Whole New World: CrossFit HQ speaks out about Dubai and the Sanctioned Qualifying Events

Written by Kristen Chandler Toth

This week we see the beginning of a new era of elite CrossFit competition. In as much time as it takes for the autumn leaves to turn in New England, the competitive CrossFit landscape has changed. It’s a whole new world, with new plans to make, strategies to devise, and programs to design. New places to visit, to compete at and new communities that get to experience the life-improving benefits of CrossFit. Starting with Dubai, an oasis of a city in the desert in a small country that has 27 CrossFit affiliates, we will get to watch these sanctioned events use their own unique perspectives to produce competitions with unique qualities. We will see how Games athletes navigate the unknowns of the 2019 CrossFit Games season.

Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, Inc. is known for many things, but being predictable isn’t one of them.

This year he turned the Games season on its head shortly after the end of the 2018 Games and announced a new qualifying process to earn a spot in the 2019 CrossFit Games. One of those avenues is to win a CrossFit-sanctioned competition.

The CrossFit Games started 12 years ago and the process of qualifying for the big show has changed several times. For the past 8 years, the season was confined to 6 months with three stages, starting with the open-to-everyone “Worldwide Open,” out of which the top athletes in different geographical areas qualified for Regionals. The best from each region then earned a spot to compete at the Games. In 2010, “Sectionals” were the all-inclusive qualifying events to make Regionals and then the Games. Regionals were first introduced in 2009 for anyone to compete in to qualify for the Games. The first two years of the Games in 2007 and 2008, all you had to do is sign up to compete at the Games.

Along with qualification format variations, the Games have changed locations three times from a dusty ranch in Aromas California from 2007 to 2009, to Carson California at the StubHub Center from 2010 to 2016, and to its current location at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison Wisconsin starting in 2017. Change has been a part of the CrossFit Games story as much as Dave Castro’s dramatically straight-forward workout announcements.

So far CrossFit HQ has sanctioned 15 different events all over the world for the 2018-2019 Season. The global spread of these competitions makes the point markedly: CrossFit is not only infinitely scalable, it’s infinitely applicable. Across cultures and languages, from its western, American roots into the reaches of the Chinese mainland and down into the plains of the Serengeti, the principles of intensity, variation and functional movements paired with whole foods and purposeful nutrition- these ideas, implemented- truly help people. The healthy change that CrossFit brings people isn’t limited by nationality or place. It follows that as CrossFit affiliates spread throughout the world, CrossFit HQ wants to foster and support that growth by recognizing the self-started competitions that have grown organically in their own communities.

But why haven’t we heard from CrossFit Headquarters in the past few (quite important) months? The media department there is much diminished with many of my friends looking for new opportunities as restructuring takes place. I have no insider insight into what the motivation or reasoning has been, but I know that many of us fans and followers have been hungry for an official word from the higher-ups. We’ve gotten some interviews and quotes from Greg Glassman with outside media sources, but few posts from the official CrossFit Games social media accounts explaining what is happening.

Official statement from CrossFit Headquarters

“CrossFit was born in California and has always been associated with the Golden State. But CrossFit’s physiology, methodology, and nutrition prescription are universal. CrossFit is for anyone, no matter their age, culture, or ability. The sanctioned events represent the growth of CrossFit beyond HQ. It’s an honor for us to see the very first CrossFit sanctioned event take place in Dubai, in a flourishing CrossFit community, on the other side of the world from our origin point. This illustrates CrossFit’s universal applicability and appeal, in the realm of competition and beyond. The diseases vexing the modern world are not unique to America, and CrossFit is singularly positioned to help any people, from any country, escape the ravages of ill-health and sickness. We’re proud of what the Dubai CrossFit Championship represents in terms of fitness, health, and the natural growth of the CrossFit community.

Dubai’s competition has continued to be an outstanding event in an exceptional country, and was an obvious choice for one of our first official sanctioned events. We want the spectrum of competitions to reflect the diversity of the CrossFit community. You’ll see a variety of different CrossFit sanctioned events unfold in the coming years—athletes will be challenged by the diversity of events, preserving our goal of preparation for the unknown and the unknowable.

The sanctioned events are important to CrossFit Inc. as a recognition of the good work of our affiliates, trainers, and athletes in building great competitions and communities. The CrossFit Games season is really all about the CrossFit community. It’s a celebration of your achievement, not ours. As such, we wanted to embrace what was happening organically in the community. In the coming years, we’ll have many more sanctioned events qualifying athletes for the Games, in many countries around the globe. The sanctioned events provide a competitive framework with the CrossFit Open and the CrossFit Games season that allows for as many opportunities for others to excel as possible. We’re very proud of what the CrossFit community has built and is building.”

The Unknown and Unknowable

Fans of CrossFit have been flummoxed and confused by the new format, but I am thrilled to see how this all plays out. To see whose strategy works. To see if the best at dealing with the unknown and unknowable on the competition floor are the same set that are best at dealing with the unknown and unknowable in life. While I would have preferred to see a rulebook published before this season starts, here we are, getting ready to qualify some athletes for the 2019 Games. These competitors aren’t waiting around and we don’t have to either.

On Wednesday we will see the CrossFit Games 3-time defending Champ himself, Mat Fraser, compete in what has been, the off-season. He won in Dubai in 2016 and no one doubts his dominance, but nothing is a given. Arriving a week in advance, Mat is clearly taking this competition seriously. And we will see if the young powerhouse that is Laura Horvath can really fend off an entire field of elite women, as she appears ready to do.

Thankfully the Dubai CrossFit Championship has a live broadcast, that they are sharing for free, so we can follow all of the ground-breaking action. Next stop for 6 focused athletes: Madison.

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