For the second year in a row, the Spartan World Championship will be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This year’s championship race distance will be cut in half: Instead of a 21K Beast, as was the 2021 Spartan World Championship event, this year's deciding race will be a Super 10K for only the second time in Spartan history.
Several big names from the 2022 season won’t be making the trip to Abu Dhabi (like Gregory Basilico, Tyler Veerman, Hawk Call, Ryan Kempson, Lars Arneson, Albert Soley), but several of the world’s best will be taking part. Let’s take a quick look at some of the main contenders to wind up on the podium in Abu Dhabi.
The 2022 Spartan World Championship Contenders: Which Man Will Finish out the Year Strongest?
At 44 years young, Jeremie is looking to become the oldest top-10 finisher in Spartan World Championship history. Jeremie has nearly 20 podiums to his name at National Series races in France, Italy, and Spain since 2018, and had two top-five finishes at the Trifecta World Championship last month.
Look up a video of Jeremie’s running form and you’ll see one of the smoothest strides in the sport. If the sand is “fast” and allows athletes to open up their stride, Jeremie could find himself with the lead pack.
You don’t just accidentally win a race at the Trifecta World Championship. Pavel took home this year's win in the Super, taking down many of the best European OCR athletes in the process. In fact, Pavel has a winning head-to-head record against every European who will be racing in Abu Dhabi, besides Richard Hynek and Sergei Perelygin.
One of the strongest and most obstacle-proficient athletes in the field, Pavel could move up several positions if the Sandbag and Bucket Carries are difficult.
All Richard has done since October is win his second straight Trifecta World Championship in Greece and take home his first European Regional Championship title in the UK. This will be the 10th race that Richard has run in the Middle East, so experience running in the desert will play to his advantage. Despite a disappointing 25th-place finish last year in Abu Dhabi, Richard should still be considered a favorite to podium after taking down Rylan and Sergei, among others, in Greece.
Ryan Atkins finally captured the only title that was missing in his illustrious career when he won the Spartan Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi last year. Atkins previously placed 2nd at the Spartan WC a ridiculous five times, finishing only 43 seconds behind the winner on average in those five contests. The other time Ryan missed the podium in his seven Spartan World Championships was when he took a “disappointing” 4th place in 2017. There isn’t a safer bet in the men’s field to end up on the podium than Ryan Atkins.
The North American Regional champion from Kelowna has had arguably the busiest race schedule of any podium contender this fall, and Abu Dhabi will be his second trip across the Atlantic in less than a month. Rylan placed 2nd overall at the Trifecta World Championship in Greece a week before racing three more times at the DEKA World Championship (2nd in DEKA Mile and 4th in DEKA Fit and DEKA Strong).
Rylan is as dangerous as anyone in the field on any terrain and often gets away with an obstacle failure most races, but there’s only so long that someone can hold a peak during a long race season. Does his body have enough for one last hard effort in the desert?
Last year was the first time Sergei was allowed to race at the Spartan World Championship, as his previous attempts to race at Lake Tahoe were denied when he couldn’t obtain a visa to travel to the U.S. His 2nd place finish may have surprised OCR fans in North America, but those who have seen him race around the world knew what Sergei was capable of.
Sergei has three Spartan Regional Championship titles to his name: Middle East-North Africa (2017), Europe (2018), and Asia-Pacific (2018). No podium contender has raced in the Middle East more than Sergei, who has nearly 20 career podiums in the desert terrain found in the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar.
No athlete on the men’s side is looking forward to the Spartan World Championship being a Super more than Veejay Jones. Veejay never had much success when the world title was a Beast course, as his best finish at Lake Tahoe was 12th in 2018. However, Veejay has made the podium in 46 consecutive races that have lasted 75 minutes or less, dating back to August 2017. This race is a Super, so it will almost certainly be won in under an hour.
After seeing how dominant Veejay was throughout the North American Elite Series and in the OCRWC 3K, it would be foolish to think he'll miss the podium.
Predicting the Top 5 Male Finishers for the Spartan World Championship
It’s time to make some predictions. Here’s who I think will finish in the top five, in order:
1. Veejay Jones
2. Ryan Atkins
3. Sergei Perelygin
4. Rylan Schadegg
5. Richard Hynek
Other men who weren’t listed above but have a good shot at cracking the top 10 include:
- Peter Ceniga (13th last year) – earned 7th at the European Championship, and has four career top-10 results at the Trifecta World Championship
- Pau Nacenta – earned 8th at the European Championship, and is consistently within 5% of the winner at major races
- Elias Tabac (19th last year) – could become the first Asian athlete to finish in the top 10
- Mervin Guarte – has a 1:50 PR in the 800 meter who has been dominant in Asia the past two years
Saleh Alsuwaidi – a fast local runner who finished 11th last year in Abu Dhabi