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September 20, 2018

The New Games Format: Everything We Know So Far + Who’s Most Affected

Written by William Imbo

In an effort to get back to the core of CrossFit and better represent the globalization of the sport of fitness, CrossFit Chairman Greg Glassman announced big changes to the Games last month:

  • The Open is moving to October, starting with the 2020 CrossFit Games season. Yes, this means there will be TWO Opens in 2019: The usual one in February for the 2019 CrossFit Games and another in October to kick off the 2020 Games season.
  • There will be no more regional competitions.
  • Instead, every country with a CrossFit affiliate (currently 162 countries) will send its top female, male and team to the CrossFit Games. The top individuals will be determined by the Open.
  • Individuals can also qualify for the Games by winning one of 16 CrossFit-sanctioned competitions from November through June. The competitions currently confirmed by Glassman are:
    • The Granite Games
    • Wodapalooza
    • The Dubai Fitness Championship
    • The French Throwdown
    • Though competitions weren’t named, Glassman also announced event locations in China (IWF?), Australia (Commonwealth Games?), Iceland, Cape Town (Reebok Fittest in Cape Town?), Ohio (The Arnold?), Del Mar (Proving Grounds Competition?) and Amsterdamn (The Amsterdam Throwdown?)
  • In 2019 only, CrossFit will also invite the top 20 worldwide finishers in the Open who are neither national champions nor winners of a sanctioned event.
  • With nearly 200 athletes of each gender competing, the first part of the Games will involve mass elimination events to cull the field to a manageable number.
  • Athletes who qualify through a sanctioned event will have some kind of advantage for these elimination events, though the exact leg up has not yet been detailed.
  • Teams can only qualify through the sanctioned events, and teammates do not have to train at the same affiliate, as in the past. This opens up the possibility of four-person “superteams,” pulling together the fittest two male and female athletes from all over the world.
  • Teens and Master’s age groups will still qualify through the Open and then the Online Age Group Qualifier.

With Regionals completely out, new qualifying events in, and a male and female qualifier for each country with an affiliate, athletes around the globe have to completely rethink their training ­– or not. While everyone is affected by the changes in some way, certain groups might be more so than others.

1. Most affected: Regianals & “bubble” athletes
With the new format, the term “Regionals Athlete” is now a thing of the past. For many athletes and teams, doing well in the Open and making it to Regionals was actually the end goal. Further, depending on the country, regional athletes who were previously on the “bubble” of qualifying for the Games are now looking at a much narrower chance with far fewer spots available, especially in the U.S. Yes, there are the 16 CrossFit-sanctioned competitions they could qualify through, but traveling and entry fees add up. If you aren’t sponsored and don’t have a pile of previous winnings to draw from, money creates an entry barrier for many.

2. Definitely affected: Middle-of-the-pack Games athletes
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we likely won’t see the usual cast of characters in upcoming Games seasons. Even those who will place competitively in the Open or podium at these sanctioned events (2nd & 3rd place finishers) aren’t guaranteed a spot at the Games. The middle-of-the-pack Games athletes will likely be watching the 2019 Games with the rest of us instead of competing.

3. Somewhat affected: Affiliate owners/programmers
This has more to do with the shift of the Open than anything. You’ve probably noticed hashtags like #openprep and #theopeniscoming start to float around December through February as boxes ramp up for the beginning of Games season. You’re more likely to be practicing things like stringing multiple reps together and honing skills that you’re on the cusp of grasping. These are things that affiliate owners and programmers have to consider months ahead of time. So with these changes coming, and TWO opens to plan for in 2018, they have their work cut out for them.

5. More affected than they may think: Everyday CrossFitters
While the only perceived change for those simply completing the Open workouts is a new timeline, these are the athletes who Glassman wants to focus on as the company moves forward. Glassman estimates only 300-500 boxes around the world have sent an athlete to the Games, but 1,500 or more, out of 15,000, have shaved 100 pounds off a member. “The miracle at the box is the health,” Glassman said in an interview. These CrossFitters may see a shift in CrossFit’s presence, social media and messaging that speaks more to them than the elite firebreathers on the competition side of the sport.

Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

About William Imbo

William Imbo is an Associate Editor at BoxLife magazine, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and holds an MPS in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University. He is an avid CrossFitter and loves film, music and travel, thanks to having grown up across Europe. A fan of the New Orleans Saints and Newcastle United, Will's favorite CrossFit girl is Helen-least favorite being Isabel.

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