Written by Michael Lanwehr
With the 2022 Granite Games right around the corner, and only a handful of coveted Games’ spots up for grabs, it’s easy for the leaderboard to become the only story of the weekend. Here are 5 things other than the leaderboard to keep your eyes on all weekend long.
All Eyes on Mal
Okay, let’s get the accolades out of the way. 1st in the Worldwide Open. 1st in the North American Quarterfinals. 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games Rookie of the Year. Youngest athlete to ever win an event at the CrossFit Games. Not sure if being able to claim the 5x Fittest Man on Earth Mat Fraser as your coach is an accolade, but I’ll count it.
It’s always interesting to consider how someone, who obviously is already SO good in the sport, can manage to move the needle even a hair in the right direction, and yet somehow Mal has seemed to do that over the past year. She already crushes the CrossFitty CrossFit – the couplets, the triplets. The forget-how-to-speak and blackout type of workouts. The thing to look out for is how she fairs with monostructural elements like the bike and rower, as well as those odd object, get-out-of-the-gym type of movements that the Granite Games loves to highlight. That’s where the progress really lies.
Mal O’Brien represents an unbridled amount of potential. The embodiment of the future of the sport and heir apparent. I guess all eyes on Mal kinda goes without saying, huh?
The Return of Sammy Kwant
Samuel Kwant – aka 2020’s Second Fittest Man on Earth – had a disappointing showing last year after failing to qualify for the CrossFit Games less than a year after standing on the podium. Perhaps worst of all, it was the result of something entirely out of his control. Kwant opened up on Instagram after last year’s Semifinal that he has been dealing with a chronic illness the past few years and happened to flare up the week of the competition. It’s always heartbreaking to see athletes who sacrifice so much, train their ass off all year long, only to have the rug swept out from underneath them the one weekend they need to be at their best.
Hopefully, this year we witness a return to form for Kwant. And after finishing 13th in the Worldwide Quarterfinal rankings, that may be exactly what we’re in for. Not always the flashiest athlete, this man just knows how to WORK. I think people forget just how good Kwant really is. He oftentimes flies severely under the radar, to fans and commentators alike, until the end of the weekend when everyone does a double-take and sees his name is right near the top of the leaderboard. Coaching changes, and lifestyle changes all will hopefully add up to the Samuel Kwant of old making his return.
Every Team Everywhere All at Once
I hate to say it, but I don’t think the team competition gets the love it really deserves. And I get it, it’s much easier to market the individuals. The backstories, the ups and downs, the finally breaking through on the big stage – I get it. Teams are tough. With so much turnover year over year, it’s difficult to make heads or tails of who the actual contenders are.
But that’s where the fun resides, the unpredictability. Sure, there are always going to be favorites: teams like CrossFit Invictus, CrossFit Move Fast Lift Heavy, and CrossFit OBA. But there are always a few surprises. Last year at The Granite Games, team 8th Day CrossFit qualified for the Games after finishing Quarterfinals in a meager 46th place. That’s not something you see too often on the individual side of the house. The team competition always represents the unknown and unknowable.
The Last Chancers
The storyline I’m probably most interested in seeing play out, of those athletes that just missed qualifying for the CF Games last year, which ones will return this year to punch their ticket to the Madison. There are 5 athletes I’ll be keeping my eye on that fell just short of qualifying last year: Phil Toon, Tyler Eggimann, Nick Mathew, Feeroozeh Saghafi, and Kelly Stone. For the three men, it would be their first time ever qualifying for the CF Games (the ladies, obviously ahead of the curve, had already qualified in years prior).
Now comes the interesting part. Of those five athletes mentioned, who shows up as an entirely different monster. Who shows up as the 2015 CF Games Mat Fraser – someone who, after taking 2nd at the Games the year prior, just continued on the same trajectory, and self-admittedly didn’t commit to the necessary lifestyle changes – and who shows up as the 2016 CF Games Mat Fraser – aka the GOAT. The man who redefined what it meant to go all in. The man who showed up like a shark who just tasted blood in the water. Same person, different athlete. That’s what I want to see. I want to see which of those five athletes shows up not hoping the programming suits them or someone else has an off weekend or whatever. I want to see the athlete who is there to take it. The athlete who just missed last year and spent the entire year training so it never happens again.
Complexers Gonna Complex
If there’s one event every athlete, spectator, and commentator can get hyped for, it’s without a doubt the max lift. This year we’re being treated to a complex of 3 Cleans + 2 Front Squats + 1 Jerk. On the men’s side, the competition for 2nd place should be fierce with multiple athletes capable of hitting numbers that would put most people’s deadlift to shame. It all comes down to that final jerk and who’s going to have enough juice left in the legs to stick it.
Wait, the competition for 2nd place should be fierce? What happened to 1st place? Oh, well that’s because before the workout was even announced Anthony Davis already won it. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been as confident in making a prediction as I am when I say Anthony Davis takes this event. I might be more sure of that than the fact the sun rises tomorrow. Last year Davis snatched a mind-bending 340lbs at the Granite Games – beating the next closest athlete by 35lbs! His listed clean and jerk max is a measly 410lbs which makes me think he’ll have this one wrapped up after his second attempt. So it’s safe to say, he’s the man to beat in this event – and by “event” I don’t just mean at the Granite Games but across every Semifinal.