As the CrossFit® Open 2020 gets underway the world collectively can’t seem to bring themselves to care. Affiliate owners cringe as they ask their athletes to participate in something they no longer believe in, but are invested in like child rearing with an ex. According to barbend.com the amount of athletes participating in the 2020 CrossFit Open has dropped 34%. With a registration fee of $20 per athlete, the CrossFit Games just took a $2 million hit.
How could a global fitness phenomenon like the CrossFit Open experience such exponential growth over the course of 11 years deflate faster than an air mattress in a house full of cats?
In the summer of 2019, Director of the CrossFit Games: Dave Castro pulled a move that left the 15,000 CrossFit Affiliates and 341,501 athletes participating in the five week competition utterly speechless. He restructured the bracket for finding the fittest person on earth. He changed a system that had a proven track record of success into an illogical failure at his own expense.
Prior to 2019 the world was divided into nine regions. The top five athletes from each region would advance to the CrossFit Games.
Sweeping change was afoot in early 2019 when the public was notified that athletes participating in the upcoming 2019 season would earn their spot by being the top athlete in their country.
Theoretically it made sense. After all, the Olympics recognizes athletes by country and at the 2018 CrossFit Games they organized an opening ceremony reminiscent of the Olympics where athletes were grouped by country, ceremoniously carrying their beloved flag. After this spectacle many presumed the Games were gunning for a legitimate Olympic bid. I thought the same, but after a phone call with CrossFit Head of Human Resources, Kyla Hayden I changed my tune. Hayden confidently reassured me CrossFit was attempting nothing of the sort.
With these perceived attempts to legitimize the sport in the eyes of the Olympic Committee the CrossFit community took a pragmatic approach hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. Much to the chagrin of the community the latter played out rather acrimoniously.
On July 19th, a mere 13 days before the CrossFit Games a bombshell announcement went out that nearly 50% of participating athletes would nihilistically be cut after the very first event of an 12 event competition spanning the course of four days.
Athletes from less competitive countries were left with the harsh realization that their countless hours of fundraising and navigating the financial burden of entry fees, plane tickets, hotels, meals, and time off work was all in vain. The first event was time capped at 20:00min after which 132 athletes were free to pack their bags and go home.
Ethically it felt like a slap in the face. Not just to the competitors, but to the global CrossFit community. I stopped CrossFitting regularly in 2017 and when I heard the news from a friend my jaw hit the floor. I tuned in to the post Games press conference just in time to see Castro smugly swing the microphone around while shrugging with indifference as the faces of the podium finishers on the panel conveyed embarrassment, remorse, and acceptance that they were now caught in the crosshairs. Their moment of triumph, celebration, and hard work had been stolen. The careers they have been working on for nearly a decade now lacks a respectful governing body. Ironically, much like the Olympics.
Are there other venues for these athletes to compete and be respectfully recognized and compensated? Yes, but the Super Bowl of CrossFit known as the CrossFit Games is now in limbo. CrossFit founder Greg Glassman has transferred his paradigm to a more sustainable method for the average person who wishes to maintain health. Glassman has all but completely severed the CrossFit® brand from the CrossFit Games leaving the competitive CrossFit community in the hands of the questionable competence of Dave Castro.
The good news is other promoters of the sport are encroaching throughout the world hosting sanctional events and Castro has left his throne vulnerable to an overthrow, so now the question is: will the competitive community harness their inner rogue and reinstate their dignity as ambassadors to a global community?
Post Games Press Conference where Dave Castro addresses the changes [4:00]