Is Winning Semifinals a Good Predictor for the Games?

June 14, 20236 min read

Image Credits: Athlete’s Eye

We’re in the third year of the Open-Quarterfinal-Semifinal-Games season structure. This year does have a few nuances that are different, but the general path is the same. The question we’re after today is, is there any pattern that’s emerged so far about how well Semifinal winners can be expected to do at the Games? 

2021 Semifinal Winners

Keep in mind that in 2021 some of the Semifinals took place online, and online qualifiers in general don’t do as good of a job of filtering the field when it comes to specific skills, not necessarily just things that can be tested in a workout, as live competitions do. 


2021 Season
CompetitionWinnerCFG Placement
Atlas*Pat Vellner2nd
Lowlands*Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson4th
GraniteSaxon Panchik5th
German*Jonne Koski6th
West CoastCole Sager14th
TorianRoyce Dunne16th
MACCJayson Hopper19th
Cape TownJason Smith26th
Brazil*Agustin Richelme32nd
Asia*Stas SolodovDNS
*online semifinal

A triage of sorts when it comes to the predictive success of male Semifinal winners in 2021. Four finishes in the top 6 is excellent. Three finishers in the teens is pretty good. And the bottom three finishers here maybe not as good as you’d hope for, granted the winner of Asia didn’t even show up that year. 


Bethany Shadburne WCC 2021 copy
2021 Season
CompetitionWinnerCFG Placement
MACCTia Clair Toomey1st
GermanKristin Holte4th
LowlandsEmma McQuaid12th
GraniteArielle Loewen14th
AtlasCarolyne Prevost27th
Cape TownMichelle Basnett32nd
TorianKara SaundersWD
BrazilLarissa CunhaDNS
AsiaSvetlana KubyshkinaDNS
West CoastBethany ShadburneDNS

A pretty brutal season for the women, three of the ten semifinal winners didn’t even start the competition (one drug failure, one didn’t make the trip- she’s also serving a drug suspension now, and the other due to Covid), add in the withdraw from Saunders and that’s nearly half of them that didn’t even have a chance. 

Of the remaining six it was similar to the men: 2 very good, two above average, two near the bottom.

But that’s only one data set.

2022 Semifinal Winners

All Semifinals took place in person this year, and a lot more of the winners ended up competing at the Games. So overall, this should be considered a more valuable set of data for us to draw from.


Brent Fikowski Granite Games 2022 copy
2022 Season
CompetitionWinnerCFG Placement
SyndicateJustin Medeiros1st
Far EastRoman Khrennikov2nd
AtlasJeff Adler5th
LowlandsLazar Dukic8th
Copa SurGui Malheiros10th
MACCSaxon Panchik11th
GraniteBrent Fikowski16th
Strength in DepthWilly Georges17th
TorianJay Crouch28th
Cape TownKealan HenryDNF

The best possible scenario, or a perfect correlate, would be to have the ten Semifinal winners finish first through tenth at the Games. Six of the ten finished 11th or better, two more were still within the top 17, with one finish below that (note that Jay Crouch barely beat Ricky Garard at the Semis, and if Garard were in this list that would make it even more impressive). And then one withdrew due to injury. 


Victoria Campos Games 2022 copy
2022 Season
CompetitionWinnerCFG Placement
TorianTia-Clair Toomey1st
GraniteMallory O’Brien2nd
LowlandsLaura Horvath3rd
MACCDanielle Brandon4th
AtlasEmma Lawson6th
SyndicateHaley Adams9th
Strength in DepthJacqueline Dahlstrom15th
Far EastSeungyeon Choi26th
Copa SurVictoria Campos33rd
Cape TownMichelle Merand39th

This looks very good. Six of the top ten. Another finish of 15th. And  three finishes outside the top 25 from the three Semifinals who get the least Games representation. 

Combined that’s 12 of 20 finishers between men and women who were 11th or better. Now, if we take only the North American and European winners those numbers look even better: 

  • 4 out of 6 men 11th or better, all of them in the top 17
  • 5 out of 6 women in the top 9, all of them in the top 15 

Knowing that, let’s take a look at the Semifinal winners this year. 

2023 Semifinal Winners

Alex Gazan NA West Semi 2023 copy

Image Credit: Carlos Bown

2023 Season
CompetitionMale WinnerFemale Winner
NA EastJeff AdlerEmma Cary
NA WestPat VellnerAlex Gazan
EuropeLazar DukicGabriela Migala
Copa SurKaique CervenyVictoria Campos
TorianJay CrouchEllie Turner
Cape TownJason SmithMichelle Basnett
Far EastArthur SemenovSeher Kaya

The safe bets are that the winners of the North American and European Semifinals should be at worst in the top 15 at the Games this year, and more likely than not, within the top-ten. 

As for the winners from the other four Semifinals, they haven’t shown the same consistency, and the expectation therefore should not be as high. 

Knowing that the number of North American and European Semifinals have been reduced from a total of six to a total of three, the second place finishers from each of those should also be in line for an impressive finish at the Games this year: 

2023 Season
CompetitionMale Runner UpFemale Runner Up
NA EastJayson HopperDanielle Brandon
NA WestBrent FikowskiKatrin Davidsdottir
EuropeHenrik HaapalainenAnnie Thorisdottir

If a similar pattern can be expected from last season, we can project 4 or 5 of the top 6 (top 2 at each) finishers in North America and Europe to be in the top ten on both the men’s and women’s side. For some of those athletes that’s expected (Vellner, Adler, Brandon, Thorisdottir etc), for others it would be a nice step forward from last year’s (or two years ago) finishes: (Cary, Gazan, Fikowski, Haapalainen). 

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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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