2010 CrossFit Games Finals

Men's Epic Matchup 1: Mikko and Khalipa

The first of many athlete comparisons

The 2010 CrossFit Games are up for grabs. The number of athletes who have a legitimate shot at taking the title is very large. This is particularly true in the men’s competition.

In this series, we’re selecting pairs of athletes and teams to compare their strengths and biases. Granted, it’s a fairly arbitrary position, since Mikko Salo and Jason Khalipa are but two of nearly 50 athletes competing together. They are the two most recent champions, though, and we’re proud to launch the series with them.

Jason won the 08’ games by coming out of nowhere and finishing the heavy squat Grace final workout in 2:46, nearly 40 seconds faster than second place Josh EverettMikko, as many of you know, performed the three 08 Games events in a single day (obviously not the hill run). Mikko did the heavy squat Grace last. His time was 2:38. Not quite the same, of course, but impressive nonetheless.

Mikko first got our attention by winning the 09 European Regionals with a sub-8min phat Helen (2pood KB and chest-to-bar pullups). Wow!

The 09 Games
Obviously, Mikko won the 09 Games, and Jason’s comeback story is well known. There has been lots of speculation about what would have happened if Jason had managed the run better, or if the run had been on Sunday. Whatever, but Jason’s performance after that first event was stellar, including two firsts and three seconds.

Jason won the couplet with Mikko fourth. Mikko won the chipper with Jason second. They tied on the triplet. Jason snatched 225lbs for second, while Mikko snatched 190 for 11th.

When asked about his collapse during the brutal 7.1 kilometer run up and down the dusty hills of Aromas, Jason said, “You can’t fear injury when you’re doing this kind of stuff, because then you second-guess every- thing you do. And when you second-guess stuff, that’s when you actually get injured. I second-guessed the run. I second-guessed everything I was doing. I had all this pressure, and look what happened: I choked.”

It’s anyone’s guess at this point. Neither Jason nor Mikko has competed formally since last year’s Games, but both men are reporting significant progress in all their key numbers. Both have been getting mobility training and proclaim its efficacy. Jason has been running (and getting coached on his running).

Did we say “epic matchup?”

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Jason Khalipa 2008 Crossfit Games Final Event

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Jason Khalipa 2009 Crossfit Games - Run.

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Mikko Salo 2009 Crossfit Games Champion Montage

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Mikko Salo 2009 Crossfit Games - Sandbag Event

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Khalipa Questions

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54 comments on this entry

1. Jezz wrote...

Keep an eye on Rob Orlando.

2. Kyle Ngo wrote...

My money is on Mikko Salo.

3. john wrote...

Im with Jezz. Orlando is one dude to watch.

4. meg d wrote...

my money is on spealler..

5. Kevin Welsh wrote...

My money is on the unknown and unknowable.Some unknown beast takes it all!

6. 60Thor wrote...

My money is on Mikko or a total unknown... Although I find it really hard to believe someone can come out of no where and beat Mikko...

7. Craig wrote...

look out Chris Hogan from Australia people...

8. Hendy wrote...

Depends how much running there is.... Orlando took 49 mins and Khalipa took 54 mins in the run last year which Mikko completed in 37 Mins. I'm sure they've improved, but that gap alone is too much to make up in a year given Mikko's strength gains as well. Its the dark horses I'm interested in, the guys who didn't compete last year, but flew through Regionals this time...Neil Maddocks anyone? Of course Tommy will be back too!

9. Pat Barber wrote...

Dont get me wrong mikko is a crazy athlete with crazy capacity but I have seen Jason K do some of the gnarliest feats of human performance, things that defy logic. If your talking stats and physical ability alone I think that each of them have there strengths but when you factor in the massive heart and spirit I have seen time and time again from Jason I think it may tip the scales that direction.

In the end with athletes as good as they are this year the margins are gonna be so small that I think it will come down to programming and who brings it that day.

I wish them all the best of luck.


10. Dave@UIC wrote...

Jokingly speaking I feel lik Sevan has purposely not been covering and making videos about some gnarly man that lives off the grind and trains crossfit in the mountains with a mobility specialist of a wife and just is real freak of nature. Hopefully he will come in with a long and powerful epic beard and just storm the competition with barbarian skill... overall im excited to see what type of events are going down in the new stadium features!

11. Vic, CrossFit Osan wrote...

I was Mikko's judge at the European qualifiers when he did FAT Helen, when I called out his time, I had no doubt in my mind that he was going to win the Crossfit Games. My honest opinion Jason, is an outstanding athlete, and he can claim the tittle of Fire breather! Jason is young full of potential. but at the end of the day, I dont believe that anyone can beat Mikko, at least no this year. If anyone does come close, it will be Jason, or Tommy best of luck to all the athlete,

12. Deebo wrote...

"massive heart and spirit" in re Jason as a reason he will beat Mikko? I'd say it takes quite a bit of heart to train alone in Finland in a storage shed, in a place where Crossfit was unknown, with no real competition for him within thousands of miles. The heart argument is tough to make

13. Scott wrote...

I agree with Pat Barber, but I have also witnessed Orlando do things over the last year that are unbelievable. He has lost 10 pounds over the last year and has actually gotten stronger. He also rises to the competition. If he is surrounded by a number of great athletes, he will rise to their ability or beat them.

14. muzz wrote...

send an invite to Brian Clay or Trey Hardee I'm sure either of these 2 athletes would dominate the games

15. Robert Keefe wrote...

I got to see Orlando compete in the N.E Regionals. Guy is no joke. He tightened his game up. I think he is going to give the top guys a run for there money.

16. Jason Lyons wrote...

Watching both of these men is just amazing. I just watched Mikko's video and hearing him say he is getting a PR everytime would send chills down my spine if I were going against him but then I watch Kalipa do DT in a time that is hard for me to comprehend. His "break" is two steps away from the bar and then back. He make the 155 look like a paperweight.

It will be interesting to say the least, I cant wait to get to Cali. I say its a coin flip and it will be determined by programming. Everyone has something that they do not want to see come out of the hopper. If one of them comes out for either Kalipa or Mikko, the scales will tip...if nothing comes out that they fear, call in the National Guard because WWIII is about to begin!

17. JamieCFA wrote...

if they wanted an invite then should have showed up @ the sectional and or regional in their area .. the days of if so and so would have competed it would have been different are over .... put up or shut up .. No they aren't on the invite list because they were not up to the task .. talk is cheap!!

18. Carter wrote...

Based on what we have seen on site, Mikko has improved both strength and skill. Jason really didnt start training at Mikkos pace til late. In fact Jason alluded to Speallor beating his times. Speallor is a real threat with similar gains in strength speed. Peter Eyged gets little respect considering what he just did in CA regional, has big heart and few weaknesses. Rogers from Canada, Froning from SouthEast, and Hogan from Australia are newbies to watch. Orlando is a beast, but I think he doesnt have the depth to stay w other strength guys like Mikko or Khalipa. Consider Perryman was a point from top 16 last year, and finished 2nd to Speallor in NW Regional, and every bit a strongman..... It will all come down to complexity and diversity of unknown and unknowable programming.

19. Scott wrote...

Muzz...although I would never discount Clay or Hardee's accomplishments, athleticism, conditioning, or genetic ability, they are decathletes. Decathletes are well rounded but I would be willing to bet those guys do minimal powerlifting and not much olympic lifting. They may use the movements as conditioning; but are they deadlifting 500 lbs or snatching 225?? I seriously doubt it. When it comes to running, throwing, or jumping they may beat CF's top guys but they are not CrossFit because they cannot move heavy loads quickly or over long distances.

20. Jason The Omnivore wrote...

Four Syllables:

Blair Morrison

21. Eric Willis wrote...

I had the pleasure of watching a lot of these competitors at last years games, and from hearing about and watching the videos on how hard they all have worked to enhance flexibility, improve on O-lifts, and to clean up their nutrition, this year's games will be very tight. I think the separation will come by who has superior focus and wants it the most.

The biggest Heart will win the crown!

I can't wait to get there and hear 3-2-1 Go

My money is on my buddy Matt Chan!

22. Matt Brennan wrote...

Mikko Salo is definitely going to win. Trains like its his job. Guys a pitbull..

23. Sam wrote...

Cannot wait to watch this! Mad that I can't go though...seriously what company plans an "optional" (equals mandatory) retreat to Palm Springs...in July! To add in my opinion, having only seen Mikko in vid's and Khalipa judge me at NorCal sectionals I can say that both will put up one hell of a fight. Based on what has been seen in 09 Games, and some updates on the site I have to say its about a coin flip (big shocker) but I gotta tip it to Mikko. I think Jason has Mikko in strength and power. However, Mikko makes up for it in endurance and staying power. I have debates on if scoring was different, Jason would have won and the like but unless this round of games looks more like 08 games (less actual work done, shorter events, 4 minute wods vs 10-15 min wods) Mikko will win out. He may be 10-30 seconds slower than Jason on a wod, but after 2-3 Wods in a day I see Mikko's performance suffering less than most athletes. Again, Mikko is scary fit and Khalipa is my hero ( to his amusement I was able to tell him in the middle of sectional wod b). This all comes down the hopper. Long post, but so hyped for this thing.

24. Ryan @ crossfit 714 wrote...

I don't think there will be a long run this year now that the venue has changed. Also, I bet there will be a "strong man" style event. This will certainly help guys like Khalipa and Rob Orlando.

I'll take Khalipa.

It is going to be an amazing event. I can't wait.

25. Sam wrote...

Just to clarify : the Less work in shorter WOD's. Not saying that Jason cant do the same work...I think his strength is getting a lot of work done very very quickly. Those types of WOD's with a lot of rest is his strength. (2009 Games couplet). When you have chipper's or little rest over the course of the day, Mikko hits his stride (see vids where he trains 3-4 times a day for 4-5 days straight).

26. SANTI` wrote...


My money is with Spealler and or Khalipa, If Spealler worked in his weaknees from the past year, he will dominate everything that doesn't involve 1,1,1,1,1,1s 3,3,3,3,3, or 5,5,5,5,5. How ever Khalipa does things out of this Planet so That's a hard one, If they were to put events similar to last years and Khalipa fixed his run, he will win the games.. A lot of great competition this year 2010... LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

27. Z wrote...

Next Men's Epic Matchup: Spealler vs. Orlando.

28. Kat wrote...

Three letters... O P T

29. Nyman wrote...

Hard to say who's going to win. Both are awesome athletes. What's getting left out is that Hackenbruck came close to beating Mikko and the chipper was the deciding factor. Cannot wait to see this years games it going to be beastly!

30. Sweeney wrote...

Has a "pre-games favorite" ever been crowned as "The Fittest Man on Earth"?

31. Will Blaker wrote...

I think Mikko is a fine champion, and I'm a big fan, of course. However, I think Jason can beat his squat Grace time from '08 as well.

I look at Mikko as the immovable object, someone who is so mentally tough and just won't break.

But Jason is the unstoppable force. And My money is on him to reclaim the title.

MY prediction is this: Either someone we don't know will take it, or Jason will repeat. Anyone we've already seen and know of won't be able to beat Jason or Mikko, it'll take something we havent seen before. And it may be out there.

32. Jason Lyons wrote...

Since someone brought up Speal, I think it is absolutely ridiculous that he was able to do that many BW OHS in that OHS/DU wod. And not only did he do them, he destroyed them! I like his chances but as someone posted above, I fear the 1 rep max anything. The beauty of this is with the right programming, a fair number of people can walk away with this thing.

You see Mikko doing 5x5 wih 473 at a sub 180 BW, crazy.

On a different note, I think Christy Philips will finish top 10 in the men's competition. That girl is unworldly. She is from a planet where oxygen is not needed to survive.

Last thing, does anyone remember the tie breakers from last year?

1) Points
2) Highest finish in any one workout
3) Next highest finish?

It would be fantastic is somehow, 2 people tied all the way down the list. This actually happened at our affiliate team tryouts. Have a duel to determine the winner. Most burpees in 10 minutes or something. It would be insane to watch the intensity that 2 of these men could muster knowing all they have to do is win and they are crowned. I hope it happens.

33. JR wrote...

Lets not forget that OPT competed last year after only 5 weeks of focused training, according to a previous interview he's been training all year to peak for the games. I saw him at the sectionals and regionals and he is looking strong.

34. John wrote...

I'll echo sentiments that Mikko and Khalipa are certainly favorites, among others.

And in regards to the brief discussion concerning Bryan Clay and Trey Hardee, it is true they are not CrossFit athletes and are not competing as a CrossFit athletes. However, I think it would be poor judgment on our part to ignore their amazing work capacity and accomplishments as decathletes.

Bryan Clay, for example, was quoted as saying, "My lifts are not that spectacular. I weigh about 180lbs; my bench is 355lbs, my full cleans are 335lbs, and my squat is around 580lbs. The only thing is I don’t max anymore. Those marks are all from a few years ago. It is too hard on the body, now I just work off a percentage of that weight."

There is video of Trey Hardee online performing reps of a Power Snatch at ~175lbs, performing reps of a Back Squat at ~330lbs, and performing a Power Clean at ~265lbs.

Both athletes demonstrate some capacity to move heavy loads quickly, especially Clay. And in an interview I found online, it was stated that Clay performed high-repetition Olympic lifts as part of his training, and utilized full-body workouts similar to CrossFit and "300."

With all that said, I think it'd be incredibly intriguing to watch 2 world class decathletes compete in CrossFit. I don't honestly believe it will happen though, at least not while they're still competing professionally.

35. Bryce wrote...

I'm rooting for Tommy and Speal. Go Utah Crossfits

36. MEE wrote...


Thanks for that info. I had seen an article about Clay's olympic lifting ability and knew it was quite impressive so an argument that they don't train those lifts was quite ignorant.

That being said it is fair to claim they would not do well against men that have trained for a year with the intention of peaking at these games but I also believe that these men are world class athletes and compete in competitions that very few CrossFit athletes could dream of being in. Even high level athletes and they would be the first to admit it. Its two different sports with two different fitness objectives.

37. Jay wrote...

There is a lot of speculation as to "what if" and Jason Khalipa in this article...My opinion, that is BS!!!!! If you want to play the "what if" game....ok lets play. Mikko Salo dominated the games last year, granted, he only won by one point. But riddle me this...Mikko Salo was 5 INCHES away from pulling the 505lb deadlift. Had Mikko extended that 5 inches he would have went from 17th in that event to 1st!!! Making the last event a joke, because he would have had to walk to still get first place....So this article is BS in the what if game. Jason got owned on the run...not even close at all..sorry. Mikko almost had that lift and almost embarrassed everyone at the 2009 CF games.

38. Hypothetically Fit wrote...

Lets make some basic assumptions beyond this guy is great or that guy is great. Assuming that "the 50" are better than the 75 from last year, and that with no cuts anyone can take away points on any event throughout the competition. Assume that there are at least 8 events. I dont see a pure strength event ala DL last year, rather strength in combination with an aerobic timed event. The unknowable unused events, swimming, rope climb, pistols, sleds, vests, obstacle course. Who among entries can be top ten across domain while really testing recovery. If thats the game, then realistically there are 25-30guys with game that could win depending on how WOD's fall. Clearly Mikko Speallor and Khalipa are favorites. I think its going to be tough on he big heavy athlete, but Hackenbruck and Perryman look tough to me. Then absent a Barber Thiel or Everett, you have Eyged Burke Chan Morrison OPT, all 180-185 fast strong skilled with non stop engines. Its going to be EPIC.

39. Yermon Gaston wrote...

The only thing I really want on this 2010 Games is that no one gets IV shots to recover them.
Let them recuperate with what they eat and massage or cold tubs, but no IVs.
Because if that´s the case give the shot to all the competitors and not just a few.
The ball is rolling so let the games begins and the best men and women wins.
Greetings to all
CrossFit Earth

40. Syn wrote...

Keep questioning Rob, he loves proving people wrong! Orlando is the dark horse plain and simple, I usually don't comment in these forums because the people that do probably couldn't hold a barbell next to the competitors mentioned without pissing themselves. There usually the guys who go out of they way to try to be cool with the above said competitors or secretly want to be like them. So this goes out all those CrossFit Joe's out there back away from the computer and go lift a barbell with a lot of weight on it and next time you see Orlando tell him how you really feel instead of smiling in his face he'll either respect your opinion or give me the signal to smack you!

41. muzz wrote...


true jay if mikko had made the final deadlift the last event would have been pointless.will the same point system from 09 be involved with this years games or ran the same way in 2008?


I'd be happy to show you some vids of myself lifting barbells and doing these silly wods and might even throw in the odd 66 inch box jump if you like.

42. Alvin wrote...

Khalipa in 2010

43. Syn wrote...

Muzz no videos just whenever your in NYC come to the ghetto and let's get it cracking!

44. nick williams wrote...

I think the world class decathlete question is an intriguing one. If we look at fact/evidence, I think the closest we get is Annie Thor...... from last year.

She was a 19 year old athlete & top class pole vaulter with little pure crossfit experience (a few months I think), although she had follwed the Bootcamp method, which has a very similar philosophy and approach.

She did very well and was (I believe) coming second until the last event when her lack of technical ability in the muscle ups hurt her.

So...from a sample size of one, the answer to the Brian Clay question would be that he would likely do very well in the 'training' events - strength, power, speed, cardio/respiratoy etc but may come un done on some of the 'practice' events, eg Double Unders, HSPU or MUs which are more specific to Crossfit.

I'd bet money he wouldn't come last at the Games though. And Carolina kluft may go well in the women's events too.

What I'd like to see though, is how Darelle Revis or Reggie Bush would go

45. muzz wrote...

all I'm saying is if these world class decathletes were to say have 3 months of specific crossfit training they would dominate these games, due to the fact that if most of the people competing in this yrs games are not former athletes from any sports they are just every day people with the normal everyday jobs, and if crossfit can turn everyday people into these current crossfit athletes imagine how a genetically gifted actual professional athlete would perform.

46. Julie wrote...

1- Mikko Salo Mens
1-Sam Briggs Female

I would love to see this....but it is impossible to say.

47. levi custis wrote...

In one of the videos Mikko said he deadlifted 250kg for 5x5. At a weight of 175 that is strength I can't conceive a person to have unless the are a specialized power lifter. I think he is simply more well rounded and just flat out stronger than the competition.

48. buddy wrote...

dont sleep on Neal Maddox!

49. AP wrote...

Lets go Blair!

50. Lion El Aton wrote...

I think Jason Khalipa's run training will go a long way. Look how well he placed on everything else last year. I'm still not sure who'll win it, but one thing is certain; this will be the mightiest Crossfit Games yet.

51. Connor Thompson wrote...

has everyone forgot about Josh Everett!?
is he not a contender?

52. cboz wrote...

the talk to me isnt what if if jason did better on the run the what if game is no good, what blows me away is that in 30 sum minutes he went from not being able to stand any more to dead lifting 505. thats nuts.

53. Stange wrote...


54. Owen wrote...

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