CrossFit Games

PFAA Survey Shows Athletes, Coaches, Agents Don’t Support Athletes Cuts at the CrossFit Games

July 26, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Enrique Villasenor
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Following this year’s Semifinals, the PFAA (Professional Fitness Athletes’ Association) conducted a survey with athletes, coaches and agents addressing various topics—largely around safety and standards at CrossFit competitions—in hopes of garnering support from CrossFit HQ to comply with their requests.

And while CrossFit and the PFAA were in agreement on many of the topics, they diverged when it came to athlete cuts at the CrossFit Games. 

The PFAA does not support athlete cuts at any stage of competition at the Games, but this sentiment didn’t stop CrossFit from implementing two rounds of cuts at the upcoming Games. (The field will be reduced from 40 men and 40 women to 30 of each after the first two days of competition, with just the top 20 men and women advancing to the final day on Sunday).

  • “Every athlete I have spoken to that’s competing (at the Games) and most coaches as well, we don’t want cuts at all,” said seven-time Games competitor Brent Fikowski, one of the PFAA’s Executive Committee members.

Remind me: The PFAA was born in July 2020 and was officially incorporated as a Washington-based non-profit. The intention was to collectively organize so they could put forth a unified front representing the athletes’ voices and interests.

  • For Fikowski, one of the major goals is to help continue to professionalize the sport of CrossFit, which today means focusing on athlete safety, competition fairness and the future of the sport.

The details: The athletes’ and coaches’ position when it comes to athlete cuts at the Games goes well beyond the PFAA’s belief that “all athletes matter,” Fikowski said. Their arguments are threefold:

Timeliness: CrossFit announced the cuts in early June, which Fikowski called “insufficient.”

  • “Many athletes are traveling from the other side of the world. They’re maybe bringing a coach, a spouse or members from their gym, and then they’re told they might only be experiencing half the competition, which is a huge expense for them, and so more notice is top of line,” Fikowski said. 

Global presence: Cuts undermine the sports’ visibility and growth in parts of the world where CrossFit is less known, Fikowski argued.

  • “The reality is if you look historically at who is being cut, a lot of them are from the areas where CrossFit is still in its younger stages…and if we want to increase the reach of the sport in those areas—maybe it’s affiliate growth, maybe it’s participation in competitions in those markets—I feel like cutting those athletes is counter-intuitive. Even if they’re not going to win, they’re still inspiring people,” Fikowski said.

Finding the Fittest on Earth: Finally, and possibly the most important reason, is that a lot can still happen in two full days of competition, but only three quarters of the field will get to compete on Saturday, and only half the field will compete on Sunday. 

  • “It’s not out of the question for an athlete to make a comeback (after two or three days),” Fikowski said. “And I believe that in the future, the margin between the best athlete in the world and the 40th athlete in the world will continue to become smaller and smaller…and as that happens it’s not at all unreasonable that athletes will shift more dramatically on the leaderboard.”
  • He added: “Logically it just doesn’t really make any sense from a fairness standpoint. The game is who is the best at these 15 workouts? That’s the game. And if you don’t allow people to do all the workouts, not only are you not allowing the athletes that are cut to then extend their weekend, you’re also changing how the scoring works for the athletes that remain after the cuts in a dramatic way because it becomes more important to have your best workouts after the cuts.”

One big thing: Despite not winning the cut battle this year, Fikowski said communication with CrossFit has gotten considerably better since the formation of the PFAA three years ago. 

  •  “If I look back to 2017, 2018, up to 2020, the ability for an athlete or a group of athletes to have a meaningful dialogue with CrossFit was practically nonexistent. It wasn’t’ something that was encouraged, nor did it exist in any way,” he said. So “to have (CrossFit) officially respond in writing (about) their position on these things is a starting point.”

And in fact, CrossFit was in support of many of the PFAA’s conditions and agreed to comply. Some of these included testing the lake water, as well as providing consistent warm-up equipment for all heats, consistent movement standards for all heats, and clear and specific briefings on minimum work requirements.

Further, CrossFit also committed to “making every effort” to meet the PFAA demands on a handful of other requests, including providing dry wood platforms for lifting, allowing athletes to adjust equipment and providing consistent heat warm-up times and clear and safe movement standards.

So despite CrossFit’s opposition to the PFAA’s wish to avoid athlete cuts (as well as providing multiple risers for shorter athletes), for the most part the two organizations weren’t so far apart.

The big picture: While making cuts at the Games “just doesn’t make any fricking sense”—a sentiment that is “echoed amongst the vast majority of athletes,” Fikowski said—he recognizes that progress has been made, and that’s a good start.

  • “There’s still room to grow and to certainly improve and to bridge that gap, to shorten the gap (between) how the athletes want the competitions to be and what the competitions are willing to provide,” he said. 

“We might not have the progress, the amount of progress that I would like, but there’s still progress.”

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