Twenty-six previous champions.
All vying for glory — and a share of the $280,000 prize purse.
This was the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games masters competition.
Men and Women 35-39
What the Masters 35-39 division lacked in drama it made up for in impressiveness.
Whitney Gelin and Kyle Kasperbauer led their divisions from start to finish, enduring events no less grueling than they had as individuals not too long ago.
“Physically, it's one of those things where everything burns all at once, but there's nowhere to go,” Gelin said on Wednesday after winning Event 6, a spicy sprint of rowing, clean and jerks, and a sled push.
Kasperbauer shared the sentiment.
“The age group division is definitely excelling,” he said after taking first in Event 9, a couplet of wall walks and thrusters. “The programming is getting harder. The athletes are getting better and better.”
“It’s definitely not a sleeper division.”
After a four-year career as an individual Games athlete (2009; 2012-2014), Kasperbauer won the 35-39 division in 2017 and 2018. This week, he took back the title of champion.
“That was awesome,” he said after the final event. “It was a lot of fun. It hurt a lot — but man, what a great crowd we have in here; great competitors.”
This was Gelin’s first experience as a Games master.
Prior to this year, she competed thrice as an individual at the CrossFit Games with a career-best finish of 19th in 2015. She earned gold in her masters debut with four event wins and eight top-six finishes.
Kyle Kasperbauer (775 pts.)
James Hobart (745 pts.)
Adrian Conway (705 pts.)
Whitney Gelin (755 pts.)
Lauren Gravatt (710 pts.)
Aneta Tucker (665 pts.)
Men and Women 40-44
The Men’s 40-44 division was stacked with rookies — and to a rookie went the spoils.
Though Frenchman Maxime Guyon ended Day 1 outside the top three with an 11th-place finish in Event 2, he finished the rest of the events top 10 — including first- and second-place finishes in the final two events.
The women’s podium, however, was a static affair.
Kelly Friel and Rebecca Voigt Miller — who, with 13 appearances across the individual and masters competitions, has the most Games appearances of any athlete in history — held the top two spots from start to finish, amassing eight top-two finishes between them.
Maxime Guyon (720 pts.)
David Johnston (680 pts.)
Alexandre Jolivet (670 pts.)
Kelly Friel (775 pts.)
Rebecca Voigt Miller (710 pts.)
Kelly Marshall (690 pts.)
Men and Women 45-49
For Jason Grubb, it all came down to the final event.
He’d been closely pursuing fellow Games vet Mike Kern across the first four events, overtaking him for first on Day 3 with a second-place Event 7 finish. Before the final event, Grubb had only a 5-point lead.
But that didn’t matter to Grubb.
“I got it,” he thought to himself, smiling as he picked up the barbell for his final thrusters.
And he was right. Two reps later, he won Event 9 — and the 45-49 competition.
For Annie Sakamoto, pacing paid off.
After a slow and steady climb across seven events, she’s earned her first masters championship — and after a two-year gap following her 2017 and 2016 performances in the 40-44 division.
She took the gold with two event wins and five top-four finishes.
Jason Grubb (610 pts.)
Mike Kern (520 pts.)
Justin Lasala (510 pts.)
Annie Sakamoto (550 pts.)
Ali Crawford (545 pts.)
Jennifer Dieter (540 pts.)
Men and Women 50-54
Tia-Clair Toomey’s not the only champion Tia.
After trailing in second behind masters vet Joyanne Cooper for three days, 52-year-old Tia Vesser snatched the top spot with an event win in the 11th hour.
“Oh, I loved it,” Vesser said of the programming for the masters competition after winning Event 9. “It was hard. It challenged us … I gave it all on every one.”
On the men’s side, for two days, Brent Maier led the field.
The five-time Games master had reached the podium thrice — he took second in the 45-49 division from 2016-2017 and third in the 40-44 in 2013 — but had yet to walk away a champion.
After he held first place from the end of Day 1 to Day 2, it seemed like this might be his year. But when Bernard Luzi matched his Event 5 win with another on Day 3 plus second in the final, the pair swapped spots, Luzi walking away with gold and Maier with bronze.
Bernard Luzi (615 pts.)
Kevin Koester (605 pts.)
Brent Maier (550 pts.)
Tia Vesser (595 pts.)
Joyanne Cooper (530 pts.)
Carrie Sandoval (525 pts.)
Men and Women 55-59
It was a battle of rookies vs. veterans on both sides of the 55-59 division.
For the first two days of the competition, Joanne McCullough and Karen Lundgren — each making their CrossFit Games debuts — held seven-time masters athlete Laurie Meschishnick at bay and out of first.
But the 2019 55-59 champion’s second-place Event 7 finish put her in first with just one event left. Another second-place finish and Meschishnick secured gold.
On the men’s side, a fresh face beat out not one but two former champs: Rookie Vincent Diephuis (55) won the division with four first-place finishes and just one outside the top six. He edged out 2019 champion Rob Bernet as well as nine-time Games master and two-time, multi-division champion Ron Ortiz.
Vincent Diephuis (570 pts.)
Ron Ortiz (490 pts.)
Bruce Young (460 pts.)
Laurie Meschishnick (565 pts.)
Karen Lundgren (545 pts.)
Rose Wall (485 pts.)
Men and Women 60-64
Three event wins. Five top-three finishes. One gold medal.
Actually, make that four gold medals.
Will Powell made history this week, becoming the first masters athlete to win a championship across three different divisions. The 61-year-old won his first gold in 2014 in the 50-54 division, following the performance with back-to-back victories in the 55-59 division the next two years. In his eight years as a CrossFit Games master, he’s reached the podium five times and won 15 events.
This week, his dominance was uncontested as he manned the leaderboard’s top spot across all three days of competition.
Experience, the Games veteran said, was on his side.
“I’ve done this a couple times,” Powell said.
On the women’s side of the competition, Susan Clarke was busy making history of her own. As of Thursday afternoon, she’d done what no CrossFit Games champion ever has: win every CrossFit Games competition she’s ever been in. The now-62-year-old Canadian won the 55-59 division in 2014, 2015, and 2017, as well as the 60+ division in 2019.
“I train with really young athletes,” she said after winning Event 9 — her fifth event win out of seven total events. “I think that makes a difference; it pushes you hard.”
Will Powell (570 pts.)
Carl Giuffre (485 pts.)
Tim LaFromboise (485 pts.)
Susan Clarke (670 pts.)
Bianca Williams (630 pts.)
Patricia McGill (575 pts.)
Men and Women 65+
For almost the entire competition, the Men's 65+ competition was all about George Koch: the rookie who held off masters Games veterans Thomas Ackerman and David Hippensteel (Ackerman had three prior appearances in the 60+ division; this is Hippensteel’s ninth trip, and he’s won three times across two divisions).
Koch held the top spot from Events 1 through 7. Meanwhile, a lesser-known name crept up from behind.
CrossFit OwnIt’s Ken Ogden made his Games debut in the 60+ division in 2018. This week, the 66-year-old ended Day 1 just outside podium contention in fourth. But after two event wins on Days 2 and 3 and no finish outside the top eight, Ogden’s leaving Madison as the first champion of the 65+ division.
“I love my friends and family that are here cheering me on,” he said after winning the week’s final event.
As for the 65+ women, there were fewer surprises but more flips and flops.
Few were surprised to see Lidia Beer — a seven-time masters Games athlete and 2012’s fittest 60-something — at the top of the leaderboard at the end of Day 1. Joining her at the top was rookie Patty Bauer, and the pair traded the top two spots all weekend, banking nine top-three finishes between them.
Before the final event, only 20 points separated first-place Bauer from her competitor, and Bauer’s second-place Event 9 finish to Beer’s ninth kept her solidly in gold when the points were counted.
Ken Ogden (590 pts.)
George Koch (580 pts.)
David Hippensteel (550 pts.)
Patty Bauer (585 pts.)
Lidia Beer (495 pts.)
Polly McKinstry (490 pts.)
Cover photo by Duke Loren Photography