After a spectacular weekend of competition, we now have our athlete qualifiers advancing from the Oceania region to the 2021 NoBull CrossFit Games Finals. With 14 months since the last Australian CrossFit spectator-filled stadium event, the Torian Pro was something fans were hanging out for.
Masters and Teens divisions competed in their Semifinals in outdoor courts amongst crowds of pumped-up onlookers, while elite Teams and Individuals hit the floor of the main stage inside Pat Rafter Arena under the watchful eyes of keen CrossFit supporters.
Movement across the leader board right down to the last events of the final day proved that the men, women and team competitors were truly laying it all on the floor, putting on a show and fighting for their tickets to Madison.
2021 Oceania Games Qualifiers
|1||Royce Dunne (549 points)||Kara Saunders (660 points)||64 Army Gold (630 points)|
|2||Jay Crouch (548 points)||Laura Clifton (564 points)||Urban (630 points)|
|3||Bayden Brown (538 points)||Ellie Turner (532 points)||Awaside (565 points)|
The First Set of Athletes off to Madison
The 2021 Semifinals season kicked off with the Torian Pro held across the weekend at the Patrick Rafter Arena in Brisbane, Australia, from Friday May 28 to Sunday May 30. As the Oceania regional event, it hosted 30 men, 30 women, and 20 teams all vying for one of three spots to this year’s CrossFit Games Finals. In case you’ve been elsewhere for the past 14 years, the CrossFit Games are the ultimate proving grounds for the Fittest Man and Fittest Woman on Earth™ and are often referred to as the ultimate test of fitness.
In the past ‘Regionals’ era, the top five men and top five women were sent to The Games. This year it was reduced to three, based on calculations around Open participation in this part of the world. Australia and New Zealand have plenty of Games veterans very familiar with competing against each other, but a few new names came in to shake things up this time around. With plenty of talent at the top, it was always going to be interesting to witness who put the work in, was most prepared to hit the arena floor and who wanted it more by the end of the three days.
The path from The Open to The Games looks a little different this year. The best athletes across the globe are advancing through virtual or in-person Quarterfinal and Semifinal rounds, depending on the restrictions enforced in their regions. The multi-stage qualification process will culminate with the 15th edition of the CrossFit Games during the week of July 26, 2021, in Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
Elite Individual Women’s Division
Among the women, there was never any doubt that Kara Saunders would be claiming a podium spot. She proved to be an incredible force topping the leader board almost 100 points ahead of second-place finisher, Laura Clifton, on the final day. With no less than a sixth-place finish and three wins across the seven events (Event 2: Amanda ’21, Event 4: Double Trouble and Event 7: Final), Saunders continues to perform to the incredible standard we have come to expect after almost 10 years in the game.
New Zealand competitor Laura Clifton challenged Saunders on a few events, by Saunders’ own words, pushing for some great race-to-the-end battles between the two. Collecting four top three finishes and an event win (Event 6: Move It Or Lose It) Clifton was never lower than fourth place in accumulated points at the end of each day. Despite a less-than-ideal 17th place in the second event, she did not let this deter her and fought hard across the remainder of the weekend to earn her invite to The Games.
Ellie Turner is a fairly new face on the scene, but in the past three years, she has improved phenomenally. After taking out fourth place in the Oceania Quarterfinals, Turner asserted herself as ‘one to watch’ and featured on many commentators’ predictions lists for the Semifinal. With a second event placing to kick off the competition, Turner bounced back from a 25th placing in Event 3—hitting the time cap with 15 reps to go—with no other finishes outside the top 10. She was able to regroup from day two and produce a third place in the following workout behind Saunders and Clifton, plus a 9kg PB in Event 5 with a 109kg Clean and Jerk. Turner secured her first-ever ticket to the Games and we can’t wait to see what’s ahead for this young athlete.
Special mentions go to individual event winners Jessica Coughlan (Event 1: Reverse Triathlon), Courtney Haley (Event 3: Hann) and Bailey Rogers (Event 5: C&J Ladder).
Elite Individual Men’s Division
On the men’s side, the competition was set to be an interesting one with many Games veterans and promising rising stars in the mix. Three times Games athlete Royce Dunne took advantage of the programming, which was predicted to be in his favour, particularly on days 2 and 3. Dunne placed in the top three in four out of the seven events, with an event win in the first workout of day two setting the tone for the remainder of his weekend efforts. Keeping in mind he’s won an event at the Games before (in 2018 for his only previous Individual appearance) Dunne will no doubt be itching to get back on the finals’ competition floor.
Coming out on top for the 2021 Oceania Men’s Quarterfinals and a worldwide finish of 17th in the Open Jay Crouch was picked as a definite top three contender at the Torian Pro. Following this first Individual Games appearance, albeit virtually, last year, Crouch is hungry to prove himself and it shows. Demonstrating consistency is key, despite no event wins Crouch’s 10th or higher ranking in every workout ensured his name sat in the top three men across the weekend. It came down to some last-minute quick math to realise Crouch had been pipped by Dunne for the gold by just one point. Being mentored by Rob Forte for years, and constant improvements in competition settings in the past two years have all signs pointing to a breakthrough 2021 for Crouch.
Bayden Brown slowly but surely climbed up the ranks across the weekend, progressing from 9th by the end of day one—44 points behind first place—all the way third and a bronze medal around his neck by Sunday. Taking a hit in Amanda ’21 with a 21st placing and an equally disappointing 19th in Hann meant he had to really put in the work in all other events. A convincing win in Event 1 plus back-to-back events wins on the final day put Brown on the podium and back for a third consecutive Games appearance.
A notable mention must go to James Newbury – apart from a falter in event 2, his performance was considered and consistent bringing about a 10th place or higher in every other event. A PB in Event 5 with a 154kg Clean and Jerk demonstrates his fitness and strength are back after the distraction of injuries in the past two years.
Other standout performances resulting in individual event wins go to Zeke Grove (Event :2 Amanda ’21), Luke De Jonge (Event 4: Double Trouble) and Jake Standen (Event 5: C&J Ladder).
Athletes Still Have Once Last Attempt At A Ticket
Following the Semifinal events, athletes who narrowly missed the chance to advance to the CrossFit Games will be invited to compete in the Last-Chance Qualifier, a final opportunity to qualify for the Games. The Last-Chance Qualifier is reserved for individual athletes who finished within three spots of a Games-qualifying position. For Oceania that is the athletes who finished in 4th-6th place:
LAST CHANCE EVENT QUALIFIERS
|4||James Newbury (520 points)||Alethea Boon (487 points)|
|5||Luke Fiso (500 points)||Madeline Sturt (479 points)|
|6||Khan Porter (446 points)||Justine Beath (471 points)|
|7||Bailey Rogers* (455 points)|
*Bailey Rogers should also receive an invitation to the Last Chance Qualifier as it is reported that CrossFit chose to offer an additional place in the Elite Women’s Division with South African athlete Christina Livaditakis competing in the Torian Pro instead of the Fittest in Cape Town event due to travel restrictions.
Elite Team Division
In the team’s division, first and second place finished with the same number of points with the tiebreak being split based on the team with the most individual event wins.
64 Army Gold, hailing from New Zealand, was touted as a clear front-runner with Marnie Sykes and Madeline Shelling both declining their individual invites to compete in the team comp. Their two events wins, including the final, gave 64 Army Gold the cut through to crown them the winners of the Oceania team competition.
Team Urban placed second on six of the seven workouts across the weekend, so it was almost poetic that they ended up with second place overall. The Gold Coast team of four consists of two couples who have each competed in many regional events as individuals. Only Katelin Van Zyl has prior individual Games experience, and will no doubt be happy to introduce her teammates to what’s ahead of them.
Awaside took third place, despite an incredible three event wins over the three days of competition. Ultimately a 12th place in Event 2 forced the Kiwis to fight hard in the remainder of the events. After a significant back-and-forth battle with Awaside, Reebok CrossFit Frankston narrowly missed out on a qualifying position by just ten points. Reigning from Laura Clifton’s affiliate, the team will surely enjoy the company of gym owner and head coach Clifton in Madison.
In an exciting twist, all three Teams are going to the CrossFit Games for the first time.
The Final Recap
Well done to all competitors. Being first off the rank gives the Oceania (and Mid Atlantic CrossFit Challenge) athletes the most time to work on any weaknesses and prepare for what’s ahead in Madison. Across the next month the remaining Semifinal events will be held and ultimately the top 40 men, 40 women, 40 teams, 240 masters athletes and 80 teenage athletes from around the world will be invited to The Games. With regulations relating to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic varying by location, we have all our fingers and toes crossed to see a safe and action-packed final this July.
To the handful of Oceania athletes that have a chance to vie for Games qualification one more time at the Last-Chance Qualifier, all the very best. We’ll be eagerly watching it all unfold this June 28–July 4.
Stay tuned for our recap interviews with #TeamAlphaFit later this week.
In Case You Missed It
Quarterfinals and Semifinals, as well as a Last Chance Qualifier, have replaced the previous Sanctional format as a direct qualifying route to the CrossFit Games. For the first time, athletes advance from the Open into regional events determined by continent: North America, Europe, Oceania, Asia, South America and Africa. This will guarantee that every continent will send at least one competitor to the CrossFit Games. A total of 10 Semifinal regional events, Catchall Virtual Semifinal and Last Chance Qualifier offer the opportunity for athletes to advance the Games to compete for the title of Fittest on Earth™.
Previously referred to as the Pacific Region, the continent region for Oceania includes: Antarctica, Australia, Christmas Island, Cocos and Keeling Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, Heard-McDonald Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. See full map at games.crossfit.com.