23.3 Preview: Mal O’Brien vs Danielle Brandon

The final week of the 2023 CrossFit Open is upon us and the live Open announcement is going to be the best yet. From CrossFit Omaha, two of the top female athletes in the world (and fan favorites) will throw down following the workout announcement. Last year’s CrossFit Games runner-up, Mal O’Brien, will square off against 4th place finisher Danielle Brandon.

It is also the first time this year that American athletes will be featured in an Open announcement. 23.1 featured four European athletes while last week we saw Pat Vellner and Roman Khrennikov, who hail from Canada and Russia, respectively.

But with O’Brien and Brandon coming up, let’s take a look at how these two have fared over the years…

The Open

In looking at the Open since 2021, O’Brien holds the clear advantage over Danielle Mal has won every workout head-to-head except for 21.1. What was that workout?

For time:

1 wall walk
10 double-unders
3 wall walks
30 double-unders
6 wall walks
60 double-unders
9 wall walks
90 double-unders
15 wall walks
150 double-unders
21 wall walks
210 double-unders

Time cap: 15 min.

Oh…wall walks and double-unders. Both movements have not yet been seen in the Open this year. Outside of that one workout where Danielle beat Mal by 1 (one!) second, Mal has had the upper hand ever since…in the Open.


  Mal O’Brien Danielle Brandon
21.1 11:06 11:05
21.2 10:38 10:43
21.3 7:38 9:11
21.4 217 lbs 210 lbs
Overall 5th 13th


  Mal O’Brien Danielle Brandon
22.1 392 reps 332 reps
22.2 7:09 8:53
22.3 4:11 4:40
Overall 1st 56th


  Mal O’Brien Danielle Brandon
23.1 267 reps 230 reps
23.2a 188 reps 161 reps
23.2b 205 lbs 197 lbs


The Open is just the first stage and many athletes are not going to worry too much about their overall performance until they get to Quarterfinals where there is less room for error.

And what we have seen the past two Quarterfinals is that the competition is much closer and Danielle actually beat Mal in six of the 10 workouts. However, Mal beat Danielle overall both years because of a couple dominating performances that Danielle was unable to overcome with her smaller margin victories.

Take a look at the tables below that compare their scores. Below the tables are the descriptions of the notable workouts that are likely to resemble 23.3.


  Mal O’Brien Danielle Brandon
Workout 1 6:51 6:37
Workout 2 14:49 18:00
Workout 3 10:28 10:19
Workout 4 267 lbs 251 lbs
Workout 5 2:59 2:23
Overall (North America) 3rd 8th


  Mal O’Brien Danielle Brandon
Workout 1 5:59 5:29
Workout 2 7:28 8:18
Workout 3 15:16 15:11
Workout 4 676 lbs 670 lbs
Workout 5 3:29 3:16
Overall (North America) 1st 3rd

In 2021, Workout 1 was a two-part workout featuring similar triplets. The movements…handstand push-ups, dumbbell hang power cleans (then DB shoulder-to-overheads) and double-unders. Danielle beat Mal by 14 seconds.

And then in 2022, Danielle beat Mal again in the first workout. This time it was a chipper of DB walking lunges, HSPU, front-rack walking lunges, deficit HSPU, overhead walking lunges and strict HSPU. Since we have already seen the 25-ft segment, this is not likely to be repeated. However, it should be noted that Danielle beat Mal in another handstand push-up workout.


A quick glance at the Open performances between Mal and Danielle may lead one to think that Mal is going to run away with 23.3 during the live Open announcement. However, Danielle has shown her strength when going upside down at Quarterfinals that she can (and has) beat Mal.

In a workout where almost everyone is expecting to see handstand push-ups or wall walks, don’t be surprised if Danielle brings more of her Quarterfinals ability to Omaha on Thursday.

Well, for now, all we can do is wait and see what the workout is…unless you can decipher Dave Castro’s “hint”. Then, all you have to do is wait…

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