Golf has the road to Grayhawk. Football teams travel through the regular season, playoffs, and a final to determine their national champion. Basketball players dribble and dunk their way through March madness with the hope of advancing from the sweet 16 to the elite eight, final four, and championship game.
And this is just in the U.S. Every year, countless other athletes and sports teams around the world vie for national championship titles.
In CrossFit, the game is global. Athletes seek to advance through the Open, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and ultimately the Games — all competing alongside each other to prove themselves the best among their compatriots and in the world.
As NCAA basketball starts to wrap up its season and narrow its field in March, CrossFit will just be getting started, casting its net far and wide in the first stage of the CrossFit Games season.
In CrossFit in 2021, 264,000 athletes entered the field in the worldwide Open.
After four stages of competition, 224 CrossFit athletes stood apart. They were the ones who climbed the highest and went the furthest, distinguishing themselves as the fittest in their respective countries.
Paula Creamer, a former U.S. Women’s Open champ, calls golf a “global sport” but says, “When you have a national championship, of course, everyone in America is rooting for an American.”
Is this true of CrossFit? While every Argentinian fan of the CrossFit Games likely knows Sasha Nievas and Agustin Richelme, the country’s champions in 2021, many other fans around the world cheer them on as well.
The national championship competition in CrossFit brings them into the spotlight. So even if you’re not a CrossFit athlete or fan in Japan, if you follow the competition season, you likely know who Yuko Sakuyama is. Uldis Upenieks is known beyond Latvia.
The national championship competition is part of what makes the Games season uniquely rich and special. Below are just a few standout national champs from the 2021 season.
Victoria Frascolla — National Champion of Uruguay
Victoria Frascolla, 31, is a seven-time CrossFit national champion. A former dance instructor, Frascolla started CrossFIt to try something new in 2013, the year the first CrossFit affiliate in Uruguay opened.
She joined the worldwide Open in 2014, grew her fanbase when she competed on a team in the 2018 Latin America Regional in Rio de Janeiro, and became one of the most well-known CrossFit athletes in Uruguay when she competed as an individual at the 2019 CrossFit Games.
Out of the 57 athletes from Uruguay who signed up for the Open this year, she placed first, moving on to the Individual Quarterfinal, where she finished in 48th place.
Frascolla juggles her career as a professional athlete with a job in medical insurance in the mornings and coaching in the afternoons. In the evenings, she rounds out her day with the intense training that made her the fittest woman in Uruguay.
Affiliate: CrossFit del Sur — Pocitos, Montevideo
Clean and Jerk: 85 kg
Snatch: 70 kg
Deadlift: 140 kg
Back Squat: 135 kg
Clean: 100 kg
Mohamed Elomda — National Champion of Egypt
Like Frascolla, Mohamed Elomda, 33, is a seven-time national champion. He has a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education/fitness from Helwan University Cairo and is the owner of CrossFit Al Quoz inside Seven Gym in Dubai.
In 2019, Elomda competed at the Games and made it through the first series of aggressive cuts, landing inside the top 50 in 44th place overall.
This year he just missed a ticket to the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games, finishing the Fittest in Cape Town Semifinal in fourth place.
He placed 26th in the Last-Chance Qualifier.
Affiliate: CrossFit Al Quoz
Clean and Jerk: 310 lb
Snatch: 245 lb
Deadlift: 550 lb
Back Squat: 385 lb
Karin Freyová — National Champion of Slovakia
Karin Freyová, 26, has been the national champion of Slovakia for six years running.
The former handball player just graduated this year from the Faculty of Physical Education and Sports in Bratislava.
A two-time CrossFit Games athlete (2019 and 2020), Freyová narrowly missed earning a ticket to the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games after finishing in sixth place at the Lowlands Throwdown Semifinal. She went on to compete in the Last-Chance Qualifier, where she took fourth.
At 5’7’’ and about 160 lb, Freyová has made a name for herself with her ability to sling weight around on the barbell. She took 15th place in the world in Open Workout 21.4’s barbell complex, completing the deadlift, clean, hang clean, and jerk combo with 226 lb on the bar.
Here she is PRing her squat snatch around this time last year:
Affiliate: CrossFit Alpha Prime
Clean and Jerk: 111 kg
Snatch: 95 kg
Deadlift: 170 kg
Back Squat: 140 kg
Luke Fiso — National Champion of New Zealand
Luke Fiso, 31, is a six-time national champion. He has a bachelor’s degree in health science, sports, and exercise from Massey University.
Fiso taught himself about CrossFit and trained independently at a Planet Fitness in Wellington for two years, having to bring his own rings and chalk to do the workouts. Eventually, he realized how much he really loved CrossFit and joined an affiliate so he could share the experience with other people.
Fiso opened his own affiliate in 2013 and has owned and operated Thorndon CrossFit (Instinct Fitness) in Thorndon, Wellington, for over eight years.
Fiso began competing in the Open in 2014 and qualified for Regionals every year between 2015 and 2018. He made his CrossFit Games debut in 2019, finishing in 52nd place.
This season, Fiso finished in fifth place at the Torian Pro Semifinal and 17th at the Last-Chance Qualifier.
Affiliate: Thorndon CrossFit
Clean and Jerk: 156 kg
Snatch: 132 kg
Deadlift: 250 kg
Back Squat: 220 kg
Yuko Sakuyama — National Champion of Japan
Yuko Sakuyama, 34, is a six-time CrossFit Games Regionals competitor, a national 55-kg weightlifter (representative of Tokyo, Japan), and a national powerlifter (representative of Japan).
She originally wanted to be a doctor, receiving her master’s in sports medicine, but realized her love for CrossFit and began coaching and competing in the sport instead.
Sakuyama has been doing CrossFit for almost a decade, adding five national championship titles to her record over the years. As a Regionals competitor, she qualified every year from 2013 through 2018.
Sakuyama finished the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games season in fourth at the CrossFit Asia Invitational Semifinal. She told the South China Morning Post that her ultimate goal is to get to the CrossFit Games and be the “best in Asia.”
Affiliate: CrossFit Roppongi
Clean and Jerk: 205 lb.
Snatch: 175 lb.
Deadlift: 320 lb.
Back Squat: 320 lb.
Lazar Đukić — National Champion of Serbia
Lazar Đukić, 25, is a five-time CrossFit national champion and a former water polo player.
Đukić grew up playing water polo but gave up the sport when he moved to the U.S. to study. While in the U.S., he learned about CrossFit from his roommate, who was one of the first Serbian CrossFit competitors. When Đukić returned to Serbia, he introduced his brother, Luka, to CrossFit as well. Both brothers have been competing together since 2017.
In 2019, Lazar qualified for the CrossFit Games but turned down his invitation because he felt he wasn't quite ready. After taking third at the CrossFit German Throwdown this year, he received another invitation to the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games, making his debut on the big stage and taking seventh in the competition. Luka competed alongside him and took 29th.
Affiliate: CrossFit NS
Clean and Jerk: 160 kg
Snatch: 125 kg
Emma McQuaid — National Champion of Ireland
Emma McQuaid, 31, is a four-time national champion and three-time CrossFit Games athlete (2019, 2020, 2021). She started CrossFit in 2014 after retiring from racing quad bikes internationally, earning her first national title just one year later in 2015.
In 2020, McQuaid completed Open Workout 20.1 — 10 rounds of ground-to-overheads and bar-facing burpees — in 7:55, the fastest time out of all men and women in the world. She was just inside the second round of cuts at the 2020 CrossFit Games, finishing in 19th overall.
This year, McQuaid finished the 2021 Open first in Ireland out of 901 Irish athletes and sixth worldwide. She distinguished herself in the competition throughout the season, claiming fifth at the Individual Quarterfinal, first at the CrossFit Lowlands Throwdown, and 12th at the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games.
Affiliate: Boundary CrossFit
Clean and Jerk: 105 kg
Snatch: 86 kg
Deadlift: 170 kg
Back Squat: 120 kg
Agustin Richelme —National Champion of Argentina
Richelme has been competing in the worldwide Open since 2015, when he started in the teen competition. Since then, he has been rocketing up the leaderboard in the worldwide Open, and he qualified for his first Regionals competition in 2018 at the age of 19. He is a two-time CrossFit Games athlete (2019 and 2021).
This year, Richelme was in the top 10 worldwide in the Open, finishing in ninth overall, and he put up the best score in 21.3, a workout that paired front squats and thrusters with increasingly difficult gymnastics movements.
Richelme’s banner year continued when he took fifth in the Individual Quarterfinal and first at the Brazil CrossFit Championship Semifinals. He finished the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games in 32nd.
Clean and Jerk: 160 kg
Snatch: 125 kg
Deadlift: 220 kg
Back Squat: 195 kg
Max Pull-ups: 79
Emma Tall — National Champion of Sweden
Emma Tall, 29, earned her first national champion title this year. The two-time Games athlete (2019 and 2021) was an ammature-level swimmer before starting CrossFit in 2016. With no intentions to compete in the Sport of Fitness, Tall nevertheless found herself signed up for her first CrossFit competition one year later. Since then, she has competed at Regionals and other large national competitions.
This year, Tall narrowly missed qualifying for the CrossFit Games out of the German Throwdown in the Semifinals phase of competition. But she went on to make an incredible comeback at the Last-Chance Qualifier, ultimately earning her invite to the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games with a first-place finish. She ended the season in 19th place at the finals in Madison.
Tall also has a bachelor’s degree in sports management and is a CF-L1 trainer.
Affiliate: CrossFit Karlstad
Clean and Jerk: 105 kg
Snatch: 81 kg
Deadlift: 175 kg
Back Squat: 135 kg
André Houdet — National Champion of Denmark
André Houdet, 27, is a former footballer, playing in Copenhagen Towers and on the Danish national team for eight years.
After moving to the U.S. when he was 16 years old to play American football and pursue his dreams of becoming an NFL player, Houdet found CrossFit. He has competed in every CrossFit Games Open since 2015. He competed at Regionals in 2018 and became even more competitive in 2021.
Houdet ranked within the top 15 during every stage of the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games season. He ranked third in Denmark during the Open, seventh in the Individual Quarterfinal, fourth at the CrossFit German Throwdown Semifinal, and 15th at his first CrossFit Games.
Houdet’s drive to succeed in the sport stems from his brother Pierre’s tragic death at age 25, as both brothers were avid CrossFit athletes.
Houdet received his first national champion title this year.
Affiliate: CrossFit Butcher’s Lab
Congrats to all who made their mark in the vibrant mosaic of the 2021 season. We look forward to cheering you on in 2022!
Registration for the 2022 Open starts Jan. 13.
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