CrossFit fans are likely accustomed to a familiar winner’s circle in the sport’s short history. Since the CrossFit Games started in 2007, five athletes have won the Men’s and Women’s divisions multiple times — Rich Froning Jr. (2011-14) and Matthew Fraser (2016-20) on the men’s side, and Annie Thorisdottir (2011-12), Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir (2015-16), and Tia-Clair Toomey (2017-21) for the women.
With the 2022 Open in the rearview, the Quarterfinals of the CrossFit Games begin this weekend. Thursday, March 24 through Sunday, March 27, 2022, will see the start of the CrossFit Games Quarterfinals in Madison, WI. Outside of the usual heavy-hitters like the respective Men’s and Women’s defending champions, Justin Medeiros and Toomey, there are a lot of arguably underrated competitors in the field.
The Dark Horses
Here’s who might be making a more prominent name for themselves in the CrossFit sphere during the Quarterfinals:
Once a relative newcomer to the competitive scene, Toon has progressed well over the last couple of years. He documented his CrossFit journey in a post on his Instagram page on March 21, 2022:
View this post on Instagram
[Related: The Formula For A Successful CrossFit Gym]
During his first Open in 2020, the American-born athlete placed 143rd overall. In 2021, Toon leaped up to 26th overall. Finally, in 2022, he notched an impressive fifth place among the men. According to his CrossFit Games profile, Toon boasts a 575-pound back squat, a 375-pound clean & jerk, a 275-pound snatch, and a 660-pound deadlift. Toon has come a long way as a professional CrossFitter. Look for him to surprise in the Quarterfinals.
Sometimes, you have to wait a while before finally breaking through for one extraordinary moment. If anyone at this year’s CrossFit Games is ready to be rewarded for their extensive hard work, it’s probably Pepper.
The now-20-year-old Pepper first turned heads in the teenage division of the Games with a podium finish each year from 2017 to 2019. He even won the teenage competition outright in 2018. During the 2022 Open, Pepper finished in a solid tenth place — certainly nothing to sneeze at considering it was his first Senior-level event. It might be a solid precursor to the glory he’s been waiting for.
As another CrossFitter who has been around the sport for a while, Mertens is also on the hopeful edge of CrossFit prestige. You can see it in how he plugs away over time. 2019 saw Mertens finish 29th in the Dubai CrossFit Championships and 26th in the annual Granite Games. But, more importantly, over time, his work in the CrossFit season has improved.
In 2017, Mertens finished in a modest 5,923rd place worldwide during the Open portion. With due diligence, he parlayed that into a great fourth-place finish in 2022. It’s been a winding road for Mertens during his CrossFit career. This year’s Quarterfinals would be a perfect time to leave his mark.
On the women’s side of this year’s games, keep an eye on the Polish athlete, Migała, who resides in and spends her time training in Spain. Migała first turned to CrossFit in 2015 and hasn’t looked back since.
Leading up to the Quarterfinals, Migala appears to be quite confident on social media. She recently shared a pre-lift Instagram post with the caption, “Houston, we have lift off.”
View this post on Instagram
Migała finished the 2022 Open portion in a solid 13th place — continuing her run of high-end finishes after her sixth-place rank in the 2021 CrossFit Games.
To unseat some of the top competitors like Toomey or even capture a place on the podium, Migała will need to continue that streak of confidence. We’ll see if her current mindset converts a top finish in the Quarterfinals that begin on Thursday, March 24, 2022.
Featured image: @gabimiga on Instagram