2016 CrossFit Invitational: Meet Team Europe

CrossFit Rogue One
Sunday afternoon in the Toronto area will mark the fifth annual CrossFit Invitational. While the format has changed over the years, one thing that is a near-perfect mainstay is the success of Team USA. In the four prior invitationals, the Americans have come away with the title three times, with the lone exception being a loss to Team World in 2013. 

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 the European team finally deliver on the expectations placed on it before a fourth-place finish a year ago?

TEAM EUROPE


A year ago in Spain, the battle was expected to be between the Americans and the Europeans (also known as three Icelanders and a Finn). But Team Europe had a shocking last-place finish and never really gained any traction in the two-hour event. This year, the three Iceland athletes (Katrin Davidsdottir, Sara Sigmundsdottir, and Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson) return, but Jonne Koski has been replaced by Lukas Hogberg. With the most returning pieces from this past season's disappointing finish and being coached by the potentially super-human Samantha Briggs, there will definitely be an added spark to be leery of if you're any of the other teams.

LUKAS HOGBERG


The lone new (and non-Icelandic) representative for Team Europe is three-time Games athlete Lukas Hogberg of Sweden. This was his best season at the Games, finishing in 14th place, and he delivered his second ever top-five event finish with a runner-up result in "The Plow" (to go along with his "Sandbag 2015" victory a year ago). The 2014 Team Europe member's strengths will be in grunt work and capacity events as well as his experience in this event. However, as a larger athlete (6-foot and over 200 pounds) he may struggle with heavy gymnastic events. Though perhaps he's fixed that….

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BJORGVIN KARL GUDMUNDSSON


The man who wrecked everyone's fantasy CrossFit game in 2015 followed up his shocking third-place finish with an eighth-place finish this July. Gudmundsson is well known to have an elite engine (on full display with his demolition of the field in "Murph" a year ago) but has become a rather well-rounded athlete who appears to be making himself a consistent title contender. An excellent bodyweight athlete already, BK has built his strength game as well and is nearing the 300-pound snatch club. While all eyes may be on the Dottirs, Team Europe's oft-overlooked athlete may be the key to an Invitational title on Sunday.

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SARA SIGMUNDSDOTTIR


The young Icelandic athlete who never found a home in sports growing up has made quite the cozy abode in the "Sport of Fitness." Sigmundsdottir has posted back-to-back years with a bronze medal. She followed up her impressive 2015 and quelled any concerns of how she would handle the disappointing final event by winning the Meridian Regional and a bronze medal for a second straight year. Despite apparently being always hungry (and nobody will argue that she can have all the pizza she wants), Sigmundsdottir locked up an impressive seven top-five finishes this season, including a best of third in "Double DT" and "The Plow." The 23-year-old has shown an incredible proficiency when it comes to barbell cycling, has an impressive amount of mental toughness, and will be a favorite to be Games champion for many years to come.

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KATRIN DAVIDSDOTTIR


Sometimes your lowest point is all you need to succeed. Nobody has proven that more than Katrin Davidsdottir, the now two-time "Fittest Woman on Earth." After a devastating moment in the 2014 European Regional, Davidsdottir had all the looks of an athlete who had potential physically, but her mental game looked like a red flag. However, anyone who once thought that of Davidsdottir has proven otherwise in gigantic fashion. Since the rope climb event at that competition, Davidsdottir has made a complete 180 and has become one of the most laser-focused athletes in the sport. She has appeared practically unbeatable and her three event wins in three very different events this year ("Double DT," "The Plow," and the handstand walk) prove her incredible well-roundedness. In fact, her only weakness -- using that term very loosely -- seems to be raw power, evidenced by a 38th-place finish in the deadlift event. Plus, she also has two gold medals to remind people that she makes Team Europe an instant threat to take the title on Sunday. Though if they win, I wouldn't suggest dabbing based on past attempts…

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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.

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