CrossFit Games

How Elite Athletes Qualify for Sanctionals in the 2019-2020 Season Is Already Changing

June 17, 2019 by
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Now that CrossFit has released the full 2019-2020 Sanctionals season calendar we know when and where the 28 Sanctionals will be held.

The key question: How will Sanctionals handle the qualification process next season?

What we know so far: Not a whole lot.

  • Brazil CrossFit Championship: Athletes will qualify through the 2019-2020 CrossFit Open.
  • CrossFit Atlas Games: Top 20 men and women at the 2019 CrossFit Games will be invited to compete. There will be 10 spots allotted to those invited athletes. The remaining 30 spots will be earned through their online qualifier. Elite teams can bypass online qualifier by winning one of a handful of regional competitions.
  • Wodapalooza: Invites will be granted to top 20 men and women at the 2019 CrossFit Games, top 30 worldwide in the 2019 CrossFit Open, individual podium finisher in the last five years, previous Wodapalooza winner in the last five years, and previous Sanctionals winner from 2018-2019 season. For Teams: Top 10 teams at the 2019 CrossFit Games, top five finisher from 2019 Wodapalooza, and previous Sanctional winner from 2018-2019 season. The remaining spots will be earned via the online qualifier.
  • Down Under CrossFit Championship: Athletes and teams will qualify through the 2019-2020 CrossFit Open. Athletes will be ranked off their worldwide position and teams will be ranked by the 3 highest scored athletes.

Worth noting: Not a single Sanctional so far has explicitly stated they will offer a wildcard invite.

As our Editor-in-Chief Justin LoFranco pointed out, the Sanctionals qualification process needs to change.

  • “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 [2019], 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.”
  • With nearly 30 Sanctionals next year, athletes simply cannot do more than a dozen qualifiers to secure spots. The system is untenable.
  • Don’t forget the economics: Sanctionals make more money with bigger name athletes on the field.

He’s not alone: Over the last couple of months, there has been a lot of conversation privately among stakeholders about how to approach next season. Armen Hammer and Talking Elite Fitness’ Tommy Marquez and Sean Woodland are echoing the same sentiment, publicly.

  • Armen Hammer: “If, hypothetically speaking, we were able to take the Open and at least have it have some sort of relationship with the Sanctionals, I think we could see a season in which the Open stays very valuable to athletes for their participation and also sets the tone for the remainder of their season. For example, the Open qualification [could stop] being direct to the CrossFit Games, but instead started being a participatory thing for the qualification for sanctioned events kind of setting your ranking going into the season.”
  • Sean Woodland: “The conversations that I have had with athletes, they have said they don’t like the fact that the Open is now doing something that it was never designed to do and that’s qualify people directly to the CrossFit Games so hopefully that’s gonna be looked at and we’ve said this before, we get why it needed to be that way this year, because of the way the schedule didn’t lay out perfectly, I think this was just like the best solution to a bad situation, so hopefully they take a look at that.”
  • Must Read: In an op-ed last month, Woodland and Marquez outlined how they’d approach the qualification structure next season.

If CrossFit used the Open to identify national champions, but did away with the top 20 worldwide spots, instead becoming a qualifying system for Sanctionals, several things would happen.

  • There would be a stop-gap between the Open and the Games.
  • Athletes would still have to prove their ground in a live competition.
  • With big names listed at Sanctionals ahead of time, these events will be better able to advertise their event and garner views.
  • There would be fewer wildcards or special invites awarded to elite athletes at the last minute, leveling the playing field for other athletes that have qualified and committed with Games hopes.
  • This also gives all other athletes a fair shake, some who have spent weeks competing in an online qualifier and bought plane tickets to other countries, also know exactly who they’re up against.
  • Greg Glassman told Armen in his last interview that the top 20 spots from this year’s Open were really a stop gap so no one slips between the cracks.
  • He also indicated that number (20) is going to dwindle and disappear eventually down the line.

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