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July 28, 2023

5 Contenders for the Men’s CrossFit Games, Including Defending Champion Justin Medeiros

The Men’s side of the Games is set to be a spectacle.

As the age-old saying goes, heavy is the head that wears the crown. In this case, it’s in reference to Justin Medeiros, the two-time reigning Men’s Individual CrossFit Games champion. In the event Medeiros does secure a third straight title in Madison, WI, on August 1-6, 2023, he will have made history, becoming only the third-ever Individual competitor to triumph on at least three occasions. However, like all great kings, Medeiros is not without his competitive threats.

With the 2023 CrossFit Games inching ever closer, here’s a breakdown of Medeiros and four other potential Men’s contenders’ chances. At still just 24 years old, Medeiros would seemingly only be at the beginning of a dominant extended reign atop the CrossFit kingdom, joining the likes of four-time champion (2011-2014) Rich Froning Jr. and five-time Games winner (2016-2020) Mat Fraser. That is, unless any of these athletes have something to say about it.

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Potential 2023 CrossFit Games Men’s Individual Contenders

It would likely be a shock to many in the CrossFit community if Medeiros fell short of an iconic “three-peat.” That’s not even unpacking the possibility of a new Men’s champion for the first time since 2020. In this event, both the Men and Women — who will be seeking a new CrossFit Individual queen in the absence of Tia-Clair Toomey — could have a new champion soon enough.

Here’s a short profile of CrossFit’s arguably biggest active star and four other Men’s Individual contenders in Madison.

Justin Medeiros (United States)

Best finish: Men’s Individual Champion (2021-2022)

Games debut: 2020

Medeiros wasted no time bursting onto the scene as a bright 21-year-old during his debut in the 2020 CrossFit Games. The athlete earned a podium result, finishing just behind Samuel Kwant (second place) and the legendary Mat Fraser at the end of his CrossFit Games run. With Fraser and a definitive challenger out of the picture the following year in 2021, Medeiros stormed his way to his first Games title, looking destined for greatness in the process. Such a prognostication ended up coming true.

Medeiros will be tough to beat for anyone in the Men’s field. It may take a catastrophic finish in one of the events and/or the champion being entirely off his game to fall short of another resounding victory.

Jeffrey Adler (Canada)

Best finish: Fifth place (2020, 2022)

Games debut: 2019

Adler is probably one of the more notable contenders on the Men’s side of the Games bracket. After a top-five finish in 2022 — his second in three years — it’s apparent the Canadian dynamo is establishing a consistent rhythm and comfort that serves him well in a tense, chaotic environment like the Games.

Adler recently won the Men’s 2023 North America East Semifinal. If he can transfer over such a performance to Madison, he seems primed to make a legitimate run for the grand prize.

Lazar Đukić (Serbia)

Best finish: Eighth place (2022)

Games debut: 2021

To some, Đukić could have the appearance of a “dark horse” — someone who isn’t an obvious contender but may deliver a surprise upset for placing near the top. That line of thinking would be a mistake because, when all is said and done, consistency can win out in the endurance grind of the Games.

Đukić is coming off a victory in the Men’s Europe Semifinal and finished in 12th place worldwide during the Quarterfinal. It would not be a stretch to see this Serbian competitor making a legitimate leap toward the top of CrossFit.

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Roman Khrennikov (United States)

Best finish: Runner-up (2022)

Games debut: 2020

It’s easy to forget now, but Khrennikov actually already almost beat Medeiros in a CrossFit Games setting. In 2022, the fellow American athlete fell just 27 points short of overcoming Medeiros and earning the vaunted title. The critical thing to remember is that while some might have forgotten how close Khrennikov came to glory, the athlete assuredly didn’t repress the memory of besting Medeiros in nine of the 18 workouts during the 2022 Games.

Khrennikov hasn’t been at the absolute top of his game lately — he finished in just fourth place during the North America East Semifinal and was only in 19th worldwide during the Quarterfinal — but that might not matter at the Games. The athlete has shown he has the capacity to rise to the occasion and perform in a big moment.

Patrick Vellner (Canada)

Best finish: Runner-up (2018, 2021)

Games debut: 2016

A seasoned veteran, Vellner is entering his ninth CrossFit Games (including an appearance at the 2015 Games in the Teams division). Such a track record highlights Vellner as a model of dependability. At age 33, he is undoubtedly one of the older athletes in the Men’s Individual competition, as the Age Group division begins at 35, but that shouldn’t diminish his potential for a win. If anything, such extended experience could give Vellner a decisive edge over his peers.

It’s been two years since Vellner fell just short of Medeiros himself during the 2021 Games. This was after Vellner was runner-up to Mat Fraser in 2018. After shining in the North America West Semifinal, Vellner could be another athlete seeking a well-earned redemption. That one shining moment almost a decade into his elite CrossFit career might be around the corner.

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Medeiros seems well-positioned to make another worthy addition to his trophy case. The Games, however, can be anything but predictable. It wouldn’t be a shock to see one of these competitors give him a real run for his money.

Featured image: @justinmedeiros34 on Instagram

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