Expanded Opportunities for Age Group Athletes and a “Covid-Proof” Season, Castro Sheds More Light on 2021 and Beyond

December 28, 2020 by
Photo Credit: Dave Castro
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There’s still a few days left in 2020, but 2021 is already shaping up to be a big improvement. 

Following the initial 2021 CrossFit Games season structure announcement by CrossFit HQ, General Manager of Sport Dave Castro joined the Talking Elite Fitness podcast to discuss the 2021 season, revealing some additional details not included in the original announcement and expanding upon others. 

One big thing: Castro revealed some details involving the qualifying numbers and process for the Age Group Divisions that will certainly have masters and teenage athletes around the globe smiling in preparation for 2021.

  • The qualifying numbers for the AGOQ will increase in 2021, and although Castro wouldn’t give a final number, he did say it would likely be percentage based, and be a significant increase from the 200 athletes worldwide that currently qualify in each division.
  • Eric Roza hinted at this change on multiple media outlets during interviews when he relayed his own perennial experience as a masters athlete just outside of the top 200 in his division, which left him wondering how a larger group of dedicated athletes could be engaged throughout the season

The qualifying numbers for the Games will also increase, with most divisions likely moving back towards the 20 athlete fields that were the standard under the Regionals-era rule-set, but Castro left the door Open for some divisions with deeper talent pools and higher participatory numbers to gain even more representation at the Games.

  • Castro: “When we hear that the masters make up a big bulk of, or make up almost half of Open registrants, it’s really the 35-49 (year old divisions) that are carrying the load on that, they’re the majority, and I’ve even floated, and we haven’t made a decision on that, I’ve even floated 30 or 40 (athletes).”
  • Live events for age groups: Castro also mentioned that live qualification at events for age group athletes could be in the works for the future as well. Masters athletes in particular have have lobbied for some form of Regionals-style in person qualification for the larger part of the last decade, 

This is a huge win for masters and teenage athletes that saw their qualification numbers at the Games cut in half during the Sanctionals era. Leading up to the 2019 season, the age group athletes represented a rapidly growing contingency of the sports community, and the sentiment around the community has been that they have been treated as an afterthought in recent years.  

But wait, there’s more: Castro clarified some additional details from the announcement, including a Freudian slip that gave clues as to how athletes the world over will effectively be organized throughout the season. 

  • Continental divide: “Continents,” was the word Castro let slip when describing the organizational structure of the Open and Quarterfinals before chuckling and pressing forward. 
  • Perhaps more important is the 10% rule details he shared, explaining that the top 10% of athletes that move on to the quarterfinals are not the top 10% globally, but the top 10% within each continent. This would make more sense from a representation standpoint to ensure opportunities are balanced across the board globally.
  • Semi-final selection will also evolve, and will not be as straightforward as the Regional qualification process. It will likely involve a “creative format,” that will build off of the Sanctionals structure that allowed athletes more options for when and where they could compete. 
  • Author’s prediction: A competition draft, similar to the event draft that was slated for the Mayhem Madness team competition where top ranked athletes can select which semi-final competition they attend.

Mark your calendars now: Last but certainly not least was the emphatic point Castro made about the announced dates for the season, 

  • Castro: “We’re committed to those dates, regardless of what’s happening in the world. Let’s say everything shut down, like we did this year how we kept pushing and (said) “okay it’s not in Madison it’s in Aromas, okay it’s not on this date,” no we’re not going to do that, we’re committed to (the Games) happening on the week of July 26, in Madison and/or virtually if we have to.”
  • This speaks to Castro and Roza’s assertion of a COVID-proof season, and building contingency plans that will allow them to complete the entirety of the season without repeating the rigamarole of 2020. 
  • Shorter open, same test: Responding to the question of whether or not the shortened Open time frame would mean some weeks would include multiple workouts, Castro stated that “everything is on the table.” Translation: prepare for multiple workouts.

The bottom line: Throughout the season structure announcement, and Castro’s interview, the theme of commitment to sport and equality of opportunity globally were evident. The sport of fitness has always been egalitarian at its core, but going forward it is clear that CrossFit HQ is seizing the opportunity to improve systemically. 

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