Though it’s possible to burst onto the scene and land on the podium at the CrossFit Games in your rookie season—like Rich Froning did in 2010, Mat Fraser in 2014, and Patrick Vellner in 2016—it appears to be a harder and harder task to accomplish each year.
In fact, the top rookie on the men’s side at last summer’s Games was Australian athlete Matt McLeod, who was seventh. On the women’s side, the top rookie was the rising superstar Haley Adams, who placed sixth.
The point is, today’s up-and-comers emerge a little more slowly than in the past, because the sport has become more solidified, and let’s be honest, just so damn hard.
In light of this, let’s take a look at five young men and five young women, who have been slowly building for years, and who you should keep an eye on in 2020 and beyond.
1. Justin Medeiros
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It’s been freaking hard to try to describe this weekend and put it into words but I will just try to use one, AWESOME! Super thankful I was able to do it with literally the best support group in the whole world here and at home! Y’all are freaking awesome!💪🏼 @crossfitgames . Huge thank you volunteers, judges, and all other staff at the @filthy150 that made this event one I will never forget! You guys rock😎 📸@reallydes 📸 #crossfit#gamesbound#mulletman#LETSFREAKINGGO
At just 20 years old, Medeiros has already been competing for a while and has been slowly but surely improving with each year that goes by. Back in 2017, he placed 384th in the world in the Open, and has been creeping up the leaderboard each year. This year, he was an impressive 68th overall and 32nd in the United States.
And guess what? He recently won the CrossFit Filthy 150 Sanctional competition in Dublin, Ireland and earned a ticket to this summer’s Games.
2. Cole Greashaber
Also just 20 years old, this former competitive gymnast and diver was an impressive 37th in the world in the recent CrossFit Open. Though young, he has been competing in CrossFit for a long time already. He placed 3rd in the world at the Games as a 17-year-old in the Boys 16-17-year-old division in 2017. Keep your eyes on this one.
3. Cedric Lapointe
At just 23 years old, the Canadian Lapointe was the youngest male athlete to qualify to this summer’s Games directly from the recent Open. He placed 25th overall.
Though this will be Lapointe’s first summer competing as an individual athlete, he has had Games experience on a team back in 2018.
4. Jack Laker
Laker is a 17-year-old from New Zealand who recently won the Boys 16-17-year-old division in the Open. He was also 7th at the CrossFit Games in 2018 in the boys 14-15-year-old division.
While he might still be a couple of years away from competing with the adult males, make note of Laker, who is clearly on the steady rise.
5. Uldis Upenieks
A CrossFit Games rookie in 2019, who placed 31st in the world, the young 22-year-old Latvian athlete is coming off a solid performance in the recent Open, where he placed 56th overall and qualified to this summer’s Games by being his country’s national champion. Look for Upenieks to improve upon his 31st place at the Games from last summer.
1. Haley Adams
This list wouldn’t be right without including Haley Adams, the well-known 19-year-old, who placed 6th in her rookie debut at the Games last summer.
Considering that Adams trains in Cookeville, Tennessee alongside the man who doesn’t know how to lose (aka Rich Froning) it appears Adams is on a serious rise. In fact, she was the youngest athlete to qualify to this summer Games via the Open, when she placed 32nd in the world.
Going out on a limb here: Adams will be on the podium this summer in Madison, Wisconsin.
2. Olivia Sulek
At just 16 years old, this high schooler was an insanely impressive 50th in the recent Open. She was also fourth last summer at the Games in the Girls 14-15 year-old division and first in 2018, so she’s not new to the competition scene.
But to go directly from the 14-15-year-old girls division to being able to hang closely with top females in the world in the recent Open definitely makes a statement about her fitness and talent. Could she be the next big thing?
3. Gabriela Migala
Migala is another young athlete—just 21 years old—who has already qualified to the CrossFit Games via the Open. She was 17th overall and the top female athlete from Poland.
Migala is also no rookie. She competed at the Games last year and placed 75th. She also finished 4th overall at the recent Dubai CrossFit Championships, and was 3rd at the Games in 2016 as a teenager. I expect she’ll be back stronger this year than last.
4. Emma Cary
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BEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE … the sacrifice? worth it. the failure? worth it. the stress? worth it. the pressure? worth it. the fear? worth it. the struggle? worth it. the setbacks? worth it. the pain? worth it. before I even stepped onto the floor? so worth it … LOVE WHAT YOU DO
Like Sulek, Cary is still only 16 but is already hanging with the best of the best. She placed 80th in the Open and isn’t a stranger to the Games. In fact, she won the Girls 14-15-year-old division at the Games last summer.
Keep an eye out for Cary, perhaps in the teenage division this year, but my guess is it won’t be long until she’s competing on the big stage against the best women in the world.
5. Sasha Nievas
Just 21, the Argentinian Nievas placed an impressive 36th in the world in the recent Open, missing the Games cut line by just three spots.
Her weightlifting background will undoubtedly help her as she continues to grow in the sport of CrossFit. She has represented Argentina at international competitions and earned a bronze medal at the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics. Keep an eye on this one for sure.
Featured image: @gabimiga on Instagram