3 Lessons Learned From The First Four Sanctionals

December 31, 2019 by
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Now that 2019 has officially come to a close, the natural competition break for the holiday season has provided some valuable time to reflect on what’s been a truly remarkable year for the Sport of Fitness. The calendar year is in its infancy but the 2019-2020 CrossFit Games season is already three months old. Events in Ireland, Argentina, China, and the U.A.E have come and gone, but before we turn our eyes to the next in line this season, there are some key takeaways from the first four Sanctionals.

Lesson 1: New Movements Are the New Norm

Innovation within the sport has typically been a top down process. Something new shows up at the Games, then before long it trickles down to Regionals and possibly the Open. With more programming cooks in the kitchen, we’re seeing Sanctionals take the baton and run with it, in an effort to inject creativity and excitement into the sport.

  • The Filthy 150 led things off with a new movement variation dubbed the “unbroken rope climb,” and after seeing it in action, expect this show up more frequently going forward and become a Games level standard for elite divisions.
  • Pandaland introduced a uniquely Chinese implement to their program known as the Stone Lock – an object used in training for nearly a thousand years by kung fu masters and martial arts practitioners.
  • Dubai introduced three new movements to CrossFit competition earlier this month in their event DFC Original, which featured flying push-ups, deck squats, and A jumps.

Lesson 2: Sharing Is Caring Between Sanctionals

In the 2018-2019 season, event planners and hosts looked to establish themselves within the new landscape and there was very little collaboration in programming or competition elements. Now with 28 events trying to thrive, there is a benefit to learning from one’s peers. The information flowing amongst them so far points towards a higher level of synergy this season.

  • SouthFit took a page out of Filthy 150’s book and included legless rope climbs in their programming just two weeks after their debut in Ireland.
  • Last season Reykjavik introduced a new benchmark workout aptly titled “Dottir,” and this year Dubai borrowed it as a workout for the final day of their competition.
  • One of the coolest new elements introduced last year was a finish line buzzer by the Asia CrossFit Championships, and it was nice to see it featured once again in China by Pandaland.

Lesson 3: Use Culture As A Calling Card

If you ask any athlete what makes a Sanctional attractive, the answer will likely vary, but one characteristic that consistently shows up is location and the opportunity to travel to new and interesting places. This also applies to fans looking to see their favorite athletes and make a vacation of it. With that in mind, events have bolstered their draw by adding cultural experiences that set them apart from the rest of the pack.

  • Pandaland took athletes and media on a trip to the Chengdu Panda Research Base–an attraction that draws tourists from across the globe–to see giant pandas and learn about the namesake animal of the competition.
  • The opening event for Dubai once again took to the beach at the beautiful Jumeirah Mina Al Salam with the world famous Burj Al Arab Hotel in the background, treating athletes and spectators to a beautiful and unique setting to start the competition.
  • In true Irish fashion, the Filthy 150 venue — the Punchestown racecourse — had multiple pubs on site, and the schedule included a community event that featured athletes competing from every affiliate in Ireland. Later these same athletes packed the arena as spectators and brought tremendous energy for the elite competition.  

Soon the 2020 season will jump into overdrive with events slated for nearly every weekend from March to July, but the CrossFit Filthy 150, Southfit CrossFit Challenge, Pandaland CrossFit Challenge, and Dubai CrossFit Championships have provided useful lessons and set a high bar for upcoming events to meet and exceed.

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