The CrossFit Games are an annual athletic competition owned and operated by CrossFit, Inc. and currently sponsored by Reebok. The competition has been held every summer since 2007. Athletes at the Games compete in workouts they learn about days, hours, or minutes beforehand. The workouts consist mostly of an assortment of standard aerobic, weightlifting, and gymnastics movements, as well as some additional surprise elements that are not part of the typical CrossFit regimen, such as obstacle courses, ocean swimming, softball throwing, or ascending a pegboard. Winners of the CrossFit Games earn the cash prizes and the title of "Fittest on Earth."
In 2007, the inaugural CrossFit Games were contested in Aromas, California, on a small ranch owned by the family of Games director Dave Castro. For the initial Games in 2007 and 2008, participation was open to anyone who made it to Aromas. The Games would also award an Affiliate Cup to the group from one CrossFit gym that had the best combined individual standings. In 2009, competitors had to qualify after over a hundred athletes had shown up in 2008. The athletes earned an invitation through either placing high enough in the previous year or through placing in the top worldwide in a set of qualifying events called Regionals hosted at a few CrossFit gyms. The CrossFit Games also added a separate set of team-based events for the Affiliate Cup, marking the first use of a designated Team Division, with teams of four (two men and two women).
Interest and participation in the event continued to grow, and in 2010, the qualification was adjusted to include hosting multiple Sectionals, a series of events open to all athletes in order to qualify for the one of the 17 Regionals. The 17 regions had Canada and the United States divided into 12 regions, with the remaining regions roughly corresponding the five other populated continents. The attendance at the Games also outgrew the ranch in Aromas and moved the Home Depot Center (later called the StubHub Center) in Carson, California. The Games also expanded the Team Division to groups of six athletes and added a Masters Division for individual men and women 55-years-old and up.
In 2011, the open participation Sectionals were replaced by an online qualification called the Open. In 2011, 26,000 athletes signed up to compete in the Open. In 2012–2018, participation was 69,000, 138,000, 209,000, 273,000, 324,307, 380,000, and 415,000 respectively.
In 2015, the qualification format changed from 17 regional events to eight. Each "super-regional" event included qualifiers from two or three of the previously defined regions, totaling 40 or 50 athletes at each event.
Following seven years in Carson, the Games moved to the grounds of the Dane County Expo Center and the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2017. The next year, the qualifying Regionals were once again realigned due to increased competitiveness and popularity outside of Canada and the US. In 2018, there were nine Regionals hosted among 18 redefined regions with Europe increasing to three regions, Central America split from South America, while eliminating the Northern and Southern California regions.
CrossFit, Inc. founder Greg Glassman overhauled the format for the 2019 games, replacing the Regionals with CrossFit-sanctioned international qualifying events. As part of the changes, the 2019 games athletes qualify through being the top individual and team finishers from the sanctioned events, the top athlete from each country in the CrossFit Open, the top 20 overall finishers in the CrossFit Open, and up to four at-large athletes as chosen by CrossFit, Inc. Teams also no longer need to be created from one CrossFit-affiliated gym and can be formed from any four competitors. With only two months between the 2019 Open and the start of the 2020 Open, participation in the first qualification event decreased from 358,646 in August 2019 to 239,106 in October 2019.
The 2020 qualifying events proceeded as scheduled until March 2020 when the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic caused events to be cancelled amidst social distancing requirements and travel restrictions for international competitors. The Games format was then altered and 30 men and 30 women were invited to compete in an online-only first stage with the top five qualifying for the final stage. As spectators would not be allowed at any venues during the pandemic, the final stage was hosted at its original location at the CrossFit Ranch in Aromas. There were no teams, masters, or teens events.
With the on-going effects of the pandemic, the 2021 qualification format was made more inclusive during the Open to allow for competitors who may not be able travel to qualifying events by allowing for an on-line quarterfinal, similar to those previously used for age group qualifiers to move on to sanctioned semifinals. However, the Games also removed the national champion open qualification to have a smaller field of invitees to the Games. The Games retained the sanctioned events to be used as semifinals, but reduced the number of events to ten with a final last-chance on-line qualifier consisting of semifinal athletes that missed Games qualification. The Games also returned the team format to be affiliate-based and added a new adaptive athlete division.
Sponsorship and prize money
Participation and sponsorship have grown rapidly since the inception of the Games. The prize money awarded to each first-place male and female increased from $500 at the inaugural Games to $300,000 for 2019. The largest jump in prize money came from the first Games sponsored by Reebok in 2011 when first place went from $25,000 in 2010 to $250,000 in 2011. The total prize payout in 2016 was $2,200,000, rising to 3 million in 2020.
The Open, introduced in 2011 and so-called because participation is open to anyone, is held over three weeks in March. Competitors complete the workout and submit their scores online by Monday evening, with either a video or validation by a CrossFit affiliate.
From 2011 to 2019, the Open was held over five weeks in February and March with a new workout released each Thursday night (Pacific Time). For the 2020 season, the Open moved forward to October 2019 as part of the overhaul for Games qualifications so that it took place before any of the sanctioned events.
From 2013 to 2018, Open workout announcements were broadcast live, and featured two or more past CrossFit Games athletes competing head-to-head immediately following the workout description. During the 2019 restructuring, CrossFit dissolved its own media crew leading to other companies, such as Rogue Fitness, having its own broadcasts of competitive athletes completing the workouts when they are announced. In 2019, the top athlete from each country and the top 20 overall Open finishers qualified directly to the Games. This was also planned for 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions led to qualification reset with 30 men and 30 women directly invited to an online competition as the first stage of the Games itself.
As of the 2021 Games, the top 10% on each continent qualify for another online quarterfinal in order to move on to the sanctioned semifinals. The Open is also used for seeding purposes at the Games even if an athlete qualified through the sanctioned events; if an athlete qualifies through a sanctioned event but does not do the Open, they will be seeded at the bottom.
Between 2009 and 2018, competitors qualified for the Games through participation at CrossFit Games regional events. For the 2019 Games, CrossFit, Inc. discontinued hosting the Regional qualifier and instead sanctioned independent fitness events as qualifiers separate from the Open. These events were trademarked as "Sanctionals" by CrossFit, LLC. Most of the sanctioned events were already widely participated in by CrossFit Games athletes, often used as a part of off-season training, around the world. Each sanctioned event has its own rules for participation, but athletes that attend the sanctioned events are either by invite or through the event's qualification process. If an athlete or team won multiple sanctioned events, the runners-up from the later events would qualify to the Games. Twenty-eight sanctioned events were announced for the 2020 season, but many of them were cancelled due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The revamped 2021 qualification was reduced to 10 sanctioned semifinal events across six continents followed by a last-chance online qualifier consisting of semifinal athletes that narrowly missed a Games qualification.
The CrossFit Games may choose to invite up to four athletes that did not qualify for the games in the Open or sanctioned events as an at-large bid.
The marquee events at the CrossFit Games are the men's and women's individual competitions. The first place prize for each currently stands at $300,000 as of 2020[update].
Originally, teams were awarded the "Affiliate Cup" for having the best overall score from the individual athletes that had come from the same CrossFit-affiliated gym. In 2009, the Games began having a separate set of events for affiliate teams and consisted of four to six athletes from the same gym. The next season, the format was finalized to teams of three men and three women. In the 2018 games, each team was changed to four members, two men and two women. In 2019, CrossFit removed the stipulation that team members had to be from the same affiliate. Teams are subject to a similar qualification process as the individuals.
In 2021, the Games returned to affiliate-only teams and the Affiliate Cup.
Masters and Teens
The Games include age-based divisions for younger and older competitors. Masters divisions were introduced at the 2010 Games. There are currently six divisions each for women and men: 35–39, 40–44, 45–49, 50–54, 55–59, and 60+. Divisions for teenagers were introduced in 2015: the age ranges are 14–15 and 16–17, for both boys and girls.
Rather than regional events, masters and teen athletes qualify for the games by a second online competition following the Open. The top 200 athletes in each division worldwide are invited to compete in this qualifier, of which the top 10 advance to the Games.
Prior to the introduction of these secondary online qualifiers, masters and teens competitors qualified for the Games directly from the Open.
Due to CrossFit's official partnership with Reebok, competitors at the 2015 Games were banned from wearing Nike footwear. Nike arranged for several trucks to be parked near the main entrance to the arena, which served as mobile billboards with the slogan "Don't ban our shoe, beat our shoe". The partnership also prohibits Nike from labeling its Metcon shoes as intended for CrossFit – the brand uses the term "high intensity training" instead.
CrossFit's decision to award winners of the 2016 Games with handguns resulted in widespread criticism from members and sponsors. Resulting protests forced the temporary closure of two CrossFit locations in New York City.
On June 6, 2020, CrossFit founder and CEO Greg Glassman was publicly criticized for his social media statements about the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd protests resulting in many CrossFit-affiliated gyms around the world responded by ending their affiliation, Reebok announcing that they would end their corporate association after the 2020 Games, and several competitors boycotting the Games until he was removed from the company. On June 9, Glassman resigned as CEO and sold the company by the end of the month, leading to the boycotting athletes returning.
Broadcasting and media
In 2011, ESPN began to broadcast the CrossFit Games, with live coverage streamed through ESPN3, and some television coverage on ESPN2. As the event grew, ESPN expanded its television coverage; in 2014, the network entered into a multi-year deal to continue broadcasting the CrossFit Games, and coverage expanded to nine-and-a-half hours on ESPN and ESPN2 by 2015.
In 2017, the event began a new broadcast arrangement with CBS Sports, with television coverage on CBS Sports Network, and a total of 40 hours of digital streaming coverage. CrossFit also streamed coverage through Facebook and their website.
Champions by year and category
Individual and Team champions
|Year||Individual Men||Individual Women||Team|
|2007||James Fitzgerald||Jolie Gentry||CrossFit Santa Cruz|
|2008||Jason Khalipa||Caity Matter||CrossFit Oakland|
|2009||Mikko Salo||Tanya Wagner||Northwest CrossFit|
|2010||Graham Holmberg||Kristan Clever||CrossFit Fort Vancouver|
|2011||Rich Froning Jr.||Annie Thorisdottir||CrossFit New England|
|2012||Rich Froning Jr.||Annie Thorisdottir||Hack's Pack UTE|
|2013||Rich Froning Jr.||Samantha Briggs||Hack's Pack UTE|
|2014||Rich Froning Jr.||Camille Leblanc-Bazinet||CrossFit Invictus|
|2015||Ben Smith||Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir||CrossFit Mayhem Freedom|
|2016||Mathew Fraser||Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir||CrossFit Mayhem Freedom|
|2017||Mathew Fraser||Tia-Clair Toomey||Wasatch CrossFit|
|2018||Mathew Fraser||Tia-Clair Toomey||CrossFit Mayhem Freedom|
|2019||Mathew Fraser||Tia-Clair Toomey||CrossFit Mayhem Freedom|
|2020||Mathew Fraser||Tia-Clair Toomey||No team events held|
Masters men's champions
|2011||—||Scott DeTore||Gord MacKinnon||Steve Anderson||Greg Walker|
|2012||—||Gene LaMonica||Gord MacKinnon||Tim Anderson||Scott Olson|
|2013||—||Michael Moseley||Ron Ortiz||Craig Howard||Hilmar Hardarson||Scott Olson|
|2014||—||Shawn Ramirez||Jerry Hill||Will Powell||Steve Hamming||Scott Olson|
|2015||—||Shawn Ramirez||Matthew Swift||Joe Ames||Will Powell||Steve Pollini|
|2016||—||Shawn Ramirez||Ron Mathews||Ron Ortiz||Will Powell||David Hippensteel|
|2017||Kyle Kasperbauer||Shawn Ramirez||Robert Davis||Kevin Koester||Shannon Aiken||David Hippensteel|
|2018||Kyle Kasperbauer||Neal Maddox||Robert Davis||Cliff Musgrave||Brig Edwards||David Hippensteel|
|2019||Nick Urankar||Jason Grubb||Joel Hughes||Kevin Koester||Joe Ames||Gord MacKinnon[a]|
|2020||No Masters events due to COVID-19 pandemic|
Masters women's champions
|2011||—||Susan Habbe||Mary Beth Litsheim||Shelley Noyce||Betsy Finley|
|2012||—||Lisa Mikkelsen||Susan Habbe||Marnel King||Mary Schwing|
|2013||—||Amanda Allen||Lisa Mikkelsen||Colleen Fahey||Gabriele Schlicht||Sharon Lapkoff|
|2014||—||Amanda Allen||Kim Holway||Mary Beth Litsheim||Susan Clarke||Karen Wattier|
|2015||—||Janet Black||Kylie Massi||Cindy Kelley||Susan Clarke||Rosalie Glenn|
|2016||—||Helen Harding||Cheryl Brost||Shellie Edington||Mary Beth Prodromides
|2017||Stephanie Roy||Helen Harding||Cheryl Brost||Marion Valkenburg[b]||Susan Clarke||Patty Failla|
|2018||Anna Tobias||Stephanie Roy||Amanda Allen||Eva Thornton||Mary Beth Prodromides||Shaun Havard|
|2019||Anna Tobias||Joey Kimdon||Janet Black||Jana Slyder||Laurie Meschishnick||Susan Clarke|
|2020||No Masters events due to COVID-19 pandemic|
|Year||14–15 Boys||14–15 Girls||16–17 Boys||16–17 Girls|
|2015||Angelo Dicicco||Sydney Sullivan||Nicholas Paladino||Isabella Vallejo|
|2016||Vincent Ramirez||Kaela Stephano||Nicholas Paladino||Allison Weiss|
|2017||Dallin Pepper||Chloe Smith||Angelo Dicicco||Kaela Stephano|
|2018||Tudor Magda||Olivia Sulek||Dallin Pepper||Haley Adams|
|2019||David Bradley||Emma Cary||Dallin Pepper||Chloe Smith|
|2020||No Teens events due to COVID-19 pandemic|
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