With the second phase of the CrossFit Games happening this weekend, we spoke with CrossFit HQ’s commentator and analyst, Tommy Marquez, to get his take on the Aromas based, streamlined version of the 2020 Games. With the spectacle of the coliseum stripped away, Castro has taken us back to the birthplace of the fittest on earth. Check out our interview below for Tommy’s insight into what might take place out at the Ranch.  FITAID: In terms of coverage and presentation of the Games, what challenges and opportunities did the purely online format of the first phase present? How have the lessons learned in phase one informed the media team's approach to the final phase of the Games? Marquez: The biggest challenge was creating relevant media covering the event in what was as close to as real time as possible. In a time where media coverage, and everything involving sports is centered around instant results, instant feedback, and live action coverage, the logistics of stage one simply couldn't allow for that to happen so crafting coverage in a way that felt as close to that as possible was tough. It did provide an opportunity to get creative and find ways to emulate coverage or analysis without the typical timelines. FITAID: Much of the spectacle of the Games has been stripped away (coliseum, fans, etc). What impact do you anticipate that having on the athletes? How do you intend to keep the excitement levels high for those of us watching from home? Marquez: There's a certain level of gamesmanship that comes with competing on the biggest stage of any sport that will be missing this year. The elements of atmosphere like the energy of the crowd and the spectacle of the arena can amplify or shrink an athlete's performances. The pressure exposes elements - good or bad - of their mental game and competitive spirit. While it will certainly look and feel different, the competition at the Ranch won't be completely devoid of these types of tests, so to keep the excitement level high, it will be important to identify and highlight the unique and new ways that the competition in Aromas will test the athletes mental resolve and ability to adapt to the moment. We may not ever get a moment like this again, so it's important to remind the viewership of that because that alone is exciting in a certain way. FITAID: On the men's side there are a fair amount of new faces in comparison to the previous year's leaderboards. Who is the standout amongst the new crowd? Marquez: The biggest standout by far for me is Justin Medeiros. He's the only rookie in the field and he's made quite the splash already. At only 21 years old he has a tremendous career ahead of him but he's carried himself with the poise and mindset of someone a decade older than him. In his first year on the big stage he's already won a Sanctional (the Filthy 150 in Ireland), and has already earned himself a top 5 finish at the Games and a potential podium spot. Since the Games left the Ranch in 2010, the only men to podium in their Rookie years were Rich Froning, Josh Bridges, Mat Fraser, and Patrick Vellner. Granted Justin still has to earn his way into that group this weekend but that would be some amazing company right there. FITAID: Obviously, Mat & Tia are the reigning champions several years running. Of the athletes that have moved on to phase two, who do you think poses the biggest threat to their continued dominance and does the new format of the Games itself help or hinder that effort? Marquez: The body of work that Mat & Tia have compiled leads me to believe that this format will only help them. Everyday they train head to head, champion vs champion, in a smaller, more close-quarter environment like they'll see at the Ranch, only with better competition pushing them. As far as the biggest threats I think there's.a short term, and a long term answer for each. Short term, Noah Ohlsen and Katrin Davidsdottir pose the biggest threat, their pedigree and experience make them more at home standing shoulder to shoulder with them than anyone else. Long term it has to be Haley Adams and Justin Medeiros. They're so skilled at such a young age, and they have plenty of time to continue to improve and fine tune plus they have great teams behind them. FITAID: What do you think are the inherent advantages and challenges of having a limited field in the final events? In the past, while there have always been people ahead on the leaderboard there was always a chance for a comeback. Will an athlete pulling away at the beginning diminish the excitement of the Games? Marquez: The advantages will be that the athletes have a clearer picture the whole way through of what needs to be done in each event. There's only one heat, and your entire group of opponents is right in front of you and you don't need to worry about an outlier from an earlier heat, or in the mass start events (bike, swim, run, etc.) someone getting squirrely and taking you out. That same element is also a disadvantage if you're far behind or underperforming and the gaps mid-workout or overall are wide. With bigger groups you can set mini goals and chip away by passing one athlete here, another one there, along the way to get to your goal, but even though the point spreads are bigger, you could be staring at 100+ point gaps that FEEL much larger than they are, and hurt the psyche a bit. I fully expect Mat or Tia (or both) to pull away, and just like Regionals or Games past, the race for the podium is where the excitement will be assuming that there's actually a race there. FITAID: Depending on the trajectory of the pandemic, the 2021 Games could be executed in a variety of different ways. Is CrossFit HQ already considering some of their options for next year? Marquez: Both the new CEO and Owner Eric Roza, and Director of Sport Dave Castro has stated that they are considering options and working to build a season that is flexible enough to push forward through the pandemic restrictions should they continue while still providing plenty of competition and entertainment options for fans and athletes so season still feels complete and legitimate. Since the sale of the company, the demeanor and spirit within the community and sport has been reinvigorated so I have full faith that 2021 will be great. At the core of the CrossFit Games it serves as a proving ground for elite fitness, regardless of the amount of fans watching or grandeur of the coliseum. With Tommy Marquez at the commentator helm, this year’s innovative Games format will be sure to excite both new and OG CrossFit fans. Be sure to check out who is chosen as the Fittest as the ten finalists throw down at the Ranch this weekend.