CrossFit Games

Early Season Report: How the 2021 CrossFit Games Season is Shaping Up

November 10, 2020 by
Photo courtesy of CrossFit LLC
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It’s only been a few weeks since the 2019-2020 CrossFit Games season wrapped up, but we’re already seeing early details emerging for how the next season will be structured. 

One big thing: All of these details, while not yet set in stone and still subject to change, have been confirmed by nearly a dozen sources with direct knowledge of internal deliberations going on at HQ. They also represent more sweeping changes to a competitive season and calendar that hasn’t stopped changing since we first announced the new season format in August 2018. 

The Open: Starting on February 18, 2021, the CrossFit Open will return to its original starting position of mid-to-late February and run for five weeks. 

  • Athletes will no longer qualify for the CrossFit Games directly through the Open. 
  • Athletes will be competing to earn a spot at one of the Sanctionals. 
  • There will be some kind of seeding protocol to determine which athletes go to which Sanctional.
  • What happens with national championships? Unclear at this stage. However, it seems unlikely that will stick around as part of the main event. 
  • Will your region be determined by citizenship or by residency? For national championships, your citizenship determined your country, but during the Regionals years, your location determined your region. 

Sanctionals: Sanctionals will be an intermediary step to qualify for the CrossFit Games. While the events will be operated independently, the format will mirror the Regionals system. 

  • Approximately twelve Sanctional events (subject to final details) will be divided into regions: North America (5 events), Europe (3 events), Australia (1 event), Asia (1 event), Africa (1 event), and South America (1 event). 
  • Participation in the past Opens determined how many Sanctionals per region. 
  • Athletes will no longer have the flexibility to go anywhere they want, nor does it seem likely fans will benefit from being able to see their favorite athletes compete outside of their region.
  • Prize purses appear to be staying. 
  • There will be last chance events later in the season for athletes who didn’t qualify from their Sanctional. We haven’t heard any details on the number of these events and how many qualification spots will be available. 
  • How many athletes qualify to the Games? We’ve heard 25 from North America (five per event), 15 from Europe, 3 from Australia, 3 from South America, one from Africa, and one from Asia. 

The Games: The timeframe of the event is likely to be around the end of July/early August, but if COVID stretches out the season, there’s potential for it to be moved back similar to this year. 

  • We haven’t heard any other details at this point. 

The Triple Crown: In addition to the main CrossFit Games season, there have been talks about creating a triple crown between Rogue, Wodapalooza and Dubai to take place in the offseason. 

  • These officially sanctioned CrossFit events have the potential to crown a big money victor if an athlete were to take all three events. 
  • This is also a way to keep Wodapalooza and Dubai, two events that are limited to the cooler winter weather months, to stay within the official CrossFit event family. 

Some unanswered questions: There are still a lot of unanswered questions and details to be determined, but here are a few points worth discussing?

  • How will CrossFit unify programming across all events? Will Dave Castro program the same workouts across all Sanctionals? Will he program each Sanctional individually? Or will each Sanctional be left to program their own workouts?
  • How does this affect other divisions within a Sanctional? How do RX, scaled and team athletes qualify for these events when the elite qualify through the Open?
  • Who will live stream the events? And more importantly, will Sanctionals still be able to sell advertising rights?
  • How are Sanctionals going to thrive economically? With marquee athletes unable to travel overseas to compete or to compete in multiple events during the season, Sanctionals (and fans) lose out on the opportunity to capitalize on big names at their events. Ultimately, having profitable and thriving events is good for the longevity of the sport. 
  • What happens with the teen and master’s divisions? Despite sweeping season changes introduced over the last two years, age group divisions still qualify the same way: the top athletes from the Open move on to the Age Group Online Qualifier then the top 10 go to the Games. 
  • What happens to the team competition? After the 2018 Games, the rules changed to allow any four athletes in the world to form a team, which created “super teams.” Team athletes no longer needed to do the Open as they qualified to Sanctionals directly and qualified to the Games by winning a Sanctional. With these new changes, will CrossFit go back to requiring athletes to be from the same affiliate? How will teams qualify for Sanctionals? And how many teams will qualify from each Sanctional? 

The bottom line: Athletes and fans who’ve been riding the CrossFit Games roller coaster the past couple of years are in for more changes. But it appears CrossFit is making moves to streamline the competition calendar into a more cohesive structure, moving back to its old format. If this is how the final structure plays out, it’ll be a lot easier for fans (and reporters) to understand the full season story next year. 

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