Image Credit: Athlete’s Eye
Europe and Asia
Final week of Semifinals! For the men, week 3 will see the final 13 qualifying spots to the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games distributed; 11 spots are allocated to the European men’s field, and 2 spots are allocated to the men in Asia.
Asia Men’s Field
Nearly all the men who we have seen qualify from Asia in recent years are not in this field, the lone exception: Arthur Semenov. Semenov has tapped one of the great coaches in our sport, Nick Fowler, to guide him this year, and has to come in as the favorite to make a return trip to the Games. Last season he competed at the Games while injured and only managed one finish better than 33rd. If he does make it through again, hopefully we’ll see a healthier version of him because he definitely has some talent.
After Semenov it’s wide open and several men should have some stand out performances which will keep them hovering near the second and final qualifying position. A few of the men I’m specifically eyeing to potentially take that spot are:
- Andrei Fedotov: He comes in with the second seed, and was third to Roman Khrennikov and Semenov last year at Semis. While he was nearly 100 points behind Semonov, he did manage all but one event finish of 8th or better.
- Ant Haynes: I was inspired by Jason Smith’s performance in Africa in week 1, and have a feeling that veteran savvy and experience will be a big factor for Haynes as well against a relatively unproven men’s field in Asia. He has one Games appearance to his name; 27th in 2019– cut at the same time as Brent Fikowski, Ben Smith, Willy Georges, Alex Vigneault, and… Jason Smith. Perhaps the fate of those two men are tied together and they’ll both make it back again this year.
- Mortezha Sedaghat: Sedaghat was fifth last year at the Far East Throwdown, only three points behind Haynes. While many international followers may not be familiar with all of these men, they certainly know each other. These three men were within 30 points of each other overall, and while it’s possible another contender rises up, it feels like with the opening Khrennikov’s departure has created, these are the three most likely to step up and claim it.
Brian’s Asia Men’s Picks
|Asia: 2 spots|
Europe Men’s Field
If you have not read our True Strength of Field article from earlier this year, it might be worth reviewing before this one. Otherwise, just know this, the men’s field in Europe is extremely deep, and while they may not have as many Games champion contenders as the top as the North American Semifinals do, there are dozens of men in Europe who could compete well at the Games should they make it through.
Three Top Dogs
In my eyes, of the eleven qualifying spots available, at most I feel confident saying there are three men who shouldn’t struggle to claim one of them.
- Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson: The long time king of Europe finished second at Semis last year, I don’t know how much he enjoyed that. He also had his lowest Games finish (9th) since his rookie year last season. Oh, by the way, that rookie year was 2014, meaning this would be 10 straight if he makes it through.
- Jonne Koski: Tough season for Koski last year. Battling at Semis and coming up one spot short before earning a spot through the LCQ and going on to a 15th place at the Games. It seems that this season has been more linear for him and he is likely seeking his fifth career top ten finish at the Games. He has three Regional/Semifinal wins, and five total podiums in his career during this stage of competition.
- Lazar Dukic: Last year’s Lowlands Throwdown champion, and the fittest man from Europe at the Games as well, Lazar had a bit of a tough offseason. He sustained an injury in event one at Rogue, and seemed to be sick in Dubai. However, his performances in the CrossFit Games season are as good as anyone, so expect him to be in contention to win throughout the weekend.
The Other 2022 Games Athletes
Aside from those three, there are six other Games athletes from last year, in order of finish at the Games they are:
- Uldis Upenieks 21st
- Henrik Haapalainen 24th
- Guillaume Briant 27th
- Enrico Zenoni 29th
- Moritz Fiebig 36th
- Giorgos Karavis 37th
These athletes have had varied levels of offseason competitive appearances. Fiebig having the biggest highlight of them all taking second place in Dubai. All of these men will be in contention for Games spots, but if the big three and all six of these take one each, that’s nine of the eleven available spots. And as you’re about to see, there are a huge host of athletes behind who will also be in the battle. I wouldn’t bet on all six of these men making it back this year; at least one or two will likely miss out.
In the Battle
I’ve spent more time looking at this men’s field than any other men’s field thus far. There are 10 men we haven’t mentioned yet in this field who I believe have Games potential this weekend. Standing out among them is 2021 Games athlete Luka Dukic, 2022 Dubai Fitness Championship winner Fabian Beneito, and 10th place worldwide finisher during Quarterfinals Victor Hoffer. Of the three, I like Luka’s chances best. He’s done many offseason competitions, but not that many recently. He seems dialed in towards his pursuit of getting back to the Games and most of these tests should suit him, probably with the exception of the heavy snatch.
There are a few other interesting men in this field who could make some noise. Bronislaw Olenkowicz has dedicated himself this year training under the guidance of Justin Cotler, David Shorunke returns to the individual field as another big, strong athlete who is likely better in live competition than online, and Jelle Hoste who missed Semis last year due to a Quarterfinals video submission complication loves machine work and is quite strong. Even though I’m leaving them all out in these predictions, I do think one of them (just not sure which) will end up qualifying.
Finally there are three relatively new names who intrigue me. Both Luka Vunjak and Ludvig Hahnsson caught my eye last year at Semifinals. Vunjak was 9th at Lowlands, Hanhsson was 11th at Strength in Depth. Hanhnsson had four top eight finishes, Vunjak had a first and a third. They’ll need to have improved a little from last year to get in, but don’t count them out.
Lastly there’s Aniol Ekai who made a name for himself in Madrid last fall when he finished second, before also competing in Dubai and Miami. The competition experience should have been good for him. He can do very well on certain things, but test 6 is where I will be focused most for him. The combination of weightlifting and gymnastics seems to be his worst finishes at each competition.
Brian’s Europe Men’s Picks
|Europe: 11 spots|
|1||Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson||16||Bronislaw Olenkowicz|
|2||Lazar Dukic||17||Luka Vunjak|
|3||Jonne Koski||18||Ludvig Hahnsson|
|4||Henrik Haapalainen||19||David Shorunke|
|5||Moritz Fiebig||20||Reggie Fasa|
|6||Luka Dukic||21||Michal Wesolowski|
|7||Guillaume Briant||22||Harry Lightfoot|
|8||Fabian Beneito||23||Antoine Dumain|
|9||Enrico Zenoni||24||Daniel Camacho|
|10||Uldis Upenieks||25||Victor Ljungdal|
|11||Giorgos Karavis||26||Michael Smith|
|12||Aniol Ekai||27||Iurii Marincenco|
|13||Alex Kotoulas||28||Tommaso Pieri|
|14||Victor Hoffer||29||Alexander Anasagasti|
|15||Jelle Hoste||30||Nikita Yundov|