What’s Old is New Again: How the 2018 Regionals Provide Insights for 2021

January 31, 2021 by
Credit: CrossFit LLC
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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles that look back on the 2018 CrossFit Games Regionals.

The 2018 CrossFit Games season was a high watermark for the sport for several reasons. That year, 416,000 athletes competed in the Open. Media coverage at the Games peaked and CBS was interested in expanding even further. And, the Regionals fields were stacked with talent that has continued to dominate the sport of fitness. 

Sweeping changes in 2019 shifted the landscape and replaced Regionals with the Open/Sanctional qualifying system. Now, the tide has turned again and the 2021 season format once again offers a multi-stage, funnel system — Open-Quarterfinals-Semifinals-Games.

One big thing: The 2021 season very closely resembles the 2018 season; so taking a look back offers an opportunity to prepare for what’s in store this year. 

Remind me: In 2018 there were nine Regionals, five of those were in North America, two were in Europe, one was in Australia, and one was in South America. 

  • While the details for this year’s Semifinals are still somewhat unknown, we’ve been told there will be 10 and that they will be based on geography (“Continents” to be more exact). 

Finding the fittest: Were the 2018 Regionals a good representation of the best athletes in each part of the world? In an analysis* of 2018 Regional athletes we have learned that the caliber of athletes in those competitions was very high, and has stood the test of time: 

  • 12 men and 18 women from the 2018 Regionals qualified for the 2019 and 2020 CrossFit Games as an individual athlete both years.
  • 52 additional men and 36 additional women qualified for either the 2019 or 2020 Games as an individual once.
  • That’s a total of 64 men and 54 women who made the Games at least once having also been a part of the 2018 Regional contingency. 

It doesn’t stop there:

  • Excluding those 118 athletes, there was a large group of athletes with notable Sanctional experience in the past two seasons who were also 2018 Regional athletes.
  • Six other men and three other women had podium finishes at a Sanctional.
  • 23 other men and 19 other women had top-10 performances at a Sanctional.
  • 24 other men and 9 other women had top 20 placements at a Sanctional.
  • That’s 53 men and 31 women (in addition to the 64 and 54 Games athletes) who had impressive Sanctional performances in the last two seasons. 

Why it matters: The 2018 CrossFit Games season format was really good. The athletes who qualified for Regionals, through the Open, in that year have gone on to prove that they are in fact the best of the best in the sport of CrossFit, around the world.

It also means that the 2021 Semifinal format is going to be extremely exciting. Check back in for the next part of this series as we look more closely at some of the lessons we’ve learned from 2018 and what the implications are for the Semifinals stages of 2021. 

(*All the numbers cited represent athletes who finished in the top half of their Region in 2018. A few exceptions were made for injury or names that have become extremely notable since then.) 

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