If they haven’t already arrived, many elite athletes will be descending upon Madison, WI. in the coming days to acclimate, prepare, and get their game face on for the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games, which take place from July 27 through August 1.
It’s been two years since the Games have taken place in Wisconsin. The 2020 CrossFit Games were held in two parts — a larger-scale virtual format and a smaller 10-athlete format, with the final individuals competing at the CrossFit Ranch in Aromas, CA.
The lights and pressure will be back on this year, and with newcomers entering and Mat Fraser exiting, the races for podium spots will be exhilarating to watch. Here are our predictions for the top three spots in the Women’s Men’s and Team competitions.
2021 CrossFit Games Women’s Podium Predictions
Barring injury, a broken paddleboard, or natural disaster, we just don’t see Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr losing this one. After busting through the mental block in 2017 that had previously kept her from gold, Toomey-Orr’s star continues to rise.
Our Podium Predictions for the Women
At the 2021 Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge Semifinal, the events were varied, and she dropped no lower than third place the entire weekend, winning four out of six events. She’s now training under husband Shane Orr’s PRVN programming, alongside a growing group of other Games athletes, including Brooke Wells, James Newbury, Khan Porter, and Alec Smith. The only way we see the top podium spot opening in the near future is if Toomey-Orr — who has won a record four CrossFit Games in the Women’s division — gracefully steps away from the sport a la former training partner, Mat Fraser.
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And next to grab it could be Haley Adams, who we see doing very well in 2021. We saw a preview of what this year’s Games might look like as Adams competed alongside Toomey-Orr at the MAAC with a solid showing for second place. At just 20 years old, she’s shown true maturity in CrossFit, having come up through the Teens division. She grabbed sixth place in the women’s division at the 2019 Games. Adams was then baptized in the dust of the CrossFit Ranch in the 2020 Games Finals where she placed fourth, and truly showed the entire community that much of her 140 pounds is made up of grit.
Despite injury setbacks and a move, Bethany Shadburne — a four-time CrossFit Games athlete — has been somewhat quietly climbing the ladder to the CrossFit Games podium, and we think this is her year to break through. Shadburne moved to Las Vegas to train alongside Kari Pearce and Pearce’s coach Justin Cotler, jumping on the growing trend of elite athlete group training, as seen from the PRVN and Training Think Tank groups. She grabbed first in the West Coast Classic without much competition other than Pearce the entire weekend. Her solid showing in the ruck and rope climb events bode well for what little of the 2021 Games programming we’ve seen so far.
2021 CrossFit Games Men’s Podium Predictions
Five-time CrossFit Games winner Mat Fraser rode off into the proverbial sunset last year, leaving the throne wide open — with no clear heir. The next men’s podium topper will likely be determined based on programming, experience, and who’s “on” that weekend. These are tough predictions to make, but our best guess is given the right environment, we’ll finally see fan-favorite Noah Ohlsen take the top spot.
Our Podium Predictions for the Men
While Ohlsen has always been a natural, dominant athlete, he’s often run into extenuating circumstances such as equipment issues and judgment calls that have hampered his performance. He did finish second behind Fraser in 2019 and came in fourth at the 2020 Games. This year, maybe it’s the greater possibility of winning more in-person competitions, or the edge he’s gained from more time in Atlanta with Training Think Tank, but Ohlsen seems to have a little more fire in his eyes. We’re excited to see what the “Happy but Hungry” Miami, FL native can do in Madison.
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And yes, Ohlsen did come in behind our runner-up choice, Cole Sager, at the West Coast Classic this year. The programming at WCC, including heavy thrusters and a ruck event, certainly favored Sager, who has a background in collegiate football. He’s placed as high as fifth at the Games (2016), and most recently was 20th overall in 2020 with the virtual qualifier. We think he’ll perform better surrounded by a crowd, and the 550-yard sprint event has his name all over it.
We’re rolling the dice on standout newcomer Jayson Hopper, who shocked a stacked field at the MACC, to round out the podium. He won half of the weekend’s events, including high-skill gymnastics, gritty sled pushes, and winding weights. Hopper is well-rounded and riding momentum at the right time to land not only on the 2021 podium but also in the hearts of thousands of fans on the sport’s biggest stage.
2021 CrossFit Games Teams Podium Predictions
It’s been two years since we’ve seen the teams take the field in Madison, and we expect to see them hungry for competition. Like most years, many teams have shifted their makeup, so while team names may look familiar, not all athletes will have experience on this stage. That’s why we’re looking to see Mayhem Freedom ride on Rich Froning’s experience and, let’s be honest, a general disdain for losing, to take the top spot this year. After the Semifinals knocked out some very competitive teams and a few doping violations knocked out some others — Invictus Unconquerable, Ocean State’s Finest, and On Track — the Team leaderboard is a bit shaken up.
Our Podium Predictions for the Teams
- CrossFit Mayhem Freedom
- CrossFit Oslo Wolfpack
CrossFit Omnia took on not only grueling workouts at the 2021 Granite Games, and won, but they also did it in nearly 100-degree heat outdoors in Minnesota, just four hours from Madison, WI. We think this bodes well for Omnia’s showing at the Games this year with many previous outdoor events in Madison.
CrossFit Oslo Wolfpack absolutely dominated the German Throwdown Semifinal, so we’re taking this team out of Norway for the last podium spot. This team is poised to take on Games-level events with direction from local affiliate athlete and competitor Kristin Holte.
Reality Coming Soon
The 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games will take place July 27 through August 1, 2021 in Madison, WI. You can catch Individuals, Teams, Teens, Master, and Adaptive athletes competing throughout the weekend at games.crossfit.com. Stay tuned to BarBend for full event coverage, where we’ll be updating readers with event results, daily recaps, and (of course), the actual winners of the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games.
Featured Image: @tiaclair1 and nohlsen on Instagram