Image Credit: Athlete’s Eye Photography
The full picture of participants in the Elite Field of Wodapalooza is often not known until the last day or two before the competition, but from what I do know, here are my predictions for the elite individual men’s field, brought to you by our exclusive WZA partner STRIKE MVMNT.
It’s a two-day competition, with a four day feel to it in terms of the caliber of athletes, especially on the men’s side. Things will happen quickly and before we know it the two days will be over and we’ll have two champions (one for the men and one for the women). The entire slate of programming is out and there are only 500 points up for grabs, meaning no room for error, and at the top, even one event could keep you off the podium.
The 2023 Top Four Return
The top four finishers, and four of the top athletes worldwide, are all back this year and have to be considered the competition favorites, but we could easily see a shake up in terms of order.
Ricky Garard: Here to defend his title from last year and may be well suited to do it, on the “specialty” events (snatching and swimming) he may be well positioned to do so.
Roman Khrennikov: The big Russian has done everything in the past two years…other than win against his closest competitors – until Dubai last month. He was second here last year, he’s been second at the Games, and third at Rogue. It’s often been ring muscle-ups which have kept him off the top of the podium, none of those this weekend– don’t be surprised if he backs up the win from Dubai in Miami.
Patrick Vellner: Vellner regressed to third last year in Miami after reeling off three-straight titles here in 2019, 2020 and 2022. He’s been hot this year taking second at the Games and taking the win at Rogue, but there’s been no swimming in those competitions this year, and 20% of the points available come from a swimming event. With the depth of this field, that alone could keep Vellner off the podium for the first time in his WZA career.
Brent Fikowski: Since taking 16th at the 2022 CrossFit Games, Fikowski has returned to the podium-threatening form we are used to seeing him in, and quite frankly, the programming looks phenomenal for him. The lift is a snatch, the swimming event requires getting in the water twice, and the other “METCONS” have very little gymnastics, which favors shorter range of motion athletes. Quite frankly, Fikowski isn’t just in podium contention this weekend, he could win.
A Host Of Challengers
Behind these four are a host of nearly 20 athletes who have Games experience (or have proven to be right on the cusp of that), and/or past success at Wodapalooza:
- Samuel Cournoyer: Four-time Games athlete, three-time WZA individual competitor, third place at WZA in 2022
- Samuel Kwant: Six-time Games athlete (second in 2020, fourth in 2022), third place at WZA in 2017
- Nick Mathew: Two-time Games athlete (14th in 2022, 19th in 2023), sixth at WZA in 2023
- Spencer Panchik: Two-time Games athlete (20th in 2022, 17th in 2023), top-10 finishes in his two WZA appearances (sixth 2020, seventh 2022)
- Alexandre Caron: He came through the qualifier this year after missing the Games due to injury during the Semis, but don’t overlook him. Four-time Games athlete, but more importantly two great WZA finishes the last two years (second in 2022, eighth in 2023).
- James Sprague: This guy is charging up the global ranks. Took 25th as a rookie at the Games this past year, and was 15th in his only individual appearance at WZA in 2022. Skill set is very similar to Fikowski minus the top-end snatch strength, but he could win the swim event to offset that a little.
- Henrik Haapalainen: Three-consecutive Games appearances with a best of 18th (2021) and a worst of 24th (2022 and 2023), but was also ninth at WZA in 2023 and is certainly in contention for another top-10 this year.
- Colten Mertens: Three-consecutive Games appearances as well, coming off a career best of 18th in 2023. In his only WZA individual appearance, he was 12th in 2022.
- Guilherme Malheiros: Three-time Games athlete, with two top-ten finishes there (7th in 2021, 10th in 2022). Last year at WZA he placed 11th with some very up and down performances. Likely will win the snatch, and having swimming as part of the long endurance test is always in his favor, many are looking forward to seeing where his fitness is at after missing the Games this past year.
- Bronislaw Olenkowicz: Two-time Games athlete making his WZA individual debut. He seems to have redefined himself under Underdogs Athletics head coach Justin Cotler and has elevated his fitness to match his top-end strength. Look for a top-three finish on the Snatch and a bottom performance on the swim. Other than that, don’t be surprised if he’s sneakily doing well on the “CrossFit” workouts in between (he’s great at both cycling moderate weight and anything inverted).
- Austin Hatfield: He won the qualifier in a commanding fashion and despite only having two “live competitions” to his name, he’s impressed on both. Barely missed the Games at a stacked NA East Semifinal, and won the Crash Crucible offseason competition in October beating both Mertens and Sprague who have already been mentioned on this list.
- Jack Farlow: Essentially a young version of “Big Bron”, coming off a rookie appearance at the Games and making his individual debut at WZA. He’s young, extremely strong (winning the Olympic lifting event at the Games with a 700 LB total), and trains daily with one of the best in the world on the women’s side in Emma Lawson. Not sure how he’ll do against this deep field, but he should get off to a strong start with the lift at the very least.
- Alex Vigneault: Six-time Games athlete with three top-11 finishes (eighth in 2021, ninth in 2016, 11th in 2015). His only WZA appearance was in 2022 when he finished 16th. He’s the sixth Canadian we’ve mentioned already, but he’s been around at the highest level longer than any of them.
- Luke Parker: Twenty eighth at the Games as a rookie this past season, 19th in his individual WZA debut last year, Parker has made big strides in the last 12 months, it will be fun to see how that plays out in terms of his overall results in Miami from last season. If he gets off to a solid start he’s an athlete that could ride some momentum throughout the second day.
- Jack Rozema: Flirted with making the Games in the NA West Semifinal ultimately finishing 13th. He was also 13th at WZA in 2023, and podiumed at the aforementioned Crash Crucible event behind Hatfield and Mertens, ahead of Sprague. He hasn’t taken the big step that Parker and Sprague has by making the Games yet, but he’s nipping at the heels of athletes like that and over five events and two days can absolutely beat several names on this list.
- John Wood: Almost a mirror image of Rozema minus Crash. He was 12th at the NA West Semis, and 14th at WZA 2023. He’s better than most people know and will likely be hunting just outside the top-10 again.
- Kaique Cerveny: Coming off a rookie appearance at the Games, Cerveny was also 26th at WZA last year, and 13th in Dubai last month. He’s stacking up competition experience and is quite frankly looking better and better every time he takes the floor against the big names.
- Kalyan Souza: The other Brazilian rookie from the Games in 2023, Souza has actually gotten the better of Cerveny on the biggest stages- 33rd to Cerveny’s 37th at the Games, and 12th to his 13th in Dubai. Both are big and strong and can swim, I’d expert them to be close to each other on the leaderboard once again, and much in the vein of Fikowski and Sprague, on paper this competition looks pretty good for them.
The rest of the elite men’s field came through the online qualifiers, and there are absolutely some other recognizable names there, but to even place in the top-20 of this field is going to take a heroic effort for many of them. Tune in to the broadcast if you aren’t on-site and I’ll do what I can to highlight as many of them as possible.
Here are my full predictions for the elite men’s field at TYR WZA 2024:
|Juan Ignacio Sforzini