This past week the CrossFit Games season officially began with the announcement of 14.1 last Thursday (a 10-minute AMRAP of 30 double-unders and 15 power snatches), a repeat of the first-ever Open workout from 2011 (11.1). Whilst it was interesting to see how Games athletes had improved on their scores from 11.1, what is perhaps more fascinating to note is how the number of participants in the Open has grown since the format was introduced in 2011. With 14.1 now in the books, CrossFit recently announced that more than 204,000 competitors signed up to tackle the workout. This marks an eight-fold growth in Open participation from 2011, when 26,000 people registered with Rich Froning (448 reps) and Annie Thorisdottir (405 reps) turning in the top performances. As a comparison, for 14.1 Samantha Briggs hit 472 reps and Dan Bailey tallied 461 reps.
The exponential growth of CrossFit, aided by social media, ESPN coverage and Reebok’s sponsorship and marketing campaigns has exposed far greater numbers of people around the world to CrossFit. As such, the 48% increase in participation since 2011 isn’t that surprising, but it’s still great to see the community growing and people having the confidence to sign up and compete in the Open (over 100,000 athletes are first-time participants this year). Indeed, CrossFit has tried to make the Open workouts as inclusive as possible, whilst still retaining the core elements of CrossFit skills and abilities to ensure the cream of the crop do rise to the top.
However, 2014 is the first year that registrations for the Open haven’t doubled. Now, there could be a variety of reasons for this. As the CrossFit audience matures and the majority of registrants realize that they won’t be going to Regionals, the allure of spending $20 simply to compete in the Open might lose it’s appeal. Another factor might be the workout itself. Double unders can be a difficult skill to master completely, and if an athlete has to resort to one single to a double under, or purely singles, they might not want to get frustrated by consistently having to stop and start.
But even though overall growth has slowed, the numbers of people participating in the Open are bigger than ever. This just goes to show that the community involvement (and a major purpose of the Open) is as strong as ever. The Open is designed to have athletes test themselves and see where they stand, and whilst most people won’t be competitive, it doesn’t hurt to challenge your friends and fellow athletes at your box. In fact, that’s half the fun! And with Games athletes getting better and better (Sam Briggs 14.1 score beat everyone this year and in 2011), the Open performances should continue to challenge and motivate us all.