However, since the format changed from two six-person teams to four four-person teams, Team USA has proved to be a dominant force. Team Canada gave a late charge in 2015, going into the final event in position to win the title by finishing ahead of USA, but was unable to do so in an electric arena in Madrid, Spain.
The question this time around: Will a scrappy Pacific team continue its momentum gained from a third-place finish in 2015?
Team Canada gave Team USA a push throughout the 2015 Invitational; however, Team Canada had to hold off a red-hot Team Pacific to just remain in second place in the end. Team Pacific, coached by Chad Mackay, will bring back both female athletes from this past season (Tia-Clair Toomey and Kara Webb) but loses Ben Garard and Kevin Manuel and adds Rob Forte and James Newbury. With an added bit of experience by bringing in Forte, plus an extra year of success for both Toomey and Webb, this may be your team if you're looking for a sleeper pick on Sunday.
The lone Games rookie on the team is a five-time Regional athlete and this season's 24th-place Games finisher. As if being Australian didn't make it obvious enough, James Newbury brings a bit of grit to the team from his background in rugby to an ability to handle odd implements and movements, which was evidenced by his top-10 finishes on the "Climbing Snail" event and the ring handstand push-up event, "The Separator." The owner of CrossFit Mode in Adelaide has also shown that Team Canada's Brent Fikowski and Patrick Vellner aren't the only quality trash-talkers in this year's Invitational lineup…
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From a Games rookie to Australia's all-time leading Games qualifier, Rob Forte. The six-time Games athlete (another one of the three to make six straight appearances from 2011's rookie class) has become an absolute mainstay in competition. The Pacific Regional champion compiled his second-best season to date with a 17th-place finish thanks to five event finishes inside the top 10. Forte, like Letendre, will transition from a coach in 2015's event to an athlete on Sunday, and will bring an extra bit of experience to a team that had very little of it one year ago.
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KARA WEBB While Forte may have the most appearances of any Australian, Webb is perhaps the nation's most celebrated CrossFit athlete. The five-time Games veteran, who many consider to be the best female athlete to have never medaled at the sport's biggest event, backed up a fifth-place finish in 2015 with a seventh this season (including an event win in the "Squat Clean Pyramid"). One of the strongest female athletes in the field, Webb will provide plenty of raw power as well as the positive energy she seems to have around her at all times. This year's "Spirit of the Games" winner will once again be considered a favorite to contend for the 2017 CrossFit Games title, but adding an Invitational championship before the season begins could be a huge boost for the perennial title threat.
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One of Webb's biggest threats each year for the crown of "Fittest Woman on Earth" continues to be her fellow Australian and back-to-back Games runner-up, Tia-Clair Toomey. While 2015 featured the running joke of nobody knowing anything about Toomey, 2016 has been a year nobody could miss her. The 2016 Olympian compiled 10 top-10 finishes, six top-fives, and two event wins (in the swim and sprint events) but wound up just 11 points shy of taking the title in her second season. The parallels between Toomey and reigning men's champion Mat Fraser are almost eerie. Both began with their careers with two second-place finishes at the Games, and both have been successful in the sport of weightlifting. Will the third season be the similar charm for Toomey? Only time will tell on that one. But the pairing of her and Webb will be a formidable combination come Sunday's international throwdown.
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This year's all-star event will be closing out the season with a bang and what should be the closest Invitational competition yet. Team USA will enter as the favorite, but Teams Europe and Pacific are fielding their strongest squads to date. And Canada has a stout lineup combined with a home crowd behind it. The two-hour event typically provides for an exciting format and should be a great watch on Sunday afternoon. Catch the action on the CrossFit Games website, or its YouTube channel, at 4 PM ET.
By Brandon Domingue