2023 Wodapalooza Individual Event Preview: “We Have Lift Off”

Athletes will face a combo of clean & jerks and parallette handstand holds.

The second announced workout for Individuals at the 2023 TYR Wodapalooza gives the athletes and fans what they want: a heavy barbell with a twist. The athletes have three attempts at a one-rep max clean & jerk, followed by one attempt at a one-rep max parallette free-standing handstand hold

The scoring for this workout is a combination of how well each athlete does relative to the field on both the lift and the hold. A final decision about how that scoring breakdown will look has yet to be released at the time of this article’s publication.

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The Lift

Editor’s Note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Picks to Win: Gui Malheiros and Dani Speegle

Malheiros has the highest listed clean & jerk in the field at 390 pounds. The next highest listed one-rep clean & jerk is Nick Mathew at 375 pounds. Execution always matters for lifting events, but Malheiros seems to live for these moments. He set the record for the Barbell Complex during Semifinals and should lock in first place in this half of this event. 

Speegle may not have hit the solo record during the Barbell Complex at the Semifinals, but she claimed a share of the points with a 245-pound lift. The other women who hit that number (Christine Kolenbrander, Paulino Haro, and Tia-Clair Toomey) are not in the field.

There are some other big lifters, but that 245-pound complex doesn’t even come close to Speegle’s listed best clean & jerk of 270 pounds. If she comes anywhere close to that, she could have a decent lead going into the parallette hold. 

Dark Horses: Benjamin Gutierrez and Oihana Moya

Moya is coming off a fifth-place finish in the 2022 Dubai Fitness Championship (DFC), where she placed second to Karin Freyova in the one-rep max hang clean event. She is not nearly as big as most of the other strong lifters, but she can certainly hold her own. 

Gutierrez has a listed clean & jerk 355 pounds — the heaviest of the qualifiers we could track. That puts him in the neighborhood of athletes like Pat Vellner, Dallin Pepper, and Alexandre Caron.

Damage Control: Jonne Koski and Rebecca Fuselier

Koski’s listed clean & jerk is 340 pounds. His worst event during Semifinals was the Barbell Complex. He was 13th at 2022 Strength in Depth with 304 pounds. While he has improved with each competition since coming back from offseason surgery, he ranked ninth in the hang clean at the 2022 DFC, tied for his worst performance of the weekend. 

Fuselier has one of the lower-listed clean & jerks amongst the contenders in the field at the 2023 WZA at 215 pounds. Like Koski, the Barbell Complex was her worst performance during Semifinals — she placed 19th with a 200-pound complex. This will be her first competition since the 2022 CrossFit Games. Assuming she’s increased strength training since then, we’ll see what progress she’s made.

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The Hold

The athletes’ performances in the lift are equally weighted to their performances on the parallette freestanding handstand hold — don’t be surprised if a few athletes who struggled with the barbell excel on the parallettes. 

Picks to Win: Pat Vellner and Rebecca Fuselier

While Fuselier may not win the lift, she can do herself a big favor by navigating the hold. Her two best events at the Games by far were on the Skill Speed Medley (second place) and Elevated Elizabeth with the parallette bar traverses (11th place). If she’s going to win an event (or a portion of one) at WZA, this is it.

Vellner won that same event, and although he hasn’t had much practice with parallette bars in the last decade, it came back rather easily. With this being one of the earlier announced events, a week or two of practice will likely reignite some level of comfort and familiarity for the ex-gymnast. 

Damage Control: Dallin Pepper and Olivia Kerstetter

Quite contrary to Vellner, Dallin Pepper took second to last on Elevated Elizabeth at the Games. He’s amongst the bigger athletes, and without any background in gymnastics, these are the specific skills that can be hardest to come by. It’s possible he’s worked on this in the last five months, but it seems more likely that he’ll do poorly on this half of this event. 

Kerstetter could surprise here. She was second in her division (Girls 16-17) at the 2022 Games in the Parallel Elizabeth event. However, she was first or second in all but one event, so comparing that field to the elite WZA Individual field isn’t necessarily reliable. Like Pepper, she is on the bigger side from a body perspective and will need to show incredible poise and control through the shoulders and midline to do well. 

Overall Winners

Nick Mathew seems to have as good a chance as anyone to excel at both components of this test. He won the Skill Medley at the Games, which involved a press to handstand and parallel bars traverse while inverted. He was in the top 10 on Elevated Elizabeth, and, as mentioned, he has the second-highest listed clean & jerk behind Malheiros. All of those add up to a man who might not win either half of the workout but could have the best combination of results. 

Dani Speegle has the strength and is proficient on her hands. She won a parallette deficit strict handstand push-up at the 2019 Rogue Invitational and has won handstand walking events previously at Wodapalooza. This is a bit of a different skill set, but the evidence suggests she could do well on both the lift and the hold. 

Featured image: @coachnmathew on Instagram