Over the last 14 years, the CrossFit Games has grown from an insiders-only competition held on a ranch to one of the most anticipated events in fitness. Incredible men and women from around the world gather to take on monumental strength, endurance, and mental challenges for the sole purpose of finding out who could be called the fittest man and woman in the world.
The 2021 edition, to be held in Madison, Wisconsin, from July 27 to August 1, could very well be the most anticipated contest yet for multiple reasons. Here's what makes it special and what to expect.
The Focus Is on the Field: After a year that saw a pandemic, cancellations of events, and controversies that led to a change in ownership, this past season has been all about the athletes and the competition. This year more than ever, the Games will be a celebration of fitness.
At Least One New Champion Will Be Crowned: Five-time men's champion Mat Fraser announced his retirement in early 2021, after completely dominating the field at the 2020 Games, which were held at the CrossFit ranch in Aromas, California, after an online-only first state. That means for the first time since 2016, we will see a new man win the title.
The women's side is competitive, as well. Even though Tia-Clair Toomey is the favorite, 2020 runner-up Katrín Davídsdóttir and an army of tough-as-nails women are dead set on keeping Toomey from matching Fraser's total of five overall victories.
Adaptive CrossFit: Along with the usual age-based categories, 2021 sees the arrival of Adaptive CrossFit at the Games. Competitors will face off in one of three categories based on the limitation they face: upper extremity, lower extremity, or neurological. Adaptive stand-out Logan Aldridge explained the importance of the event in an interview with Bodybuilding.com.
Mystery of the Events: Even as of just a few days before the games, not all of the events have been announced. Programming master Dave Castro has been known to add surprises to the Games—few of them qualifying as "nice" surprises—and this year will be no exception. What incredible tasks will he place on the competitors this year? One thing we know: There will definitely be long-distance swimming involved, which has led to many muscular bodies spending time in the water.
Over the last 10 years, only three men have won the Games. Rich Froning won it from 2011 to 2014 before retiring. Ben Smith claimed the 2015 championship, and then Mat Fraser began his five-year run. None of those men are among the 40 competitors in the 2021 lineup. However, two men who have been runners-up are in this field, and there is another one who appears to be marching his way to the podium.
Noah Ohlsen: This will be Ohlsen's eighth straight appearance at the Games. He was the runner-up in 2019, and he gave Fraser all that he could handle that season. This may be the 30-year-old's best chance to finally win the biggest title in his sport.
Cole Sager: Sager is coming off a victory at the 2021 West Coast Classic, and he actually beat Ohlsen in that competition. His highest finish at the Games is fifth, so he's never made it to the podium. That could very well change this year, and it could easily come down to the final day.
Patrick Vellner: Coming to the contest from Canada, Vellner is the 2020 CrossFit Open Champion. He also won Wodapalooza in 2019 and was the runner-up at the Games to Fraser in 2018. Add two third place finishes to that list, and you can tell that he is familiar with the podium. The only question is if he can claim the one spot he hasn't held—the top one. This will be his fifth individual appearance at the Games.
At this point in Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr's career, every time she wins the Games, it sets a record. She is the first three- and four-time winner. The native of Australia is obviously the overwhelming favorite to match former training partner Fraser and win her fifth world title. However, the goal of all athletes is to win, and there are a few who have a chance of pulling off the upset.
Katrín Davídsdóttir: Davídsdóttir is the only athlete in the women's field who knows what it's like to be in Toomey's position. She was the champion in 2015 and 2016, she was the runner-up last year, and has placed in the top five numerous times. If Toomey makes a mistake or faces adversity, the native of Iceland could very well take a third career victory.
Haley Adams: Adams is a rising star in the sport and she has a lot of success behind her already. She won the Teenager division at the Games in 2018, and she was fourth at the big one last year. Time is definitely on her side when it comes to winning this competition, but she has the ability to reach the podium. If someone has a bad event, she may take steps up on that podium.
Kari Pearce: The American with the Power Abs placed third last year, and has appeared to be in the best shape of her career. She will make her seventh trip to the Games this year. She is a four-time Fittest American Woman winner, and she can excel in bodyweight movements and endurance events.
The Teams event didn't take place in 2020. But the favorite is—as ever—Mayhem Freedom, led by four-time individual men's winner Rich Froning. Other members of the team have changed over the years, but they have still won four of the last five contests. Their only loss was a second-place finish in 2017. They are the overwhelming favorite to leave Madison with the championship again this year. If it happens, it would be Froning's ninth Games title between individual and teams.
Every team taking part can certainly contend for the win, but CrossFit Omnia may have the best shot. They won the 2021 Granite Games in Minnesota last month, and the CrossFit Games is in the same part of the country. They have shown that they can withstand summer heat and compete well outdoors. Rest assured, the members of Mayhem Freedom have their eyes on this group.
Stay tuned to Bodybuilding.com throughout the Games for updates and highlights!