The National Champions from the CrossFit Open in the CEE region: rising stars and hobby athletes

The National Champions from the CrossFit Open in the CEE region: rising stars and hobby athletes


This is a project of CrossFit Dream, sponsored by Sport Vision Bulgaria. It aims at presenting the National Champions from all Central and Eastern European Countries*. It contains data from a survey, Open results comparison and infocharts. The main point is to increase the awareness on crossfit within the region, to promote crossfit as the sport of fitness and to present the national champions of the CEE countries.

The Open

The CrossFit Games Open 2020 is over and we already know who has qualified for the finals through the Open. The interesting part of the leaderboard, however, are the national champions – a solid group of studs who would not have made it to the games with the old format (open-regionals-finals).

The 2020 Games will be the second time we will see the national champions from many different countries around the world. Their debut in 2019 was not as spectacular as expected – most of them left the competition after the first one or two workouts. Despite this, the change in the format seems pretty successful as it gives more athletes a chance to compete.

Next year will be different – The CrossFit Games will take a whole week – almost double the competition days of the Finals in 2019. This sounds promising and the first expectations are toward the cuts. Maybe the athletes will be tested more than once before half of them pack their stuff and leave.

This will make the competition better and would give the national champions better chances for a solid performance. At the Games we will likely see a new breed of rising stars – especially outside US and the Northern states of Europe. 

In the current survey we point our attention to the National Champions from the region of Central and Eastern Europe where around 20 countries will send their best athletes to the Games. Only two years ago it would have been almost impossible for any of them to join the elite simply because all of the countries were packed into 2-3 qualifying spots because of the Regionals.

CrossFit Dream, the first official CrossFit box in Bulgaria, asked the national champions from the CEE region to take part in a survey on the expectations, the Open performance and the goals at the Games. We gathered information from about 30 athletes – males and females – so here are their thoughts.

Where is the CEE region in Open 2020?

As a region CEE stands far behind the US and Northern Europe in the Open leaderboard. Despite this, the region already has its great crossfit competitors and we see several rising stars that will be in the focus for the next decade. Roman Khrennikov from Russia does not need any introduction, he is already the most famous Eastern European in CrossFit.

However, we expect that the community will hear more and more about Lefteris Theofanidis (Greece),  the brothers Lazar and Luka Dukic from Serbia, Piotr Szczycinski (Poland) and Uldis Upenieks (Latvia). At the female front, you should pay attention to the names of Kara Frey (Slovakia), Laura Horvath (Hungary) and Gabriela Migala (Poland).

These athletes, however, are just the tip of the spear. We can see a bunch of other athletes in top 100 after the Open. They are mostly from Russia, Greece and Poland. 

After this solid pack of extremely competitive athletes follows the major group of CEE national champions – most of them are ranked in the range 300-1000. These athletes have a great potential to move forward in the coming years because of their age, goals and commitment to crossfit.

In the third part of the leaderboard are athletes with smaller capacity – most of them are from countries with less developed crossfit infrastructure and poor competition. For them the biggest reward will be participating at the Games – this is their leading motivation and their goals are capped by expectation for great experience and performing at their best.

Who to watch?

Make sure that you keep an eye on some of the best athletes from the region at the Games: Lefteris Theofanidis who won 20.1 and Lazar Dukic – with best 20.5 time. Our favorites among the ladies are Kara Frey, who finished at 9-th position worldwide and Gabriela Migala.

The athletes

Training plan

It is not a surprise: the top athletes in the National champions leaderboard of CEE are professional athletes. Competing is what they do. Khrennikov, Upenieks, Lazar Dukic, Martin Kruzlic (Slovakia), and of course Karin Frey (she is also a student), Gabriela Migala and Mariana Fedorenko (Ukraine).

Most of the participants in the survey say they are athletes and coaches at the same time, some of them are also affiliate owners. There is also a big group of athletes to whom crossfit is just a hobby and have a job outside the box. 

Our honest admiration goes to a small group of talented people who are affiliate owners, athletes and have “regular” jobsAugusin Vilicnik (Croatia), Ralitza Koterlitzova (Bulgaria) and Viki Ristoska (Macedonia). This hinders their abilities to train, thus spending significantly less time in the box working out.

An interesting fact is that there is no specific pattern regarding their training plan – one third of the athletes are following their own box programming, the other third – an online program. Only a fraction of them are following their own plan.


They may be new to the CrossFit Games finals, but they are not shy – there are bold statements and goals such as qualifying among the top 50. Lazar Dukic is the boldest with a goal for entering the top 10. Upenieks and Szczycinski are aiming at top 20 and a bunch of other athletes will be satisfied with top 50. Among the ladies we have Mariana Fedorenko shooting at top 10 and Thelma Christoforou at top 20.

Survey takeaways

The focus is on the lifts

We asked the participants to share their best results in some of the most prominent crossfit movements and benchmarks. There is no surprise: all athletes know their PRs in the snatch and the clean and jerk, the deadlift and the squat. But there is a different story with the bodywork benchmarks: almost no one either does not know or has not tested Cindy recently.

The most common answer to “What is your result on Cindy” is “I do not know”. Guys, be more serious about gymnastics work, please!

Most of the athletes have a background in sports

It doesn’t come as a surprise that most of the national champions have a decent sports experience – be it football, volleyball or water polo. Most of the girls have gymnastics or weightlifting background, which makes their foundations solid.

CrossFit is more than a hobby, it is a lifestyle

Most of the athletes use words like health, fun, life, friends while describing crossfit. It is a challenge too. So if you are just a beginner be ready – you may fall in love with it very soon!

*Poland, Hungary, Czech Rep., Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Moldova and Croatia

Luka Dukic: Varna and Plovdiv Throwdowns could become European competitions

Luka Dukic: Varna and Plovdiv Throwdowns could become European competitions

This year a young star captured our attention – a 21-years old boy won the two major Bulgarian throwdowns – Varna and Plovdiv. We talked with Luka about his training, goals and performance

Tell us about you – how did you find CrossFit – do you have sport background?

I was playing football for 11 years and i had injury where i break my leg. In recovery process i gained 5kg more than i used to have so i wanted something where i can cut that weight fast. In that time my older brother Lazar started with crossfit so i joined him on few trainings and then i went to some small local competition to compete in teens category and  that is how everything started 😀

Is CrossFit what you do – are you a coach? Are you full time in?

I work as a coach for only 3 hours every day, from 17:00 to 20:00, all other time that i have in a day is focused on training or recovery or more training 😁

What does CrossFit give you and what does it take? What is it to be a competitor?

Like any other sport, if you want to be succsesfull you have to sacriface a lot, a lot of training takes a lot of time so you dont have time for too much else in your day. Your life is revolved around your training but if you love competition and you love to see that you are improving yourself every day, then crossfit is number one for that 😉 And of course every achievement is motivation to push even harder.

When did the results come – and when did you decide to compete? Did you achieve something specific or you just decided to challenge yourself?

I started with competing bassicaly the same time when i started with CrossFit, first i started with small local competitions in our country, then with scaled category on some bigger events and then i decided that its time for competing with big guys. After every competition I felt more ready for Elite category but first bigger results happened after a lot of setbacks.

Which is the rule that you follow everyday? Is there an universal truth or unavoidable tip for having results in CrossFit?

How do you eat – what is your regimen and daily calories intake? Is there a list of forbidden foods?

I try to eat good and healthy, but i am not counting my macros or calorie intake, i try to eat enough so that i can keep my energy high during the day and. List of forbidden foods is really long for me 😂 but i will say: nothing with too much sugar, bread, and cola drinks.

What would you say to someone, who is just starting CrossFit? What are the three most important tips?

Number 1: Build good movement patterns, tehnique and mobility before starting with more serious training.

Number 2: Decide if you want to do want to train for your health or for competition and set your goals realistic according to that.

Number 3: Leave your ego at the door, learn to listen and make that your best hour of the day!

Where is the difference between CrossFit as hobby and CrossFit as competitive sport?

Difference is big, esspecially with aproaching training, there is no competitive sport on this world that is 100% healthy and people have to understeand that, there is big difference in volume of training and pushing your body, esspecially on competitions. 

Both side of CrossFit are beautifull but sometimes everyday people tend to forget how much work professional athletes are putting to stay healthy and that is moment when injury can happen.

What are your goals now? Are you ready for the Games given the new rules and the reach choice of Sanctional events?

At the moment my goal is to focus 100% on the Crossfit Games Open, the Open is really important cause you can earn ticket for the Games but also a lot of important Sanctionals are using the Open as the way to qualify so there is a lot on the line. I really like this new format because there is a lot of competitions out there and there is a lot of chance for athlete to make a living from competing if he wants to but also a chance to travel the world and do what you love.

Tell us about our events in Bulgaria – how do you feel, what needs to be improved?

I competed at both Varna and Plovdiv throwdown this year and i took first place at both competitions, i was really impressed with how big this events are and how much people love CrossFit in Bulgaria, i made a lot of new friendships and i enjoyed every second of both competitions, I think that everything was perfect at both competitions and that organizators did amazing job. This is way to go for both Varna and Plovdiv and if they keep the same level of competition for next years they will be well known in Europe!

Loius Reed: Crossfit is more about the commodity and bettering each other together

Loius Reed: Crossfit is more about the commodity and bettering each other together

Here is a short interview with our friend Louis Reed from the U.S. Here is why Louis is so in love with Crossfit:

Name, age, profession?

Louis Reed I’m 22 years old and I am a military security guard at the U.S. Embassy here in Sofia.

Why did you choose to workout in our box?

I’ve always been interested in trying crossfit out, so I search for a box in the area, and Crossfit Dream came up.

How is CrossFit different from fitness and other sports you have tried?

Crossfit is more about the commodity, and bettering each other together. Everyone there is there to workout and have fun.

What are the advantages of CrossFit in your opinion?

It’s something different for me, coming from mainly a bodybuilding type background. Now I’m winding my mind to the other compound lifts are so familiar to me.

What is the atmosphere in our box?

From the moment you walk in your greeted by the sweet receptionist, then you get trash talked by the coaches for not being there (cause they missed you). You just feel at home there, everyone, even people you have not yet met are happy to see you.

Bruno Henruiques: There is a great community in the box

Bruno Henruiques: There is a great community in the box

Today we present you Bruno Henriques. He is doing crossfit with us for more than a year. Here is what Bruno likes in crossfit in general and in CrossFit Dream

Name, age, profession?

Bruno, 32, Project Manager

Why did you choose to workout in our box?

It’s the only affiliated box in Sofia. But that’s not the only reason. After trying it, I was very happy with the support the trainers gave me, the varied daily programs, and with the overall atmosphere of the box.

How is CrossFit different from fitness and other sports you have tried?

Every training day is a different training day. There’s no time for boredom or repeating the same drills every time. Even when you repeat the WODs, you do it with the mindset to improve something, either the time, or technique, or you add a bit more weight.

It also gives you a good foundation to start creating your own program, according to your personal needs, for those days when you train by yourself.

What are the advantages of CrossFit in your opinion?

The people and the program. The workouts are always different so you are able to get a complete training and improve different areas, like strength, technique, endurance, and gymnastics. When you walk into the box you don’t know what’s the program for the day, but you know you can expect a complete workout.

It’s also great to train within a like-minded group of people that are full of energy and like to push themselves.

What is the atmosphere in our box?

There’s a good balance between competitiveness and fun. It’s a great community.

If you are ready to join CrossFIt Dream – here is our schedule. We are waiting for you!

A lot of sweat with our WOW

Today I would like to suggest to you the workout we did yesterday in the gym. It is based on exercises we have taken from crossfit and the combination is highly effective. We can surely say this was the WOW from the last week.

You have to do it for the shortest time possible!

100 squats (just once) and afterwards 5 rounds of:

15 kettlebell swings
-3 pullups
15 knees to elbows or toes to bar

100 situps (just once)

If you think this workout will make you lose sense of your legs – you are wrong 🙂

I expect your comments on which part of your body was most exhausted!


An endurance challenge – rowing and KB swings

It’s time for a workout…you are looking for a different and more intensive training? Here I suggest to you a hard one 🙂

Today we will discuss how to row with a Concept2 rowing machine – the best in the professional class and the most often used by professional athletes, crossfitters and all kinds of sport freaks. In the gym we have two of those, which gives you the opportunity to compete, having in mind they can be connected through bluetooth.

We start with a light warmup of 500-600m rowing. Afterwords we make a few swings with a kettlebell and box jumps at 42cm.

And the workout is:

1. Rowing– 500m
2. Kettlebell swing – 10 reps
3. Box jumps at 42cm- 10 reps

This is just one round of the workout. You have to make 5 rounds for the shortest time possible.

The kettlebell for women is 16kg and for men – 24kg. The box is 42cm for everyone.

I wish you luck!


The shortest 3 minutes in yout life!

Please don’t think that working out at the gym makes just your body stronger…it reflects on your soul and will, too. The workout we are going to offer you today is challenge for the will, as well as for the body. At first it looks scary, but actually this is not true at all.

Here it is:

  • 10 kettlebell swings;
  • 5 burpees

do as many rounds as you can for 7 min. and have 3 min. rest;

  • 10 reps of deadlift ( at half of your bodyweight);
  • 5 pullups

You should do again as many rounds as possible and then have a 3 min. rest;

  • 10 thrusters
  • 5 “toes to bar”

Again – AMRAP for 7 min.

Your goal is to make as many rounds as possible of those movements for 7 min. Is the gym too small for you now? The workout actually is not that hard at all…you just need to believe in yourself and do your best…after that you should breathe deep in, take a shower and realize how beautiful the world could be after a crosfit workout 🙂


Avocado and Banana Cream

Avocado and Banana Cream

This is a quick, easy, tasty and healthy recipe for a home-made dessert. It is a perfect way to reward yourself and regain strength after a hard workout, but it can also be a part of your breakfast, if you want to have a tasty kick-start of your day 🙂


  • 1 avocado
  • 1 banana
  • 2 teaspoons of  powdered cacao
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 50 gr. walnuts, almonds or other raw nuts

You can also add shredded coconut, if you like (no more than 2 teaspoons)

The recipe:

Peel and cut the avocado and the banana into pieces. Mix them well with a fork or a kitchen robot, so they get homogeneous. Add the honey and the powdered cacao and stir. The nuts can be milled or cut into tiny pieces – add them, together with the shredded coconut and mix well. Refrigerate for 30 min.

The dessert contains a lot of simple carbohydrates, as well as healthy fatty acids. Please, consume wisely! 🙂

Bon apetit!

The perfect breakfast!

The perfect breakfast!

Here is a very often asked question in the gym: ‘What should I have for breakfast, especially before a workout?’

Here is a one of our suggestions for a great start of your day, which is quick, easy and very tasty at the same time. The macro-nutrients are well balanced and this recipe is suitable for people trying to lose weight, as well as for those who wish to increase their lean body mass. Of course, quantity is what matters.

The Products:

  • 4 eggs
  • 200gr. yogurt
  • a little baking powder
  • a handful of shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 100gr shredded oatmeal
  • butter

The Recipe:

Stir the baking soda into the yogurt and add it to the mixed eggs. Then step by step add the oatmeal, the coconut and the cinnamon.Now you have a relatively thick mixture. Put a little butter in a hot teflon pan, wait until it gets hot and put a scoop of the mixture in it. In about 2 minutes turn the pancake on the other side, wait for another minute and put it aside. Then put a little butter in the pan again and bake the next one. Repeat until the mixture is over 🙂 With the cited quantity you will make about 9-10 cute and very tasty pancakes. You can have them with sweet or salty garnish, depending on your mood, preferences and diet. Some very good combinations are those with honey, blackberry jam, cheese, yellow cheese, dried fruits, nuts, but our favorite is a pancake with avocado and banana cream.

After such a breakfast you will start your day in the best possible way for sure and will have enough power for the WOW (Workout of the Week), that we kindly prepare for you every Monday!

Bon Apetit!

Mads Jakobsen: More and more people will fall in love with Crossfit

Mads Jakobsen: More and more people will fall in love with Crossfit

Today I present you an interview with Mads Jakobsen – a star in the CrossFit community, coach of the World’s Team* and a very inspiring person. We know each other since 2010, when we attended together a CrossFit Seminar in Holland. Here is what he said specially for CrossFit Dream:

1. Please, tell us about yourself. How do you usually spend your day?

I work for Reebok in the Nordics, so I usually spend my days managing the partnerships Reebok has in the Nordics. Once I am done with my work during the day I usually go to the box to workout. I am fortunate enough that CrossFit Nordic lets me coach classes there on a regular basis, so whenever I get the chance to coach I will also do that.

2. You are the coach of the World’s Team. What’s the feeling to train the best Crossfitters?

It has been an amazing opportunity to get to coach Team World and Team Europe at the Invitationals. I have been fortunate enough to meet the athletes in the team many times before we met at the Invitationals, so it was more a feeling of meeting up with old friends when we met at the Invitationals.

3. What is it like to look straight in the eyes of stars like Rich Froning?

I am genuinely impressed with all the stars of the CrossFit community! They are inspirational both in their performance as athletes, and as people. So the feeling I get when I meet people like Rich is that he is an amazing human being, father, husband and son. We get along very well, so when we meet it is like catching up with a good friend!

4. How do you motivate your trainees?

What motivates people is different from athlete to athlete. I think the most important thing to do in an environment like the Invitationals, where the time we have before it is crunch time s so limited, is to make sure that we all have the same goal, and we agree on the tools we want to use to be successful. When I coach individuals or teams over a longer period of time, our motivation is the common, goal, and we will then find the triggers that motivate the team or the athletes together.

5. What are your goals in CrossFit and how do you think this sport will develop?

My goals in CrossFit as an individual is to be healthy and to always evolve as an athlete – I want to improve on the things I am bad at, and try to maintain or excel at the the things I feel comfortable with! I think the future of CrossFit is pretty self explanatory – CrossFit will continue to grow and more and more people will find their passion for training through CrossFit.

6. What is more important – at which box does one train or who is the coach?

I think the most important ingredients for someone who wants to be successful is that they are motivated and inspired all the time. That they feel comfortable and challenged at the same time. In order for this to happen the athlete has to be at a box that provides this and have a coach that inspires this. So the answer is really that you need both – without one or the other no athlete will be truly successful!

7. What would you say to the people, who are starting CrossFit now? And to those, who already are practicing?

Define yourself and your endeavors through what you love to do! Defining yourself by what you dont like is counterproductive, and will never lead you to succeed! Be curious and continue to explore – the perfect answer to anything is yet to be written!

*The World’s team includes the six best athletes (3 men and 3 women) who face the USA Team in 2013 in the second competition of this type in Berlin. The athletes coached by Mads won the competition with 24:19. In 2014 the rules changed and the teams are now 4: USA, Europe, Australia and Canada (2 men and 2 wemen each). Mads is the coach of Europe’s Team.