“This is probably my last season trying to be an elite athlete,” Mia Hesketh explained. “At first I really wanted to go as an individual to prove I belong especially after qualifying twice and having to decline.” In 2019 Mia Akerlund (at the time) qualified as an individual but declined her invite opting to go team with, her now husband, Phil Hesketh and CrossFit Alioth. Then in 2021 Mia qualified again as an individual but had to decline with the arrival of her first child, Elsa, on the cards. “Then I went on a team at Madrid Championships (in September) and had such a good time so I came home and told Phil I would love to go team but it would have to be a good one, not just to participate”.
Mia’s next outing was at Butcher’s Classic in a paired event with Antonia Falt-Kottulinsky, a fellow Prepared athlete and it further confirmed her desire to go team this year. Antonia had no intention of going team again having been to the Games the last two years with CrossFit Nordic teams. But after competing in Butcher’s Classic with Mia, she had a change of heart. “We worked so well and felt it would be a great combination, when she asked me I said that with the right guys I would,” explained Antonia.
The job, however, was to find two guys for their team. “She [Mia] competed with Antonia at Butcher’s Classic and on the drive home they were talking about guys for team,” commented Phil, Mia’s coach and husband. “I thought of Sam [Stewart] and send him a DM and he was pretty keen straight away.”
Sam Stewart, a 2021 Games athlete, would have been a safe bet to have another run at an individual bow in Madison this year after having a less than ideal Semifinals appearance in 2022 and, perhaps, having something to prove in some people’s eyes. But then Sam received the DM from Phil. “It took me by surprise. I got a message and opportunities like this don’t come knocking every day. It was difficult at the start, realizing that I won’t be competing or ranking for myself but that was pushed aside by the excitement of how far we could push as a team,” Sam commented. Then in Miami, Sam competed on a team at Wodapalooza, something he has done the past two years…so he is no stranger to sharing a worm or some synchro work. And having once been a Prepared athlete working alongside Phil, he’s a known entity entering Crossfit Walleye in the team’s Swedish base.
According to Hesketh, Wichtrup was the final piece of the puzzle. “Joshua took a bit longer to find. He was off our radar a bit. I saw him pop up on Instagram and remembered how he crushed the Games in 2019 so we approached him.” Wichtrup was a top 20 finisher at the 2019 Games after finishing as National Champion of Germany and punched a ticket on The Progrm’s team by winning the Norwegian Championships during the ill-fated 2020 Sanctional season for teams and so Wichtrup has been chomping at the bit for an opportunity to step out on the floor in Madison again. Wichtrup explained, “I have wanted to go team for a few years now, ever since qualifying in 2020. It was an immediate yes.” Joshua also has non-competitive goals for the year, explaining, “I want to show my 3 year old boy what dad is doing when I’m not in the playground or playing with Legos”.
As for their competitive goals, Hesketh explained that “the aim is to be pushing the top teams at the Games, that is the mindset. Quarters and Semifinals are a challenge but with the four athletes we have, they should be top contenders.” This was echoed by the athletes themselves. “I’ve been to the Games two times now and nobody on this team is going just for the experience, we’re there to bring our A game.” Antonia said. Sam echoed those sentiments, “What attracted me to the team was their mission, they’ve set out saying that they aren’t just looking to attend the Games and get a t-shirt, it’s about pushing as far as absolutely possible, which I loved.”
The team division is heating up more and more as the Open approaches with new teams being formed and announced as the deadline looms. CrossFit Oslo Navy Blue and CrossFit Invictus remain the teams to beat, hoping to push on off the back of their strong showings last year, but fans of the sport will be frothing as the global line up becomes clearer.
Mia Hesketh is ready to, potentially, round off her elite career in style. “This year the team will train more together than I did with my last team in 2019. I’m looking forward to that. It was amazing to do team with Phil in 2019, but now we have to settle for having him as our coach.”