The Games have been amazing thus far. It’s been so exciting already, and the Finals haven’t even happened yet. There’s something awesome about whittling it down from 26k competitors, to 2k competitors, to 50 men and women at the Games. Getting it down to number 1 is going to be epic!
So Cal Regional Winners – Jeremy Kinnick, Josh Bridges, Jon Pera
While we’re all anxiously awaiting the Final throwdown, I decided to take a moment to reflect on a topic that kept popping up in the wake of the Regionals.
One thing a lot of people noticed about the Regionals, myself included, was that the Open placings didn’t seem to be a very good predictor of Regional winners. Many of the top Open finishers in each region did very poorly at the Regionals. For example, of the 17 men who finished first in their Open, 7 didn’t make it to the games. Likewise, many athletes came out of nowhere and took top spots at the Regionals. Looking at the numbers, 21 of the 43 men that qualified at Regionals did not finish top 3 in their Open. That’s nearly 50%. Here are some of the most dramatic cases:
Qualifying Games Athletes’ Placings
|Athlete||Open Placing||Regional Placing|
There were many factors at play. Here are the primary reasons that Open placings weren’t a better predictor of Regional winners.
1. Some People Cheated
As much as we all wish that it weren’t true, there is a good chance that some athletes/affiliates outright cheated. Unfortunately, identifying these cheaters is all but impossible, so for the time being they remain known only to themselves and their small circle of co-conspirators. The nice thing to remember is that I think we’re all pretty confident that a rightful games athlete wasn’t kept out by Open cheaters taking their spots.
2. Some Athletes Cruised through the Open
As Graham Holmberg openly attested to, some athletes decided not to kill themselves during the Open. In light of the bigger picture, the Regionals and the Finals, some athletes decided to try to keep their training programs as uninterrupted as possible. So instead of hitting the WODs multiple times per week, as hard as they could, they just inserted them into their programs and tried to keep to “business as usual” as much as possible. This makes some sense for top athletes who felt like they were in no risk of not making it to regionals, and given the fact that your Open placing had no bearing on the Regional outcome. On the other hand, I think this approach can turn into a cop-out. “I finished poorly in the Open because I didn’t go that hard.” Seems kind of convenient to me.
3. Some Gyms’ Standards weren’t as strict as the Regionals
Range of motion has always been a major focus in CrossFit, and a major source of contention. This is especially true when it comes to competition. Standards of movement, or the lack thereof, can make a huge difference when every second represents potentially dozens of places. This is tough at an actual competition, where slight variations in interpretation between judges can have a substantial effect on outcomes. It becomes unwieldy when you stop and think about the disparity among boxes around the world. For many gyms, the Open was a wake-up call of sorts in regards to standards.
It’s hard to tell your members that the push-ups you accept everyday at the gym won’t count for them in competition. This might elicit questions like “Why didn’t you tell me this before? I’ve never done them this strictly before, and as a result, it turns out I suck at them.” It’s much easier to let it slide in favor of “house rules”. No one at your own gym is going to complain, because they don’t know any better.
It’s hard to call back reps. Period. It’s even harder to call them back on people who barely agreed to compete in the first place. Who wants to discourage a newer/older athlete who is already questioning whether they have any business being a “competitor” in the first place. Who wants to face a top athlete at your gym as you “no-rep” them rep after rep. This can not only be hard on relationships, but it can be bad for your business. Calling on affiliates to no-rep their own members will oftentimes cause a conflict of interest that is stronger than their integrity and willingness to hold to what is right.
And what about the gyms who not only have poor day-to-day standards at their gyms, but are also oblivious to the fact? The problem is, in all honesty they believe that they do uphold standards. How many videos did we see submitted with terrible range of motion? Obviously they thought they were upholding the standards, or they wouldn’t have submitted it for the whole world to critique. Furthermore, what about the gyms/judges that never bothered to watch the standards videos. Unfortunately, there is a big difference between what an average gym accepts during daily workouts, and what would be counted in competition. The good news is that this has been getting better and better over the years, and I believe with more competition awareness, we will see higher and higher standards being upheld at affiliates.
4. They tested different things
Day 1 of the Regionals tested things that were not seen in the Open. There was no running or rowing in the Open. There were no HSPUs in the Open. There were no max lifts in the Open (Thruster Ladder). Any athletes with deficiencies in these areas were not punished for them in the Open. At the Regionals, they were punished severely. Even muscle-ups, which were featured in both the Open and Regionals, played a much different role. You could still do most of the Burpee/OHS/Muscle-up workout in the Open without having strong muscle-ups. At the Regionals, Amanda started with muscle-ups, so there was no hiding a deficiency.
Overall, I think the Regionals were a better test of fitness. I would put more stock in the Regional outcomes than I would in the Open outcomes. The main problem with the Open from a “test of fitness” standpoint was that it had to compromise too much in order to be more inclusive. I understand the reasoning behind the compromise and think it was good for our community as a whole, but I do think it made the Open a lesser test than it otherwise would have been.
The Open workouts tended to favor a lighter athlete, and definitely didn’t punish a lack of strength very severely. In the Regionals, it was the opposite. The first workout was the only workout without a significant heavy component. Not that lighter athletes couldn’t do well in the Regionals, but they had to be comfortable moving some pretty heavy weights in order to do so.
This is my assessment: Some athletes are going to finish at the top, regardless of what is thrown at them. Some athletes have holes that were exposed in the Regionals, and not in the Open, and vice versa. And at the Games, other holes may be exposed as well (think rope climbs, swimming, etc.). As time goes on, CrossFit is figuring out better and better ways to more fully test fitness. And that is no easy task.
Which of these do you think was the strongest factor? Or did I overlook something that was really important? Let me know in comments.