Coming up with the 10 best CrossFit moments of 2019 was a tall order, as there were so many potential directions I could have gone, so many different inspiring athletes I could have focused on—Games athletes and otherwise.
Having watched almost every single heat of every event of the men’s and women’s individual competitions at the 2019 CrossFit Games, I admit I am biased to those moments. So although subjective, here’s my list of the top 10 most memorable moments, performances and accomplishment of 2019, in reverse order:
10. Katrin Davidsdottir on Ringer 1 and Ringer 2
Ringer 1 and Ringer 2 at the 2019 CrossFit Games involved two back-to-back events (that were scored separately) with little rest in between. Generally during this type of event, the athlete who wins the first part of the event often goes out too hard and hits a wall on the second.
This was not the case for Katrin Davidsdottir, who was absolutely possessed from start to finish. Determined to get herself back in podium contention, she put forth possibly one of the most impressive single performances of the 2019 Games. This included dominating Ringer 1 fairly easily before turning around and crushing Ringer 2 equally effortlessly, proving that her understanding of her physical abilities, as well as her ability to recover, are second to none.
9. Noah Ohlsen on Mary
Noah Ohlsen proved he was is longer becomes Blow-up Ohlsen under pressure during Mary at the 2019 Games. During the 20 minute workout of handstand push-ups, pistols and pull-ups, Ohlsen went head-to-head against the reigning champion Mat Fraser.
In the past, Ohlsen had crumbled under the pressure in some of these types of moments, but not anymore. With unmistakable fire in his eyes from start to finish, Ohlsen held Fraser off, eventually taking him down by just two reps. It was clear from that moment forward that Ohlsen wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a podium finish.
8. Pat Vellner in the 2020 Open
Looking ahead to this year, I thought it was important to include some more recent 2019 performances on this list, as well, namely Pat Vellner’s performance in the CrossFit Open this fall.
Coming off his worst CrossFit Games performance last summer where Vellner placed 16th overall, he proved he’s back and possibly stronger than ever, taking the top spot on the worldwide leaderboard. More impressive, however, might just be that he put an end to Fraser’s three-year reign at the top of the Open leaderboard.
Could 2020 be Vellner’s year?
7. Tia-Clair Toomey on the swim and paddle
There’s winning the Games, and then there’s winning by 196 points like Tia-Clair Toomey did last summer.
My favorite Toomey moment was probably during the swim and paddle event. It was obvious from that moment forward that Toomey was in a class of her own, that nobody else even stood a chance. Not only did she win the event by more than five minutes, she even beat all of the men on the exact same test of fitness.
To make the moment even more entertaining and heartwarming, Toomey and fellow Australian competitor Matt McLeod could be seen casually chatting to each while paddling side-by-side on their boards. They even took turns drafting each other like teammates in order to give the other person an even bigger edge. The event ended in a sprint finish—one that McLeod was apparently unaware of—that ended in the two Aussies crossing the finish line at virtually the same time.
6. Sam Briggs qualifying to her eighth CrossFit Games
Sam Briggs won the CrossFit Games back in 2013 when she was 31 years old, while her first Games were in 2011 when she was 29.
It was a different era in the young sport when Briggs burst onto the scene. In short, athletes had nowhere near the calibre of skill, strength and overall fitness that they do today.
So while it’s impressive in and of itself that Briggs just earned herself a berth to the 2020 CrossFit Games via the Dubai CrossFit Championships, what’s more impressive is the fact that she has managed to keep up with the growing demands of the sport at the age of 37.
Not to be an ageist, but in a sport like CrossFit—one that relies so heavily on recovery and being in absolute peak condition physically—it’s incredibly impressive that Briggs is still where she is at 37. In fact, if you look at the CrossFit Games leaderboard from 2011, the only other female still competing at the highest level of the sport as an individual today is Annie Thorisdottir, and she only recently turned 30.
5. The women’s clean ladder
Possibly the most impressive feat of strength of the 2019 CrossFit Games was displayed in the clean ladder event when two athletes—Toomey and Amanda Barnhart—both cleared the heaviest weight of the ladder: 260 lb. (Toomey went on to hit 265 lb. and made it look easy).
What’s most impressive, however, is that they were able to do this on the eighth event in three days.
4. Sara Sigmundsdottir’s recent three wins
Similar to Vellner, could this be Sigmundsdottir’s year?
After placing what was likely a disappointing 19th at last summer’s CrossFit Games, Sigmundsdottir topped the recent Open leaderboard for a second straight year this fall. And she didn’t stop there. More recently, she went on to dominate two Sanctionals events, the CrossFit Filthy 150, which took place in November in Dublin, Ireland, and the Dubai CrossFit Championships earlier this month.
3. Rich Froning wrangling his team
This list wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to Rich Froning. Year after year, no matter who he puts on his team, Froning finds a way to win (with the exception of 2017 when Mayhem Freedom placed second).
2019 was no exception. While it’s hard to pick an exact moment where Froning’s brilliance shone through, as he can always be seen pulling his team together, one that comes to mind was during the Strongman’s Fear Event.
After CrossFit Krypton led most of the way, Froning’s team started to come back on the final leg of the event, which included a 132 ft. snail push. As a viewer, you could almost feel Froning’s teammates spontaneously adopt his unwillingness to lose and his ability to work harder than anyone else. In the end, Froning et al simply outworked and outwilled CrossFit Krypton and literally inched their way back, passing Krypton in the final stretch and winning the event by just five seconds.
2. Mat Fraser in the final event
For the first time since 2015, the men’s competition at the CrossFit Games was close. After winning by 197 points in 2016, 216 points in 2017, and 218 points in 2018, Mat Fraser found himself fighting to earn the title last summer. In fact, he didn’t reclaim the leader’s jersey until the final event on Sunday, which consisted of 30 clean and jerks, 30 muscle-ups and 30 snatches.
Fraser started to fall behind on the muscle-ups and a handful of men reached the final 30 snatches slightly before he did, including the eventual second place finisher Ohlsen.
Then came the moment: Fraser finished his last muscle-up and the look in his eyes said it all. While the other competitors were working their way through the snatches in singles, Fraser stormed up to the bar with a presence that told the entire crowd he wasn’t about to lose. He picked up the bar and busted out five touch-and-go snatches. In a matter of seconds, Fraser reclaimed the lead and never looked back, earning him his fourth straight CrossFit Games title.
1. Kara Saunders’ quick return
While most women give birth and take months, even years, to fully get their core strength back, among other things, Kara Saunders gave birth in June of this year managed to place 12th in the world in October at the end of the Open, qualifying herself to the 2020 CrossFit Games.
This mind boggling feat needs no more words than that, and wins my top spot for 2019.
Featured image via @sarasigmunds @rxdphotography @filthy150 on Instagram