roelle (25th 2020 CrossFit Games Stage 1)
Rounding Out the Field
We are slated to have 28 total men in the field, having mentioned 18 already, that means there are 10 more who will be looking to prove me wrong, and you can rest assured it is all but guaranteed that at least one of them will:
- Aniol Ekai (6th Dubai 2022, 22nd Euro Semi)
- Dan Tai (34th with Team CrossFit Rotherham Games 2023)
- Elliot Simmonds (first competition back from injury; 8th Dubai 2021)
- Javier Gonzalez (9th Dubai 2022)
- Kristof Horvath (Dubai Rookie, haven’t seen him in a high level individual competition in a while, the Open/Quarterfinals format is not great for him, he seems to be more well suited for a Semifinal or an offseason competition like this, excited to see how he does)
- Martin Cuervo (18th Euro Semi; 8th Madrid Championship)
- Michael Smith (21st Euro Semi; and has been doing some Hyrox in the offseason, conditioning should be excellent)
- Reggia Fasa (51st Euro Semi, 6th Euro QF)
- Simon Mantyla (17th Madrid Championship- was his first competition this season. He had to leave Dubai last year before the competition began, very happy to have him back in the field. Seemed like Madrid was getting his competition legs back under him, should be primed and ready for this weekend).
- Toby Buckland (the least credentials amongst the men in this field, but on his Games profile page he has a listed 140 kg (308 lbs) snatch and 175 kg (385 lbs) clean and jerk. I’ll just put it simply, if he hits those numbers, he’s in contention to win the Olympic Total (event 2).