The CrossFit landscape seems ever-changing regarding who is living where and who is training with whom. However, podium athletes rarely change coaches, even if they change locations. This off-season, the second Fittest Man on Earth®, Roman Khrennikov, made that change.
Ahead of the 2023 CrossFit season, Khrennivkov left longtime coach Nick Fowler for Mayhem in Cookeville, TN, to be primarily coached by Facundo Etchecolatz. Etchecolatz confirmed this news to BarBend via phone.
A Review of Khrennikov’s 2022
Many are familiar with Khrennikov’s five-year journey to compete at the 2022 CrossFit Games in person — he withdrew from previous Games he was qualified for due to visa issues — but few are as familiar with the struggle as Nick Fowler.
Fowler is a veteran mind in CrossFit, having coached elite athletes to Games success, including Brent Fikowski and Kara Saunders, earlier in their careers. Fikowski and Saunders have since experienced dips in their performances relative to their prior success with Fowler — Fikowski likely due to the Games testing structure in 2019 and 2020 and Saunders for getting pregnant with her daughter and then having to get back into elite shape against an increasingly competitive field.
Khrennikov, however, had a wildly successful 2022 CrossFit Games. Although he came up short of dethroning two-time Fittest Man on Earth® Justin Medeiros, he won the hearts of fans in Madison and around the world by establishing himself as a primary threat to the title for the 2023 season.
Similar to how many believed Patrick Vellner might bounce back from his narrow runner-up finish to Medeiros at the 2021 Games to defeat Medeiros at the 2021 Rogue Invitational, Medeiros still came out on top. During the 2022 season, many felt Khrennikov could avenge his second-place Games performance by beating Medeiros at the 2022 Rogue Invitational in Round Rock, TX. However, not only did Medeiros win again, Khrennikov was not a threat to the title; Medeiros’ closest challengers were Vellner, Chandler Smith, and Jeff Adler.
Khrennikov finished fifth — 45 points behind two-time champ Medeiros — mainly due to low finishes in two events: The Duel II (15th place) and The Goblet (17th place). The top five male athletes only suffered one subpar finish (15th place or worse) each.
Khrennikov’s performance on The Goblet workout stands out as a possible reason why the second Fittest Man on Earth® would seek a new coach and training environment. A possible reason for the lackluster performance in that event is a lack of energy stores or not sufficiently fueling up appropriately.
Khrennikov bounced back, taking second place in the Heavy Grace workout to close out the weekend. Given that he tallied a first, sixth, and second-place finish on the last three workouts at the 2022 Games, Khrennikov can handle long tests with high volume absent a pattern of fading towards the end of competition. Yet something was likely off in the preparation for the 2022 Rogue Invitational.
Whether or not that performance contributed to the change is unknown, but it seems relevant to acknowledge, given the timing of Khrennikov’s decision.
Khrennikov lived and trained in Madison, WI, since the 2022 Games but has since relocated to Cookeville, TN. He visited Cookeville in 2021 as a possible place to settle down and train while in the USA. Along with the relocation came Khrennikov switching from Fowler to Mayhem Programming with Etchecolatz.
Welcome To Mayhem
Etchecolatz has a long history of coaching in CrossFit. He was part of the Aerobic Capacity team led by Chris Hinshaw for several years, as well as several Power Monkey camps throughout his career, undoubtedly picking up invaluable coaching information for gymnastics and weightlifting. Etchecolatz even worked with Khrennikov for part of the 2018 season.
It’s a tall task to take on the second Fittest Man on Earth® as a new client, but if anyone is up to it, it’s Facundo. Following the 2021 season, Etchecolatz took top-10 finishers Guilherme Malheiros and Lazar Đukić under his wing. Đukić improved by one place, from ninth to eighth, in his first season with Etchecolatz, while Malheiros regressed from seventh to 10th. The margins for improvement are tight towards the top of the leaderboard but even tighter when the only improvement Khrennikov can make is standing atop the podium.
Etchecolatz would likely structure Khrennikov’s training differently than he has previously — he wouldn’t bring him on otherwise — and Mayhem athlete support comes in many forms in addition to training. Etchecolatz may provide a majority of the programming, but there are specialists within their team for mobility, warm-ups, nutrition, Olympic lifting, aerobic training, and gymnastics. Additionally, while on-site in Cookeville, Khrennikov will have access to top-notch facilities and a stable of athletes to train with throughout the year.
With the conclusion of the 2023 TYR Wodapalooza (WZA), Khrennikov has competed in three major CrossFit contests in a six-month span (2022 Games, 2022 Rogue, 2023 WZA). Across all three contests, his worse finishes came in ring muscle-up workouts — Up and Over, The Goblet, Rings and Squats). In Miami, the latter was his only event finish outside the top 10. That is a discipline Khrennikov will have to target in training, as Medeiros is already a master of consistency and execution.
Medeiros trains with Adam Neiffer, Ricky Garard with Justin Cotler, Vellner with Michele Letendre, Sam Kwant with Harry Palley, and Jeff Adler with Caroline Lambray. All of those athlete/coach combos seem stable. Khrennikov and Fowler seemed to be as well, and yet changes are here. We’ll see if the change is sufficient for Khrennikov to capture the Games crown from Medeiros.
Featured image: @roman_khrennikov on Instagram