Jeff Barnett's Wild Predictions

By Jeff Barnett on 07.26.11
Jeff Barnett used data from the 2010 and 2011 seasons to predict the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games results. His mathematical analysis yielded some surprising conclusions. He predicts some relative unknowns to place near the top, while a few fan favorites are closer to the middle of the pack. Post to comments your impression of Barnett's data, methods, and predictions. Can you do better? What are your predictions, and why?

Can math predict who will win the 2011 CrossFit Games? No. But it can sure as hell try.

After the 2010 CrossFit Games concluded, I took all the competitor stats, such as “Fran” times, max deadlifts, and everything else available, and figured out which stats most predicted top placement in the CrossFit Games. Now, the 2011 CrossFit Games are here, and the CrossFit Games website has made all the new data deliciously available.

I have once again done some requisite fancy math, but this time in reverse. I used what I learned last year, plus all the competitor data from 2011, to predict the top finishers at the Home Depot Center this year. 

Before we dive in, let’s set some ground rules: 

  • Something as complex as the CrossFit Games cannot be predicted with great accuracy. Training the incredible athletes at CrossFit Impulse has certainly taught me that.
  • The equations I used are a little better than 50 percent accurate when explaining the placement of the 2010 Games competitors. In statistics, that absolutely sucks. However, a certain human sub-culture to which I belong finds numbers and predictions oddly alluring, and even though these results are very likely to be wrong, I simply can’t help myself. So, like watching a train wreck, I urge you to read on and find out who math predicts to place in the top 10 at the 2011 CrossFit Games.

2011 CrossFit Games Predicted Top 10 Finishers





Rob Orlando

Mona Pretorious


Austin Malleolo

Kristan Clever


Mikko Salo

Samantha Briggs


Jason Khalipa

Elyse Umeda


Mikko Aronpaa

Camille Leblanc-Bazinet


Spencer Hendel

Becky Conzelman


Nathaniel Schrader

Lindsey Valenzuela


Matt Chan

Christy Phillips


Tuomas Vainio

Annie Thorisdottir


Ben Smith

Jessica Pamanian

See all the statistical analysis here.

Right now you may be asking why [insert your favorite competitor here] didn’t make the list. First, not all athletes had full and accurate stats available. I had to fill in some gaps with assumptions, and that affected their placement. For example, Mikko Salo has self-reported very few PRs this year. I had to pull many stats from his 2010 data and estimate his progress. Some athlete PRs also seemed like ballpark guesses. For example, several of Rich Froning’s times appear to be round number guesses, and conservative guesses, at that.

Finally, numbers just can’t take into account the intangible qualities that comprise a champion. For example, the model would not have predicted that Chris Spealler finished in the top 10 last year, when he actually finished 3rd. He is also conspicuously absent in the 2011 list. The model also under-predicted Annie Thorisdottir’s 2nd place finish last year, and somehow I think she’ll fare better than 9th this year too.


Anybody can use math to spit out some numbers and predictions, but it’s fair to ask how I think these predictions will stack up to reality. If used for the 2010 Games, the model would have correctly predicted about half of the top ten male and female competitors. I think the above list will be similarly accurate for 2011. I have little doubt that athletes like Mikko Salo, Matt Chan, and Austin Malleolo will make the top 10, as predicted.

For the women, the same is true of Kristan Clever, Annie Thorisdottir, and Jessica Pamanian. Among predicted newcomers like Mikko Aronpaa, Nathaniel Schrader, and Tuomas Vainio, at least one will make the top 10. The same is true for Mona Pretorius, Becky Conzelman, and Lindsey Valenzuela.

Finally, I think several athletes will be near the top, but the math simply failed them. Rich Froning and Chris Spealler are notable competitors in this category, as are Michelle Kinney and Lindsey Smith. That leaves about half of the top ten slots up for grabs, and depending on what events emerge from the hopper at the Home Depot Center next week, it’s truly anyone’s game.

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Posted at 10:59 PM PST on January 27, 2012
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Posted at 7:12 AM PST on January 13, 2012
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Great video. Shame you could only see it in the US as in Europe like most of the world, we can't even access the espn3 website.ged social studies practice test

Posted at 4:37 AM PST on December 31, 2011
marya h

Thanks very good

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Posted at 11:18 PM PDT on August 5, 2011
Ashly M

Great for debate, but most would agree that one event outcomes ie open, or two event regional performances, pale in comparison to what is going to be 4-5 wod Friday and 3-4 wod Sat. Looks like RECOVERY is the name of the game. 2009 might be your best reference point. FYI Ocean swims and 2 miles of running on sand will thin the herd.

Posted at 9:48 PM PDT on July 27, 2011
Dan H

So did you include swimming in your calculations? ;-)

As a swimmer I'm far from anti-swimming, but there is SO much skill inherent in it, it could really skew the results depending on what they do in the water.

Posted at 8:57 AM PDT on July 27, 2011

Michael, I'd love to see your work. jeffbarnett513 (at symbol) gmail (dot) com

Lee and Justin, those links sounds pretty cool. I'll check them out.

Posted at 6:23 AM PDT on July 27, 2011

Cool stuff, but it's hard to predict the curveball(s) that HQ will throw into the programming. Have you seen where you can create a 2011 CF Games Fantasy Team?

Posted at 5:48 AM PDT on July 27, 2011

I love this! I'd love to see other people rank the games as well. Here's my amateur, unscientific rankings (though I did compare the regionals like Michael):

Posted at 5:47 AM PDT on July 27, 2011
Michael F

Jeff - I really like the math that you did here. Like you I geeked out on the numbers, but I re-ranked the regional WODs. The winners turn out to be: Dan Bailey for the Men, Annie T for the Women, and CrossFit Invictus for the Teams. I have a spreadsheet saved, so if you're interested I could send it to you.

Of course, I wasn't able to factor in the top 5 men from last year (aside from Khalipa), Kristen Clever, Julie Foucher, and CrossFit Fort Vancouver.

What was interesting was comparing all the top athletes totally shifted a lot of the Regional rankings, and those who finished 3rd sometimes came in 1st, or visa versa.

I'm in agreement though, it's going to be impossible to determine the winner from a sheet of paper... that's why we play the game.

Posted at 1:40 AM PDT on July 27, 2011