Personal reasons will keep O’Brien for pursuing her first Individual CrossFit Games title.

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CrossFit superstar Mal O’Brien has withdrawn from the 2023 CrossFit Semifinals, set to take place from May 18 to Jun. 4, 2023. In an Instagram post on May 16, 2023, O’Brien announced that she will temporarily step away from the sport, citing “personal challenges” that she needs to take care of. As such, she will not participate in August’s 2023 CrossFit Games. The Semifinals are a necessary qualifier for all participating athletes to earn a berth in the annual Games.

As the 2023 CrossFit Games approached, O’Brien was one of the presumed top contenders for the Women’s Individual title. After former six-time defending champion (2016-2022) Tia-Clair Toomey stepped away during her pregnancy with her first child, O’Brien — the youngest-ever person to win the CrossFit Open (2022), the runner-up during the 2022 edition of the Games, and the 2021 Rookie of the Year — seemed like a lock to vie for the 2023 victory.

Instead, the athlete will first work to find a healthy life balance for those mentioned, yet undisclosed, personal reasons.

“Sometimes, we face personal challenges that demand our attention and care,” O’Brien wrote in her Instagram post. “It’s important to prioritize our well-being and embrace the support of loved ones … Remember, life isn’t just about winning trophies or achieving goals. It’s about finding balance, taking care of ourselves, and cherishing the moments that truly matter. I’ll be taking this time to focus on what’s important to me, and I appreciate your understanding during this period. I wish the best of luck to my teammates and competitors.”

O’Brien steps away from the 2023 CrossFit season after winning the 2023 CrossFit Open and leading all Women competitors following the 2023 CrossFit Quarterfinals. Her departure leaves a potential opening for other top contenders like Laura Horvath, Arielle Loewen, and Emma Lawson.

Horvath was the winner of the 2022 CrossFit Rogue Invitational and took home third place for the Women in the 2022 CrossFit Games. Perhaps more of an up-and-comer, Loewen finished in third in the 2023 CrossFit Quarterfinals. Meanwhile, then-17-year-old Lawson was the 2022 CrossFit Rookie of the Year and enjoyed a sixth-place result in her CrossFit Games debut in 2022. With an established heavyweight like O’Brien out of the picture, the Women’s Individual field seems wide open at a glance.

For close observers of the sport, O’Brien’s withdrawal while on the potential precipice of a first CrossFit Games title might come as a shock. However, sometimes there are more significant and important things in life than athletic competition. Even if the athlete won’t be a factor in the 2023 CrossFit Games, this will likely not be the last instance anyone sees of her in CrossFit.

Featured image: @malobrien_ on Instagram

About Robert Zeglinski

Robert is a seasoned and adept editor and writer with a keen, passionate penchant for the writing craft. He’s been a leader in newsrooms such as SB Nation, USA TODAY, and WBBM Newsradio, with various other content and art production teams, and first made a name for himself in his hometown of Chicago. When not knee-deep in research or lost in a stream of consciousness for a thorough piece, you can find Robert inhaling yet another novel, journaling his heart out, or playing with his Shiba Inu, Maximus (Max, for short).

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