South Africa’s “The Fittest Games” Clocks Record Numbers and Prize Purse
South African CrossFit competition “The Fittest Games” had a record number of participants and one of the highest prize purses of any non-Semifinals event in Africa ever at its fourth annual event.
The goal for the competition’s co-owner Ryno Verster has always remained the same: bring elite competition to affiliates around Africa, unite the continent’s many countries, and give athletes new avenues to pursue CrossFit professionally. This year, they saw those goals ascend to a new level.
- The prize purse for the elite division totaled 100,000 Rand, making it one of the largest cash prize for any independent CrossFit event in the continent. First place men and women received 25,000 Rand each, and second and third place received 15,000 and 10,000 respectively.
- Over 400 athletes from 22 boxes and almost every single province from South Africa competed across 24 divisions.
- For the first time, the competition went international, bringing in a group of athletes from neighboring Mozambique.
The competition uses a special format that sets it apart from others and is in line with the same goal of uniting the continent. Athletes register through their affiliate and compete in in-house competitions before qualifying for the annual event, which takes place in-person at CrossFit Ground Zero in Potchefstroom, South Africa.
- “New boundaries are being broken, new limits. The whole country and the people are really serving the community,” Verster said on the growth he’s experienced in the past few years. “It’s a humbling experience to have something like this.”
Verster knows that to make Africa a more legitimate competitor in the race for the Fittest on Earth every year at the CrossFit Games, it needs to be a profitable endeavor for athletes. While competitors in North America and Europe can make a living at the gym with sponsors at their side, the athletes that he’s fighting for don’t have the same opportunities. This is why his competition is so focused on prize funds.
- “Our elites, during the week, could take the time off (from work) because the prize pool was big enough to justify them putting in leave at work or getting someone to run the box for them,” Verster explained.
Before the World Cup that the competition will hold in 2025 (and a following sabbatical year as part of their seven-year cycle), Verster hopes to “add a zero” to the prize fund for each individual winner. In addition, he hopes to replicate the funds given to individual athletes for teenage division winners. In Verster’s perspective, setting these young athletes up from the get-go as having the financial support to focus their time on CrossFit will help get them to a global stage in a few years.
Of course, this effort isn’t without support from outside sources. Verster says that in a short conversation with CrossFit CEO Don Faul, he promised full backing for their competition and help with the prize fund for the Community Cup, the award given to the affiliate with the most participants.
Verster says that CrossFit HQ has come out “all guns blazing” in support of the competition. In addition, he knows that one key sponsor can be the difference maker, and he’s in active pursuit of a title sponsor that could provide these means to the community.
In the end, though he admits it’s a difficult labor of love that takes a lot of support from many different people, Verster knows the effort is worth it.
Verster: “It’s basically the meaning I’ve set out to do–to change the sport, to professionalize the sport.”