CrossFit Games

Five Lingering Thoughts about Traveling for 2022 Semifinals

Photo Credit: Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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The Semifinals landscape for the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games is quickly taking shape, however, as everyone knows, the world we live in now is a messy, complicated place as the great globalization experiment seems to be at an all time low.

COVID-19 travel restrictions linger in virtually every country, and an ongoing war in Ukraine has pitted NATO countries against Russia and its president Vladimir Putin.

Remind me: As we described yesterday, after Quarterfinals, qualifying athletes were asked to note if they had any travel restrictions. On April 11, individual athletes were emailed invitations to their assigned Semifinal event.

  • The rulebook provides some insight regarding the seeding process in section 4.03:
  • “For North America and Europe, CrossFit will seed and place the athletes in a Semifinal before invitations are sent. CrossFit will make every effort to ensure the seeding process will be fair and equitable. Quarterfinals ranking distribution and the geographical location of athletes will be the primary determining factors for competition seeding in North America and Europe.”

On our minds: There are several thoughts when it comes to simply getting athletes to their assigned Semifinal around the world, and we have five of them which are lingering. 

We reached out to CrossFit, asking them if they had a support network set up to help athletes who will have to travel abroad for their respective Semifinal, and if COVID restrictions were taken into account when assigning athletes to competitions, however, we did not receive a response by the time of publication. 

✈️ 1. Americans traveling to Canada for Atlas Games 

While Canada and the US have some of the world’s friendliest border policies, COVID changed all of that. Canadians traveling to the US must be vaccinated and provide a negative COVID test within one day of traveling to the US. However, for the Atlas Games, it will be a headache for a number of Americans heading north, as Canada and the US have varied wildly from province to province, and state to state, when it comes to pandemic policies. (Currently there are ten American men and 15 American women slated to go to the Atlas Games.)

As of this publication, Americans heading to Canada are required to be vaccinated, and although they will not have to provide a negative COVID test, they will still have to download and fill out the government’s ArriveCan app, which requires them to upload a number of documents and declare a place they can quarantine if they test positive. This presents another challenge, how would an athlete who is simply heading to Canada to compete, be able to find a suitable place to quarantine if needed? For most of them, it’s not likely that they could stay with friends and family, and quarantining in a hotel could be prohibitively expensive.

Rob Muise, the chief operating officer for Brute Strength Training out of Florida, said this is the world we now live in and people best get accustomed to it.

“At the end of the day, we have been dealing with the pandemic long enough to know we need to do our due diligence before traveling,” he said. “Yes, the COVID vaccine comes with a lot of emotion, but I genuinely don’t see it any different than any other mandatory vaccine you would need to enter a country. If you are not comfortable with the entrance requirements, you could ask HQ for another Semifinal, but honestly, I don’t think they are obligated to make the change. We are letting our athletes know of the requirements and doing our best to support them in any way possible.”

✈️ 2. Traveling to South Korea for the Far East Throwdown

Anyone heading to the Far East Throwdown in Busan, South Korea June 3-5 from outside the country (which is the vast majority of the field) must meet the country’s entry requirements. Many Asian nations including China, Japan and South Korea have taken a strict route in handling COVID, which now stands in stark contrast to many Western nations. 

According to the US Embassy & Consulate in the Republic of Korea, all travelers must present a negative COVID PCR test within 48 hours of traveling, on top of being fully vaccinated of course. There is the potential for quarantine exemption (seven days of self isolation) when entering South Korea, however you must be vaccinated and register your vaccination status with Korea’s public health department (it’s unclear if you can do this online).

There is also the case of Hong Kong’s Ant Haynes, who will have a particularly rough route logistically to the CrossFit Games if he makes it. He is currently training in Dubai, obviously knowing that coming to and from his home country of Hong Kong (which still requires people to be quarantined upon arrival for at least seven days) is not feasible. Haynes will then have to travel from Dubai to Korea for his Semifinal, and then most likely will have to stay abroad in hopes of qualifying for the CrossFit Games to keep his training up, which may then require him to go directly to the US without returning home.

All travelers (entering South Korea) must present a negative COVID PCR test within 48 hours of traveling, on top of being fully vaccinated.

Victoria Campos, a Brazilian who is based out of Hong Kong, is already in the US training in hopes of making the Games (she made the Last Chance Qualifier last season), obviously knowing training in Hong Kong, where gyms are still locked down, was just not feasible. Campos will still have to make the daunting trip south to the Copa Sur (June 10-12) in Brazil.

Then there is the question of China’s mainland athletes (Wang Xuanlin, Jiaxi Wang and Florence Wong on the women’s side). China and South Korea do not have good relations, so it is unclear if they will have to secure a tourist visa to travel to Busan for the competition, and if they can secure that upon arrival or if it must be submitted beforehand. 

If one of them qualifies for the Games, then things get even trickier as China still has one of the most heavy-handed quarantines for all arrivals, including nationals, and it is difficult for a Chinese person to secure any type of visa to travel to the US, let alone to compete as an athlete. Wong appears to be based out of London according to her Instagram, however she will still have to make the 12-plus hour flight to compete. So, does a mainland athlete return home to China, where snap lockdowns can take place at the drop of a hat, and they must endure the world’s longest quarantines, and if not, where could they even base themselves while waiting until the Games if not at home? 

✈️ 3. Oceanic Athletes Making the Trek Overseas

Last year, CrossFit reseeded at least six Semifinal athletes who were unable to travel due to COVID restrictions. Included in the bunch was the five-time Fittest Woman on Earth, Tia-Clair Toomey, who ended up competing at and earning her Games spot through the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge. 

To our knowledge, athletes from Oceania, South America, Africa, and Asia were not given the option to select a 2022 Semifinal outside of their continent of citizenship.

  • Section 4.03 in the Rulebook listed above refers to the consideration of geographical location for athletes from North America and Europe, but mentions nothing of consideration for other athletes residing outside of their home continents.
  • We have yet to see if all affected athletes will be expected to travel, or if CrossFit will make exceptions. Last year, the reseeding announcement was made on May 4.

For the Australians specifically, vaccination status is key. The State of Queensland, where the Torian Pro will be held, is allowing fully vaccinated Australian citizens to enter the country as usual, however un- or partially-vaccinated citizens must quarantine for 14 days with proof of negative COVID tests before release. Any athlete potentially affected would need to land in Queensland in the next three weeks in order to be released from quarantine in time to compete in their Semifinal, which begins May 20th.

Even if vaccination status is a non-issue, the cost to travel and stay overseas in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is not minor. Flights out of Los Angeles or Cardiff into Queensland are currently in the realm of $1,200 USD round trip; Montreal to Brisbane and back is in the ballpark of $2,000 USD.

Some notable Oceania athletes affected include:

  • Tia-Clair Toomey is living and training in Nashville, TN— less than 200 miles (320km) from Knoxville, host city for the Syndicate Crown and Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge.
  • Jamie Simmonds is currently living and training in Cardiff (UK)— a two hour train ride from London’s Strength in Depth Semifinal.
  • Ellie Turner moved from Australia to Canada earlier this year to train, and is currently in California training with Justin Medeiros. The affiliate that Turner trained out of while she was in Canada, Deka CrossFit, is under an hour’s drive to Montreal, where the Atlas Games Semifinal will be held.
✈️ 4. Russian Athletes Traveling Anywhere

Russia’s Roman Khrennikov, who finally secured a visa to travel to the US after what was a long and expensive legal process, now finds himself having to travel to the Far East Throwdown in South Korea to qualify for the CrossFit Games. This obviously bodes well for Khrennikov on the competition floor, given he will not face nearly the level he may have in North America, however, traveling as a Russian citizen right now is touch and go. 

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in late February has largely galvanized the world against the nation, and also brought about heavy boycotts and sanctions towards Russians and its government. This has also spilled over into sports, as a number of major international sporting bodies have brought down the hammer on Russia’s sporting landscape, and there have been numerous calls from Ukrainians for CrossFit to outright ban Russians from competing. CrossFit recently announced that they will not mention Russia as a competing country in competitions and the flag has also been banned.

What this all means is that traveling as a Russian these days can’t be easy. Catherine Brown, an immigration lawyer based out of Miami, who works with CrossFit athletes, said Russians need to be on top of all of their documentation and have done their research before getting on a plane, or even thinking about going anywhere in 2022.

“There is no absolute ban on Russians entering the US,” added Brown, “but they most likely will be scrutinized more, so have proof ready showing what you will be doing and your ‘non-immigrant’ intent.”

However if you are a Russian athlete and have yet to secure a Visa to travel to the US then the chances of obtaining one prior to the Games will be next to impossible. According to the US Embassy and Consulates in Russia website, “The US Embassy in Moscow is currently not processing immigrant or nonimmigrant visas due to Russian government restrictions on Embassy operations. Russian citizens may schedule an appointment for nonimmigrant visa interviews at any other U.S. embassy or consulate around the world.”

✈️ 5. Vaccination Status 

There is also the fraught question of a person’s vaccination status, which has become one of the most touchy and contentious subjects of the 21st century. And, there’s an uneven playing field when it comes to vaccination status. For instance, an American athlete, who lives, competes and trains in the US, who qualifies for the CrossFit Games, does not need to get vaccinated to compete, or even hop on a plane to travel to Madison as domestic travel does not have any vaccinations requirements.

But any athlete from outside the US is essentially required to be vaccinated to compete at the CrossFit Games. And this is not because of CrossFit’s requirements, however under federal law any foreigner entering the US must show proof of vaccination. Kyrie Irving, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets, and is not vaccinated, has caused a headache for both the NBA, and Barclays Arena, where attendees, up until recently, were required to be vaccinated to even enter and spectate. CrossFit does require Games volunteers to either be vaccinated, or provide proof of a negative COVID test according to sources from last year, however it is unclear if the company will ever take a stance either way on this very contentious issue.

“We have been dealing with the pandemic long enough to know we need to do our due diligence before traveling.”

Rob Muise, COO of Brute Strength Training

At the end of the day, it appears there is now an uneven playing field when it comes to competing at the CrossFit Games concerning two major issues: international travel in the pandemic landscape, and vaccination status. Brown, the immigration lawyer who works with CrossFit athletes, noted the website Airheart as a great resource for anyone flying internationally these days looking to navigate the COVID landscape, which can turn on a dime, or while travelers are literally en route to their destinations. Brown said her advice is to have every document at your disposal when entering in case there is any confusion with entry requirements.

“Print out your country’s and the country you are entering’s COVID protocols found on the government website; have them in hand because sometimes the officers in the airport may not even be well versed in the current policies.”

Go deeper with travel-related news from the 2021 CrossFit Games season:

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