CrossFit Games | Op-Eds

Sanctionals Qualification, We Need a Better Process (OPINION)

April 12, 2019 by
Photo courtesy of Dubai CrossFit Championship.
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The 2019 CrossFit Open is all but wrapped up, but we still have two-and-a-half months and 10 Sanctionals remaining in this new expanded season and one of the clearest lessons  we’ve learned over the course of this year is that the Sanctionals qualification process needs to be streamlined and simplified.

All but one of the 15 Sanctionals have held a qualifier and nearly all have offered some kind of wildcard invite or qualifier exemption. In some instances, this has led to a process that could be described as less than transparent, and in some instances not entirely fair.

Take Fittest in Cape Town for example.

According to their rules, all athletes were required to do the online qualifier. Athletes competed, qualified, accepted and committed to a fairly large price tag to travel and compete in Cape Town, South Africa.

It was only after those athletes accepted and began purchasing flights and accommodations that they found out two powerhouse athletes, Cole Sager and Katrin Davidsdottir, were going to be there. That realization is probably why a few big name athletes decided they’d sit that one out.

Fittest in Cape Town isn’t alone either. You can see this same process unfolding at Asia CrossFit Championship, Reykjavik CrossFit Championship and Brazil CrossFit Championship where unexpected invited athletes are being announced weekly.

Athletes deserve a system where the rules are clear and the process is transparent, and I think it’s clear that the athletes who accepted their invite didn’t have a complete picture.

To be fair, this is a new season and Sanctionals are doing their best to put on events in tight timeframes and limited budgets. Having a ‘Dottir’ compete at your event brings eyeballs, fills seats and makes money.

But why are some athletes doing qualifiers others don’t have to?  What criteria determine an exemption and who decides to apply it?

The process is confusing, inconsistent, and frustrating, and if CrossFit is going to professionalize we need a better system.

Sanctionals should be using the Open to qualify athletes for their elite divisions. After all, if the worldwide test is good enough to directly qualify athletes for the CrossFit Games why isn’t it good enough for a Sanctional?

Unlike this year, in the 2020 season, the CrossFit Open kicks off the season in October, establishing rankings before any other events take place. Based on an athlete’s worldwide performance — let’s say top 50 — he or she should get automatic invites to every Sanctional that season. To keep this process streamlined, athletes would need to declare their intention to compete by a certain date, and Sanctionals could limit the number of invited spots.

It may sound outlandish, but we’re already seeing this happen in 2019 with the Down Under CrossFit Championship and it’s proving the concept.

Online qualifiers are a great revenue source for Sanctionals, and we shouldn’t do away with them. Athletes who didn’t qualify outright through the Open can still have a second chance to compete by placing high enough in a Sanctional’s online qualifier. Also, these qualifiers will serve to fill the rosters of their non-professional divisions like Rx and scaled.

With at least 20 Sanctionals next year, this process only stands to get more complicated. Consider Filthy150 at the end of November. With the Open in October, when are they supposed to run a qualifier? In September, a month after Games athletes competed and a month before Games hopefuls have to compete in the Open?  The same problem goes for December Sanctionals like SouthFit, Dubai, and Pandaland.

Using the Open as a direct qualifier for the Elite divisions is the best path forward for athletes and events to streamline this process. It won’t fix everything but it’s a good step in the right direction.

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