We must give credit where credit is due as we assess 2021, the second year of the worldwide epidemic, which was wracked by travel restrictions, an increase in cases, and what seemed like never-ending waves. After an earth-shattering 2020, CrossFit nonetheless had a successful season, the Games were a big success, and the sport endured yet another turbulent year.
How will 2022 surpass this year, then? Let’s hope the focus is solely on the on-floor action and not on what’s going on off the court. In light of this, here are six urgent queries that we all hope to have resolved during the course of the ensuing 365 days.
1. Is Mat Fraser’s successor Justin Medeiros? The 22-year-old sophomore mullet man quickly defeated a whole generation of top CrossFit competitors to win the 2021 championship. Given his age and performance history, Medeiros, who is unmistakably of the same “die for every point” stock as five-time retiring champion Mat Fraser, appears as though he could reign for decades.
Or is the current state of the sport one of parity, where the champion is changed every year and a select few veterans win one championship before retiring (we’re looking at you, Ben Smith)? Given that Fraser and Rich Froning are essentially the only champions the men’s division has had in the past ten years, history suggests that this will not be the case and that we are in for a lengthy reign.
2. Can Ricky Garard be bought back? The Australian has recently made all the right moves, admitting to using PEDs and acting as though he wants to regain the confidence of CrossFit supporters and his fellow athletes. Garard’s route to redemption will ultimately depend on his test results after the CrossFit Games, not on how he placed at the competition. Everyone likes a good second chance narrative.
Some individuals believe Garard is beyond redemption, yet this is true in every field where professionals work. Some sports fans are purists, and if you’ve ever been popped, you’re forever lost in their eyes. Garard, however, has a genuine chance to clear his record, and in order for this to happen, he must be morally upright throughout the rest of his professional life, presumably also abstaining from controversy. Time will tell, and every test he performs that is negative strengthens his case, but it is obvious that this is a “two strikes and you’re out” scenario.
3. In a pandemic with endemic spread, where does Eric Roza take CrossFit? Roza had big hopes and lofty goals when he took over the business from disgraced founder Greg Glassman in 2020. Gary Gaines’ appointment as the leader of all global affiliates sent a strong statement that CrossFit was aiming for global dominance and that no nation was too small to target.
But as we all know, a pandemic spread quickly over the world, and by the end of 2020, it had destroyed everyone’s plans. As a result of the “new normal,” it is much harder for CrossFit HQ to target some countries, most notably China and Asia, where the mainland has implemented a “zero Covid-19” approach that will prevent events from taking place there for what appears to be years.
How does Roza change direction in an endemic environment? Does he establish CrossFit in North America and bide his time in pursuit of lofty international objectives, or does he focus his expansion strategies on nations he is confident his crew can enter and exit without incident? Knowing Roza and his past behavior, he already has a plan in place, and it will only be a matter of time until he pulls the trigger.
4. Will Greg Glassman be seen or heard from? CrossFit founder and disgraced former CEO Glassman is publishing a new book soon called “Defining Fitness.” Since he resigned in 2020 over a storm of controversy, Glassman has generally avoided the spotlight.
Will CrossFit supporters welcome him back, or will they turn their backs on him when he tries to rejoin the conversation about the sport? It is unclear how much of CrossFit and its accompanying community have permanently shunned him, though many would argue that some of his acts have burned bridges.
5. What’s next for Tia-Clair Toomey? Toomey is obviously superhuman and not from this planet; she is currently vying to become the first person to compete at the CrossFit Games, the Summer and Winter Olympics, and the Commonwealth Games. If she achieves Australia’s two-man bobsled qualification for Beijing 2022, it adds yet another accomplishment to her resume and puts her in uncharted territory. The ultimate goal is a sixth CrossFit Games victory, which would put her ahead of Fraser.
Toomey is the greatest female CrossFit athlete of all time, a title she may never lose. However, 2022 offers a tantalizing opportunity: the possibility for fans to crown her as the best CrossFitter ever, period, surpassing even her male competitors.
6. Is Patrick Vellner planning to retire? Vellner is one of the few veterans we’d love to see ride out into the distance with a title on their resume, along with Ohlsen, who has been and always will be a fan favorite. Vellner came very close to calling it a career this past season, and it’s obvious that he’s thought about it. However, one imagines that he’d prefer to end it on a high note.
Going into the 2022 CrossFit Games, Medeiros is the favorite, but considering Vellner’s track record, you can never rule him out. Will he eventually win that elusive title, which would be the culmination of a remarkable career? Or will “ghost,” who believes his body has had enough and it’s time for one of the sport’s defining personalities to retire, find Medeiros and company to be too much for him?