In 2018, roughly 429,000 athletes participated in The CrossFit Open. Only 25,000 people participated back in 2011. In short, the sport has exploded. Therein lies the problem Greg Glassman is trying to solve through the new CrossFit season format.
The growth CrossFit Inc. has seen is international, yet the representation is still roughly the same year over year.
In the good ol’ days, all CrossFit athletes participated in the The CrossFit Open. From there, the top athletes in each of the 18 world-wide regions move on to a another competition called, Regionals.
For the past several years, the old format of the CrossFit Games season was as follows:
“The season culminates in the Reebok CrossFit Games. At this point in the season, the field has been whittled down from hundreds of thousands of athletes in the Open to the world's fittest 40 men, 40 women, 40 teams, 80 teenagers, and 240 masters.”
For more information on how things used to be, you can read about it’s extensive history here.
As of right now, 162 countries have licensed CrossFit affiliates. Because of the Open alone, all of these countries will now be represented at the 2019 CrossFit Games. In 2018, there were only 32 different flags represented at the Games. Greg Glassman is determined to ensure every country that practices CrossFit sends an athlete to the Games. Here’s how...
The top male and female from every country with a CrossFit affiliate will receive an invitation to the Games. Can you imagine how difficult it is to win the Open if you’re in a country like USA, Canada, U.K., or Australia? Don’t expect to see many of the big names competing seriously in the Open. They may participate to keep things interesting (and in order to be seeded well for the Games), but I don’t think any of them are doing it expecting to win and have that be their meal ticket.
In addition to the top finishers of each country, the next best 20 athletes from the worldwide Open will be invited as well.
There will be two Opens in 2019. Our first Open of the year just kicked off on February 21st, and will run will 5 weeks. This if Open will be a similar structure to the one we’re used to. The other Open will be in October. The October Open will help determine the athletes participating in the 2020 games. From then on, the Open will be in October only. As of right now, we have no insight as to what the October Open will look like or when the 2020 Games will take place.
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My not-so-bold prediction: Expect to see clause that includes the “next best” 20 athletes from the Open eliminated once the Open moves to October. These 20 spots are being added in for 2019 simply because there isn’t enough time to run all 16 Sanctioned Events before the 2019 Games. We’ll get to the Sanctionals in a second.
As of right now, there are roughly 162 countries with licensed CrossFit affiliates. That means we will see 324 athletes qualify for the Games through the open + 20 more. Bringing us to a total of 344 individual athletes, up from 80 last year. Teams will not qualify through the Open.
A thought worth noting from Coach Ben: With how many athletes missed the Games last year, you can’t help but wonder how many will miss it this year due to visa issues. The top male Europe qualifier couldn't come last year due to visa complications, and I would expect similar situations to arise this year.
There are no longer Regional events. When rumours first started flying last fall about the upcoming changes, it became evident that Regionals would be the first to go. To quote Glassman,
“It’s extremely expensive. Look at the Brazil (regional) event. We’re at the venue where the Olympics were held. It cost me over a million dollars and what comes out of it is 2 people go to the Games,” source
So instead of nine regional events on four continents, we now have 16 CrossFit Sanctionals, spread across the entire world. Yes, Sanctionals™ is now an official CrossFit trademarked word, so be sure to add it to your vocabulary.
There is no longer a CrossFit Invitational event. Instead, there are now CrossFit Sanctioned Competitions.
As for today, there are 21 official CrossFit Sanctioned events, although 6 will not premier until the 2020 season. These events will spread across 14 different countries.
The winning male, female, and team will receive an invitation to participate at the Games in Madison, Wisconsin.
16 men, 16 women, and 16 teams will advance to the Games from these events. Raising our total participation at the Games to 376 Individuals and 16 teams.
Teams no longer have to belong to the same affiliate. CrossFit is taking a page out of the NBA’s playbook. Here come the Super Teams... let the Kevin Durant & LeBron James comparisons begin! Froning is obviously Jordan.
However, the only way teams can now qualify is through Sanctionals. According to the rulebook the team’s six (two alternates) members must comprise the four athletes who competed at the Sanctionals competition on the same team, plus two alternates (one man and one woman).
After the names of those six members is provided to the Games staff, the team may only use those athletes to field their team at the 2019 CrossFit Games.
Just a few changes for you guys. The rulebook states that age group athletes are still going to compete in the Open in order to make the cut to compete in the Online Qualifier. From there, the qualifier will decide who goes on to the Games.
That said, the number of athletes qualifying for each division was lowered to 10 (down from 20). The number remains the same (200) for the number of athletes in each division who can qualify for the Online Qualifier.
Like in years past, age-group athletes submitting scores have to use a registered judge, as well as videotape workouts, since at least one video will asked to be submitted for review once the OLQ wraps up. There’s also the option to elect to submit workout videos online for judging and validation.
New this year, CrossFit Inc. did wipe out the rule that placements in the Open will carry over and be used to count as an event placement for the Age Group Qualifiers. Which makes the OLQ more of a ‘clean slate’.
One last thing worth noting from the official rulebook:
Ties on the overall leaderboard for Online Qualifier will be broken by awarding the best position to the athlete who has the highest result in any single Online Qualifier workout. If athletes remain tied after this first tiebreaker, the process continues to their next-highest single result, and so forth. Results from individual Open workouts will NOT be used to break ties on the overall Online Qualifier leaderboard. Ties will not be broken for single event results. More than one athlete can share an event result, and each will earn the original point value.
It looks like the workouts will start to be released later than last year, starting on May 2nd, 2019. The submission deadline is Monday, May 6th.
CrossFit Inc. reserves the right to send 4 athletes who have failed to qualify otherwise to the Games. This is a complete CYA move. If a fan favorite fails to qualify through the Open or through a sanctioned event, you can believe Dave Castro will send a quick text message saying, “I got you covered, boo. You've always had the capacity in my eyes <3”.
Inevitably, this will be very controversial, and reminds us, again, that this is a private company and they make their own rules.
My not-so-bold prediction: expect these four places to go to the athletes with the largest social media following.
Since there will be so many individuals (almost 400) at The Games, expect the first handful of events to be a “culling of the herd”. From what I’m gathering, we can expect to see about 75 - 90% of the field eliminated in the first half of The Games events. The remaining Games events would be more of what we’re used to: 40 men & 40 women competing for a chance at the title.
There will also be a “seeding” of some sort. I’m thinking this will allow higher seeds to either pass the “culling of the herd” stage altogether, or at least compete in the later heats so they know the times to beat.
“Overall competitor seeding at the Games will be determined by athletes' scores in the 2019 worldwide CrossFit Open. Athletes who do not participate in the Open (and thus do not receive an Open score) will receive the lowest seeding and will compete in the first qualifying heats at the 2019 Games. Higher seeded athletes will compete in later heats. Any athlete who qualifies for the Games as a national champion or with a top-twenty placement in the 2019 Open can improve their seeding and possibly qualify for a bye out of the first qualifying elimination round by winning a sanctioned event, regardless of whether that sanctioned event occurs before or after the Open in the 2019 competitive season.”
Nothing changes here, the Games are still to be held in Madison, Wisconsin, through 2021. Book your AirBnB now, I hear Madison is nice in the summertime.
Greg Glassman has gone on record saying he wants the Games to reflect the international impact CrossFit is having. The current format doesn’t allow for that. If you remember the 2018 Games flag ceremony, only a handful of countries were represented. Even then, American flags (Canada included) were the overwhelming majority. BORING! Everyone knows CrossFit is an international sport and our main event should be represented as such. Good Job Glassman!
We have yet to see if this new format will “even the playing field”. Or if it will be a huge disaster for the CrossFit brand and the athletes that have become household names. Only time will tell.
What are your thoughts on the new format? Is this good for the sport? Or is this the beginning of the end?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
Disclaimer: WODprep is not associated with CrossFit® in any way and these opinions are separate from the CrossFit® brand.
Another member of the WODprep team, Sunny tries to balance out an unhealthy social media addiction (mainly IG & YT) during the day by reading self-improvement books in the morning and biographies of the world's most successful before bed. Advocates CrossFit® memberships for three major reasons: 1) They're expensive, which always pushes me over the edge when I'm on the fence about going to class. 2) Surrounds yourself with high achievers (in one discipline or another) 3) It's easy if you can just show up: the programming is done for you, a coach's feedback is available to you, and there's a built-in support group.
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