CrossFit Games

Athletes, Coaches Offer Opinions on Efficacy of Semifinals Programming

July 4, 2021 by
Photo Credit: Kelsey Goodwin (
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As a fan, there was something beautiful about the Regional competition qualification days. For three to four weeks you could watch some of the fittest athletes from around the world perform the same tests. It kind of felt like a good TV series, anticipating and predicting which athlete could beat so-and-so’s top score from the week prior.

  • That all ended in 2019 when CrossFit LLC canned Regional competitions in favor of the Sanctionals system, where each event offered its own, unique programming. Something that was set to continue this season with the introduction of the Semifinals format.

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Remind me: This season, the organizers from each of the ten Semifinals were tasked to create their own, independent tests of fitness. But when five of the events turned into online competitions due to the pandemic, CrossFit stepped in and created consistent programming, while the other five Semifinals went off as planned with unique programming.

One big thing: Without standardized programming, there’s the question of programming bias based on the Semifinal. Justin Cotler, the head coach of Underdogs Athletics said, there should be consistency across the board, in terms of “modalities, movements and time domains.” 

  • “There needs to be a programming committee that oversees the Semis and discusses what’s going to be tested so we can create cohesion and fairness,” Cotler said.
  • As for the cards we were dealt this year, it was pretty split when it comes to those in favor of programming variety, versus the same tests across the board.

The Consistency Camp

  • John Singleton, the founder of The Progrm said, he would rather see “consistent structure” in the CrossFit season. “The Open, Regionals, Games format, I think worked very well previously for athletes, fans, sponsors, and therefore the sport in general,” he said.
  • Atlas Games winner Carolyne Prevost also said she would prefer Semifinals events to offer the same programming. “I like the idea that everyone who gets to the Games went through the same tests to get there…It’s nice for Semi’s to be able to be unique…however, I just feel that for fairness, it’s better to have the same,” she said. 

Worth noting: We put out a survey to affiliate owners who watched the four Semifinal weekends as fans, that suggests Singleton is onto something.

  • 67% of the 97 affiliate owners who responded to the survey said they prefer a Games qualification system with consistent programming across all events.

In the Middle

  • Fresh off his Atlas Games win, vetran Games athlete Patrick Vellner, offered a middle-of-the-road perspective.
  • “There is something elegant about reaching the end of the season and knowing all your peers have faced the exact same test throughout…I think everyone having the same test creates compelling stories that cross over between regions,” Vellner said. 
  • However, this also “takes away the opportunity for the event partners to insert their identity into the season and leave their fingerprint…Next year I’d be happy to see live competitions run with programming autonomy subject to review by CrossFit to make sure that it’s an appropriate overall test, which I believe is how it was meant to be this year,” he continued.

The Variety Camp

  • Rookie Games qualifier Caroline Conners, who competed at the 2017 and 2018 East Regionals said she appreciated each in-person Semifinal being different.
  • “When we had regionals, it got a bit old doing the same workouts over and over again to prepare, and watching the same ones wasn’t as exciting. So I definitely think variety is the way to go, however, I do think each event should have a similar structure to make it fair among all athletes,” she said.

Final food for thought: Considering the uncertain nature of the Semifinal season due to COVID-19, maybe we need to be a bit less critical, offered Snorri Baron, the manager of many elite CrossFit athletes, including Sara Sigmundsdottir and Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson. 

  • CrossFit basically had to “freestyle and change things until the very last minute as the COVID-19 situation evolved in each place…It’s hard to be overly critical as some of this could not really be helped,” Baron said.
  • He added: “We are living in unprecedented times, and this season was always going to be a bit of a mess. Hopefully we will have a clean slate to start from come 2022.”

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