Kara Saunders Withdraws From 2021 CrossFit Games

After one day of competition, Saunders announced on Instagram that she is bowing out.

On the morning of July 30, 2021, Kara Saunders announced on Instagram that she is withdrawing from the 2021 CrossFit Games after Day One of the Individual competition. She cited her contraction of the COVID-19 virus while in transit to the Games, and the emotional toll of leaving her family as having a significant impact on her body’s ability to recover

Saunders tested positive for COVID-19 in July but was cleared to compete since she tested negative on antigen tests during CrossFit’s daily screenings. Day Two of the Games for the Individuals is set to start on July 30 at noon EST. 


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I gave it a nudge but it wasn’t to be,” Saunders’ Instagram post reads. “My health 100% comes first and after attempting a day of competition I realized that all it was doing was sending me backward while my body is still trying to heal.”

Saunders struggled to tally points throughout the first four events, finishing Day One in 34th place out of 36 female competitors. Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr is so far leading the women with 397 total points, winning three of four events, with Haley Adams and Laura Horvath in tow. On the Men’s side, Brent Fikowski is in first with 322 points. Justin Medeiros and Jonne Koski are in second and third place, respectively. 

Saunders’ Day One Event Performances

Here’s how Saunders, who hails from Australia, fared during her first day. 

Event One

The first event consisted of a mile-long swim with fins and then had athletes kayak three miles in Lake Monona. She came in towards the back of the pack in 20th place with a  time of 1:16:36. For reference, the event winner, Toomey-Orr, finished with a time of 1:10:46.37.

Event Two

CrossFit Games Director Dave Castro changed things up with a skill-focused event that tasked athletes with a 126-foot sled drag, five flips of The Pig, 48 muscle-ups, and then another series of flips and drags for time. Saunders failed to finish before the 12-minute time cap was up for an official score of CAP+3 for 29th place overall. Toomey-Orr blazed through Event Two for a time of 8:27.92.

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Event Three

Simple yet grueling, Event Three was a “good old fashion foot race” — athletes sprinted 550 yards as quickly as possible. Shocker: Toomey-Orr won with a time of 1:24.17, and Saunders came in 36th — dead last — in 1:50.11. Of note, Brazilian Guilherme Malheiros was the fastest athlete overall, finishing the race in 1:15.37.

Event Four

The fourth event of the Games brought back the Wall Walks — which made its debut in Open workout 21.1 — and paired them with barbell thrusters. Athletes had to complete 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps of each movement (110 reps total) for time. The time cap was 20 minutes. Saunders placed 33rd with a score of CAP+1. Seventeen-year-old Mallory O’Brien beat out Toomey-Orr and became the youngest ever CrossFit Games event winner with a time of 13:41.22

Kara Saunders’ CrossFit Games Track Record

This year marks 31-year-old Saunders’ ninth CrossFit Games appearance in the Individual women. Her best placement was second in 2017. She then placed fourth in 2018 and eight in 2020 (failing to make the 2020 Finals). In 2021, Saunders placed third in the worldwide Open — behind 17- year old Emma Cary and Toomey-Orr — and second in the Individual Quarterfinals. Then, the Aussie won the Torian Pro Semifinal to advance to the Games. 

On July 26, 2021, CrossFit announced that Bethany Shadburne and Dan Bailey would not compete at the Games after testing positive for COVID-19. Two days later, American Kari Pearce, who placed third in the 2020 CrossFit Games, tested positive for COVID-19 and medically withdrew from the competition. Russian athletes Roman Khrennikov and Stas Solodov, and Svetlana Kubyshkina are not competing due to travel and visa issues. Larissa Cunha violated CrossFit’s Doping Policy (though she’s appealing) and was removed from the competition. In total,  there are now seven Individual athletes out of the competition. 

Featured Image: Ben Garves