The Sheep on the Roof
Photo by @arb.visuals
When fans arrived at the Max-Schmeling-Halle arena each morning to watch the fittest in Europe battle for a ticket to the Games, they were met with grazing sheep looking down upon them before entering one of Berlin’s largest arenas.
Yes, there were sheep on the roof.
The roof of the Max-Schmeling-Halle arena is covered in grass, which helps it blend into the surrounding park and provide natural insulation. And there is no need to mow. That’s what the sheep are for.
Named after the famous German boxer Max Schmeling, the arena is one of Berlin’s most significant indoor sports arenas and holds up to 12,000 people.
The playing field is regularly transformed into a stage for concerts and events, and world stars like Madonna, Robbie Williams, and Bob Dylan have rocked the stage at the venue.
And last weekend, the fittest athletes in Europe gathered in its halls to prove their fitness in front of thousands of fans, hoping to punch their tickets to the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games.
He Sticks the Landing
Photo by @lifeofmalm
Eight-time CrossFit Games athlete Jonne Koski was sitting in 15th place on the leaderboard as he lined up for Individual Test 2. Straight out of the gate, he visibly established himself as the leader in Round 1, advancing his box into the round of 20s at the sound of the first buzzer. Koski admitted that was his strategy — he wanted to move the box into the next position toward the end of the round so he didn’t waste time at the start of the next round.
When Round 3 approached, Koski only had to complete 10 reps to tie the current score to beat which was set in the previous heat.
Making fast work of the ring complexes and single-leg squats, Koski returned to his box and left it all on the floor. At the sound of the final buzzer, he finished his record-breaking jump off the box and stuck the landing, saluting the crowd.
Koski is chasing his ninth CrossFit Games at the 2023 Europe Semifinal this weekend, and is already putting on a show as a seasoned individual athlete, claiming the new world record in Test 2 at 57 reps.
“I don’t think I, or anyone, have seen the best of me yet,” he said.
A Deep Understanding of the Methodology
Photo by @wongsdottir
Team CrossFit Genas’ fifth-place finish at the 2023 Europe Semifinal may be attributed to the team’s athletic excellence, but could also be rooted in their deep understanding of the CrossFit methodology.
The team members collectively hold more coaching certificates than any other team competing last weekend. Owner of CrossFit Genas, Carole Castellani, is a CF-L1 trainer, and Julie Vernet and Eliott Genin both hold CF-L2 credentials.
CrossFit Genas attended its first CrossFit Games in 2021, finishing in third and becoming the first non-American team to stand on the podium since 2016, alongside CrossFit Oslo.
In 2022, Castellani took the season off to have a baby and returned to the team just as fit as she was in 2021. CrossFit Genas became the fittest team in France during the 2023 Open and placed fifth in Europe during the Team Quarterfinal before taking the stage in Berlin.
On Day 2 of the 2023 Europe Semifinal, the team admitted it surprised itself in Test 3. During practice, the team finished about two minutes past the time cap, but under the arena lights, the team set a new PR, finishing under the time cap in 15:58.85.
The next day, the team anticipated Test 5 would be its worst event of the weekend. They had been working hard to accumulate as many points as possible during the first four tests to minimize the damage on the final day of competition. But they also knew Test 6 would be their best. Taking 15th in Test 5, the team’s strategy was executed perfectly, as they took their first event win of the 2023 Europe Semifinal in Test 6 and grabbed another ticket to the CrossFit Games.
The New Record
Photo by @lifeofmalm
When Jennifer Muir lined up on her starting mat to begin the first test of the 2023 Europe Semifinal, she thought back to her triathlon days, which put her mind at ease. She knew Test 1 — which included a 3,000-m bike, 2,000-m run, and 1,000-m ski — would be in her wheelhouse. Quite frankly, this was her first live CrossFit Games season competition, so she was just happy to be there.
Muir wasn’t expecting to dominate the entire women’s division across the world.
In just 23:47.68, Muir finished her last pull on the rope and was planted on her finish mat, taking the worldwide record — almost 3 minutes faster than Danielle Brandon’s record-setting time from Week 1 in the North America East region.
“For it to be the first event and all my friends and family here supporting me — I'll never forget it,” Muir said.
Test 1 wasn’t the end. Muir went on to take third in Test 3 and sixth in Test 5. She had an incredible run at her first Semifinals, finishing the weekend in 16th overall, just five spots out from a Games ticket.
Photo by @nicoglenny_ph
Annie Thorisdottir just punched her 12th individual ticket to the CrossFit Games, becoming one of the longest-standing individual Games athletes in history.
“Iceland Annie” has been competing at the CrossFit Games since 2009. The sport has seen her struggle to get her first muscle-up while at the 2009 Games, become the Fittest Woman on Earth twice (2011 and 2012), join the team division and take fourth at the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games, and now return as an individual once again, qualifying for the CrossFit Games across two decades.
“I’m trying to break the barrier that we’re supposed to be done at a certain point,” Thorisdottir told sideline reporter Lauren Smith after Test 7. “We make the decision when we’re done competing.”
Thorisdottir will be heading to Madison as the second-fittest in the Europe region.
Shahad Budebs Climbs Out of the Hole
Photo by @do_project_
It’s a feeling every CrossFit athlete — or anyone who’s familiar with the fickle lift, the snatch — knows well.
Shahad Budebs’ setup on her Test 4 opening lift — 155 lb — was strong, and so was her pull. Second pull, third pull, catch! But the weight was too far forward, forcing her to dump it before standing up.
She failed three more times, barely managing to strip the barbell to 145 lb and post a successful lift in the final 10 seconds for 21st in the test. It was a mistake not even a fifth-place finish in Test 5 could make up for, and the four-time United Arab Emirates National Champion started Day 3 of the Far East Throwdown in fourth, two spots out of Games contention.
But with two tests and 100 points still up for grabs, Budebs did not relent.
The 28-year-old nearly won Test 6, pulling into the lead with an unbroken second set of handstand-walk pirouettes. Though a few no reps in the final 10 overhead squats gave Seher Kaya room to take the win, Budebs matched the second-place finish with an encore finish in Test 7, earning her second individual CrossFit Games appearance with 10 points to spare.
First Korean Team to Qualify for the CrossFit Games
Photo by @do_project_
The 2023 Asia Semifinal was the Far East Throwdown, held in Busan, South Korea.
And yet, no team from Korea has ever made it to the CrossFit Games — until last weekend.
Team CrossFit Marvel Black closed out the weekend in second — the final Games-qualifying spot — with five top-five finishes and one test win (Test 6). The team hails from CrossFit Marvel in Hwaseong-si, Gyeonggi-do, Korea, and is one of 10 teams that represented Korea at the Asia Semifinal this year.
The team began with respectable fifth- and third-place finishes on Day 1, starting Day 2 in third overall, 5 points behind fellow Korean team CrossFit We Can Do It TeamBusan. Second- and fourth-place finishes on Day 2 pushed the team into second, 50 points behind leading team, CrossFit Fly High Kolesnikov Team, and just 15 points ahead of third-place Stud CrossFit Team Stud.
But the team saved its best moment for last.
CrossFit Marvel Black led Test 6 from start to finish, teammates’ rope climbs swift and smooth and burpees as well choreographed as their outfits (purple tees for the guys and matching sports bras for the ladies).
The team crossed the finish line at 12:40.15, 01:20 faster than CrossFit Fly High Kolesnikov Team, who took second in the test.
After the victory — which punched the team’s ticket to the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games — the athletes posed for a photo with their Korean compatriots from CrossFit We Can Do It.
Cover photo by @nicoglenny_ph