Arguably one of the biggest Sanctionals of the CrossFit season, Miami's 2020 Wodapalooza is also poised to be the premier display of talent before August's 2020 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisconsin.
A field of about 40 competitors, most of whom have significant experience, will be joined by a few up-and-comers looking to make their mark from February 20-23. There are no cuts, or a skewed scoring system, and the field is large enough that every placing in every event matters. There will be a lot going on this weekend, so here are the most important storylines as CrossFit turns its eyes to South Beach.
Three-time defending female champion Tia-Clair Toomey will face off against red-hot Icelandic star Sara Sigmundsdottir, which will be the marquee draw of the competition.
Toomey has earned the right to be the favourite in every competition. Not only did she become the first woman to win three times at the CrossFit Games, she did it in a row and by the largest margin of victory.
Toomey is the defending champion at Wodapalooza and finished first or second in every event last year. She is also the defending champion at the Rogue and the Mayhem Classic, and she's starting to amass a record similar to four-time defending men's champion Mat Fraser. It's becoming difficult to remember the last time she didn't win.
Sigmundsdottir is the only one of the "big three" Icelandic "Dottirs" who hasn't won at the CrossFit Games, but she has done a lot of winning in other competitions lately. She's won the Open three times, including both in the last calendar year. She's a three-time Regional champion (2015-2017). She's already won two Sanctionals this year in Ireland and Dubai and won one last season at Strength in Depth.
And yet, recently she's been largely disappointing at the CrossFit Games. Last season Toomey and Sigmundsdottir clashed three times and Toomey won all three competitions in convincing fashion. And yet, Sigmundsdottir seems like the best chance anyone has to dethrone the champ.
Annie Thorisdottir recently announced her pregnancy; Kara Saunders is in the process of making a comeback after having her first child; Katrin Davidsdottir withdrew from Dubai with a back injury; and as incredible as Sam Briggs is, she has nearly a dozen years on Toomey, which is only getting harder and harder to overcome.
If Sigmundsdottir is unable to threaten Toomey for the title in Miami this month, I'm not sure where else to look, unless one of the up-and-coming athletes has a breakthrough moment at Wodapalooza.
The women's field is full of Americans who will be vying for not only the last spot on the podium, but to separate themselves from their compatriots. There's an odd disparity between the men's and women's competitions over the last decade. Only once in the history of the Games has a non-American man earned the title of Fittest on Earth (Mikko Salo 2009).
However, the last time an American woman won at the Games was Kristen Clever in 2010. The top American women to watch in Miami are each intriguing in their own way: Kari Pearce, Brooke Wells, Amanda Barnhart, Haley Adams and Danielle Brandon could all potentially have breakout moments at Wodapalooza.
The biggest news on the men's side isn't who is competing, but who isn't. That includes Fraser, the four-time defending Games champion. He's coming off a dominant performance in London at Strength in Depth last month in which he won five out of the seven events. This extends his streak of winning every live competition he's entered since the 2015 CrossFit Games.
While Fraser isn't in the field, several of the men who are clambering to dethrone him are " notably, last year's second-fittest man Noah Ohlsen and 2018's second-fittest man Patrick Vellner.
If they want to send a message to Fraser, it doesn't just mean winning in Miami, it means dominating there, because if Fraser was competing, that's what he would most likely do.
In the team division, Mayhem Freedom, led by icon Rich Froning, finished in fifth place last year. That is unheard of for any team he's been a part of. They revamped their roster and went on to win in Asia and take third place at Rogue before, somewhat surprisingly, running away with the title (their fourth in five years) at the Games last August.
If that wasn't impressive enough after the shaky start to last season, Dre Strohm stepped down from the team and was replaced by eight-time Games veteran and Froning's old Regional rival, Scott Panchik.
Mayhem took the floor at Strength in Depth last month and after a poor placement on event one, won five of the remaining six events and have already secured an invitation to the Games. The field of teams lining up to challenge them in Miami is a bit stronger.
Team GoWod and Team Meat Gone Bad feature athletes from teams who have also already qualified for the Games. Though these teams don't comprise the exact rosters we're likely to see in Madison this summer, they are impressive rosters that will push Mayhem in several events, which is sure to make Miami a thrilling competition in all three categories.
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