CrossFit Games

CrossFit Games Veterans Offer Mixed Reactions to 2023 Season Changes

October 12, 2022 by
Photo Credit: Enrique Villaseñor (@enriquevmedia)
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On Tuesday, CrossFit HQ announced various changes to the 2023 season, the most notable one arguably being a return to what can only be described as the Regionals days of the past, where CrossFit operates the competition, and where programming is standardized across the board.

That being said, this season CrossFit is operating the two North American competitions, as well as the one in Europe, however, Africa, Asia, Australia and South America will continue to be run by outside organizers (albeit with standardized programming), something 10-time CrossFit Games athlete Kara Saunders said “is ridiculous.”

“From past experiences in these Semifinals, I know that leaving it to an outside organizer exposes athletes to the potential of an unfair competition, both with programming and the treatment of certain athletes,” Saunders said.

“I’m pretty sick of Australia always being disregarded as a major country in this sport. The greatest female athlete to exist in the sport is Australian, and to be honest the only way she was ever going to be recognized as she deserves was for her to move to the U.S,” she continued.

Saunders added: “I personally loved the Regionals days, knowing that there was uniformity across the world.”

What others are saying: Four-time podium finisher Patrick Vellner said he will largely “reserve judgment for now,” but said at first glance he said it seems the changes “look like they will simplify and speed up the season which is nice.”

  • He added: “I think there are winners and losers with every change…There’s no perfect system, but I think the fittest will find a way as usual.”
  • Four-time Games athlete Jeff Adler said the one thing he isn’t sure he’s into is there being only two North American regions. “That’s the weird part for me. 60 competitors instead of 30. I don’t know how that will work. That means (the) top 10 will advance to the Games. It’s less special to do a top 10 than a top 5,” he said. 
  • For others, such as nine-time Games athlete Noah Ohlsen, the changes don’t mean a whole lot, as it’s business as usual for him. “Not too much emotion evoked from these changes…(Because) the structure changes every season, I’m getting used to the switch ups,” he said.
  • Ohlsen added: “I dig the standardized programming. Just hope it’s more classic CrossFit and a little less experimental than the Games this year.”
  • Underdogs Athletics coach Justin Cotler agrees: “I think having standardized programming makes it very easy to compare athletes from different semis across the world, which is essential for rankings. And if you look at programming for the season as one continuous story, the Open can flow into Quarters and then into Semis and then the Games in one cohesive narrative ultimately culminating with the Fittest in the world on the podium,” he said, adding that he’s also hoping that having only two North America events and one European one will allow for a significant increase in Semifinals prize purses as well as spectator attendance. 

One big thing: What does have to be seen as a positive change is how early CrossFit has released this information as compared to other seasons. It’s something seven-time Games athlete Brent Fikowski pointed out that he appreciates, as it makes planning out his year easier.

  • “It is great that we’ve been told well in advance to complete workouts at an affiliate or be expected to produce a public video. For someone like me that mostly trains at home it gives me a lot of time to plan to either complete them at a nearby affiliate or prep my home gym for high quality filming,” he said. 
  • He added: “I really like that once the Semifinals dates are announced, every athlete in the world will know when and where they will be competing…It was hard for athletes in Europe and North American to play their life around the competition season when they were sorted to their Semifinal only after the Quarterfinals were completed in 2021 and 2022.”

Worth noting: CrossFit also said to stay tuned to hear more  about “worldwide rankings.” So far no other context has been provided, but the teaser did enough to pique both Fikowski and Cotler’s interest.

  • “I’m very excited to learn more about the world ranking and how that will be utilized throughout the season. If executed correctly it could add a lot of value to the season,” Fikoswki offered.
  • Cotler, too, is said he’s curious about how the “ranking system” will play out and “what type of influence the rankings have on qualifying spots,” he said.

The big picture: While some athletes are digging this year’s changes, and others aren’t so sure, if there’s one thing all athletes in the sport of CrossFit need to accept is that change is constant, and no season is ever the same as the last. But despite this year’s changes, as Vellner pointed out, “the fittest will find a way.”

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