A Preview of the 2022 Zelos Games CrossFit Competition

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The second year of the Zelos Games will take place on two fronts. For most, it is an online competition running from November 11 to November 21. Additionally, 12 men and 12 women have been invited to a two-day live CrossFit competition to kick off this year’s Zelos Games live from Las Vegas, Nevada.

The athletes will do workouts one and two on Saturday, November 12, and workouts three and four on Sunday, November 13. All heats for the events will be broadcast on the Real Sevan Podcast YouTube channel. Here’s a full breakdown of the live event.

Editor’s Note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Who’s Competing at the Zelos Games Live in Vegas?

All athletes competing at the live event were invited. There have been several changes late to the roster, but this is the latest list, along with their rankings this year in the Open, Quarterfinals, and Semifinals:

Women:

Athlete Open Rank QF Rank SF Rank
Brittany Weiss 30 91 Team – 1st
Andrea Nisler 31 Team – 1st
Devyn Kim 98 Team – 1st
Alexis Johnson 129 Team – 1st
Kyra Milligan 165 188 14
Sola Sigurdardottir 172 18 4
Alex Gazan 193 29 4
Elena Budz 310 127 9
Ro Scott 339 194 21
Christine Kolenbrander 400 68 5
Samantha Petrich 441 144 21
Ellia Miller 611 242 22

Men:

Athlete Open Rank QF Rank SF Rank
James Sprague 29 174 6
Tudor Magda 70 56 4
Pete Mason 99 45 15
Jack Rozema 276 189 16
Leo Franco 300 150 10
Logan Ewing 338 222 23
Ethan Helbig 371 439
Tola Morakinyo 451 Team – 1st
Mike McDonald 743 241 24
Matt Dlugos 748 169 7
Denis Samsonov 796 109 LCQ – 24
Mitch McClune 1096 119 21

Appropriately enough, each of the workouts at the Zelos Games has a Vegas-themed name. Below you’ll see those names, the workout description, our picks to win the workout*, and a dark horse for each one.

*Note: We did not duplicate any athletes in our picks.

Snake Eyes*

  • 26/18-Calorie Echo Bike
  • 14 DB Box Step-Overs
  • Max Ring Muscle-Ups in Remaining Time

* The rhythm is broken down like this: 3:00 AMRAP/1:00 Rest/3:00 AMRAP/1:00 Rest/4:00 AMRAP.

This is a tricky workout because competitors are scored based on the number of ring muscle-ups they accumulate across the three rounds. So if an athlete can’t get through the bike and box step-overs to then pull off enough muscle-ups to factor in, then the capacity on the rings doesn’t matter.

Men’s Contender: James Sprague

James Sprague has a unique blend of being a bigger athlete with a good capacity for gymnastics. Look for him to get off to a hot start to the weekend with this one.

Men’s Dark Horse: Leonel Franco

Leonel Franco’s best semifinal finish was on the legless rope climb workout, and he also did well on the Minnesota Mash Up, which involved a big set of 30 ring muscle-ups in the middle of it.

Women’s Contender: Alex Gazan

Like Sprague, Alex Gazan has a good blend of power and skill; she’ll likely be in contention throughout beginning with the first event.

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Women’s Dark Horse: Brittany Weiss

Brittany Weiss is extremely gritty and will fight for both time on the rings and extra reps once she’s there. A few reps could make a big difference, and she will maximize her capacity here en route to a solid finish.

Royal Flush*

* 5-7-9 rep count with a seven-minute time cap

You have to go unbroken here to have a chance — but at the highest level, you must also press the gas pedal on the burpees. Three to four minutes for almost everyone here; it’s just about how badly you want it.

Men’s Contender: Jack Rozema

Rozema may be relatively unknown, but he had a standout third-place finish in the Barbell Complex at the semifinals and should be able to put some of that strength and power to use in this sprint-style workout.

Men’s Dark Horse: Logan Ewing

Ewing was a late addition to this field, but following an eighth-place finish at Crash Crucible earlier this year, he’s looking to show that he belongs in this level of competition. He’s young and hungry, and this workout suits that well.

[Related: 4 Impressive Performances That Flew Under the Radar at the 2022 Rogue Invitational]

Women’s Contender: Devyn Kim

Devyn Kim has done incredibly well with the Invictus team and had a solid showing in the Open this year. She landed in the top 100, with her best finish coming on the 22.3, which involved ascending weight thrusters.

Women’s Dark Horse: Alexis Johnson

The weight should be light enough for the speed of the burpees to matter. And since Johnson is among the fastest in the field at both, she’s poised for a top finish here.

Ace of Spades*

  • 30 Double Unders
  • 3-3-3-2-2-1-1 Snatches (Ascending Weight)
  • Then 3:00 to Perform a Max Snatch After Final Round

* Seven rounds in total. New rounds start every 1:30.

Snatch weights by round for men and women:

Men: 185/205/225 235/245 255/265
Women: 125/135/145 155/160 165/170

Although there are a good amount of double unders each round, this will end up being a one-rep max snatch test for a majority of the field. Those who do clear the ladder will have an incentive to lift heavy — and not just heavy enough to win, either.

The Zelos Games uses the Z-score method, meaning the margin of victory dictates how many points are awarded to each athlete. So, for example, the point differential between first and second place depends on how well you perform, rather than being a set amount. That means the best snatchers should want to lift as heavy as possible to mitigate the possible points for the rest of the field.

Men’s Contender: Tola Morakinyo

His listed one-rep max snatch is 340 pounds. It doesn’t seem realistic that he’ll hit that in the middle of a competition, but three wheels isn’t out of the question.

Men’s Dark Horse: Matt Dlugos

Dlugos comes into the competition second to Morakinyo in terms of the highest one-rep max snatches recorded in the field. He’s done 315, but something closer to 300 feels more likely.

Women’s Contender: Christine Kolenbrander

Her max snatch is listed at 215, the heaviest in the field. Side note, both she and Morakinyo demoed the one-rep max snatch prior to the athletes taking the platforms at the 2021 CrossFit Games. So this is an exercise she is supremely comfortable with.

Women’s Dark Horse: Ro Scott

Ro Scott checks in with the second heaviest snatch amongst these 12 women at 207 pounds. Andrea Nisler is the only other woman in the field with a max of 200 pounds or higher.

Full House*

  • 150-foot Handstand Walk
  • 50/40 Calories Rowing
  • 35 Wall Balls 20/14 to 10 feet
  • 50 Chest-to-Bars
  • 10 Devils Press (2x 70/50)
  • 50 Toes-to-Bar
  • 35 Wall Balls
  • 50/40 Cal Row
  • 150-foot HS Walk

*There’s a 22-minute time cap.

For the first time in the competition, athletes will be seeded based on performance heading into the final. Unlike most finals, this is the longest event of the weekend, meaning we get to see the top four men and women go head to head over what will likely be a nearly 20-minute workout. The workout has a little bit of everything, but expect more separation on the gymnastics implements as opposed to anything else.

Men’s Contender: Tudor Magda

Tudor Magda is possibly the fastest handstand walker in the world, and his gymnastics skills are also among the best in this field. If it’s close in the end, he’ll out-handstand walk anyone for the win.

Men’s Dark Horse: Denis Samsonov

“The Fittest Wizard” has all kinds of tricks up his sleeve, but don’t sleep on his fitness. We didn’t get to see him in a live semifinal this year due to travel limitations, but this style of workout is suited for him. He may not be in the final heat before this one, but his time could become relevant for the top athletes to chase down for this event.

Women’s Contender: Andrea Nisler

Nisler is probably the fittest in this field and will have a chance to show it here. She won’t give anything away on any of the movements. And while the gymnasts will slow down on the rower and wall balls, she should be able to maintain a steady pace across the board to win this workout.

[Related: 6 Highlights From the Masters Fitness Collective 2022]

Women’s Dark Horse: Sola Sigurdardottir

Along with Gazan, Sola Sigurdardottir is the only other individual Games athlete in this field. She may not have event wins, but she should finish close to the top in each workout. Like Nisler, she has a high level of fitness and could be saving her best for last with a great showing in the finale.

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