What is the Open? Simply put, it is “where grassroots meets greatness: Compete with hundreds of thousands of athletes in CrossFit’s largest all-inclusive event.” The Open is the first step in qualifying for the CrossFit Games, and has grown to a worldwide phenomenon in the CrossFit community. In what other sport can amateur, semi-pro, and professional athletes compete together? I’ll tell you – none. Before we go any further, here is a brief timeline for the history buffs:
- The CrossFit Games started in 2007 at The Ranch in Aromas, California. Back then, anyone could show up and compete for the title of Fittest on Earth. A small group of about 70 people gathered to compete.
- The format changed in 2009 due to increasing popularity, and an ever growing number of athletes at the Games. CrossFit added qualifying events, called Regionals, where athletes could compete at a few select gyms and qualify to compete at the Games in Aromas.
- In 2010, CrossFit added Sectional qualifiers prior to Regionals, due to ever increasing popularity. From Feb. 13 to March 28, athletes around the world competed and the best athletes then moved on to Regionals, the final qualifying step before the Games.
- The 2011 CrossFit Games season began with the first-ever Open competition. The Open (so called because participation is open to anyone) was and is held over the course of 5 weeks and is meant to test our fitness and allow us to compete for a position among the fittest athletes in the world. The top finishers in the Open were invited to the Regional events.
- In 2015, the number of Regional events was consolidated from 17 down to 8 “Super Regionals”, again, due to the ever increasing number of athletes participating.
- In 2018, the Regional events were again modified due to increased competitiveness outside the US and Canada. There were 9 Regional events this year.
- Big changes occurred in 2019. After the Regional events in 2018, CrossFit cancelled Regionals and stated that athletes would have to qualify through sanctioned events, now called Sanctionals, instead. Top overall finishers from the Open, National Champions from the Open, and Sanctional qualifiers would be invited to the CrossFit Games in 2019 and moving forward.
- 2019 is also the only year with two Open qualifiers, as the Open season has changed from February/March to October. The October 2019 Open qualified athletes for the 2020 CrossFit Games.
- And without a doubt, 2020 had the greatest changes of all with regards to the Open and the competitive CrossFit season. Coronavirus forced the postponement and eventual cancellation of most of the Sanctioned Events and the CrossFit Games themselves. Coupled with significant changes at CrossFit HQ, we were pretty lucky to have a CrossFit Games in 2020, as different as it may have looked.
Participation in the Open has steadily increased over the years, with about 26,000 people in 2011 to over 416,000 in 2018. There was a slight drop in participation in 2019 due to the drastic changes implemented by CrossFit, so only around 358,000 people signed up in 2019 for the first Open, and only 239,000 people signed up for the second Open – two opens in one year was probably a little too much for everyone.
This year, the Open is going to look significantly different. First off, the Open is only going to be three weeks instead of five, and it is being pushed back to its original spot in the calendar year, albeit a little later than normal. The idea is that a shorter Open and a couple week delay from when it would normally start will be better for the COVID situation – many gyms are still closed, and the delay may be enough time for them to open back up. If not, it will at least give them more time to plan for the Open. Additionally a shorter Open is less hassle for gyms that have restricted class sizes and limited space, so it should be less of a headache for gym owners/managers. There are also additional divisions this year, including the Rx division, Scaled, Foundations, Equipment Free, and several new Adaptive Athlete Divisions.
For aspiring individual athletes and teams, the season begins with the Open and progresses to the Quarterfinals, Semifinals, Last-Chance Qualifier, and ultimately the 2021 CrossFit Games which will be held in Madison again this year. The top 10 percent of individual competitors and 25 percent of teams per continent advance to an online Quarterfinals and compete over the course of a weekend for a chance to advance to the third stage, Semifinals.
Athletes who qualify for the Semifinals will be invited to one of 10 in-person events across six continents ensuring at least one athlete from each continent qualifies for the Games. Prior to the CrossFit Games, there will be a last-chance qualifier for athletes who narrowly miss the cut in the Semifinals. The Games will be held at the end of July.
How does the Open affect you? Well, for 99% of us, it does not affect us at all. It just means that on Fridays during the month of March (starting March 12th), we will be performing the Open events. We have been revisiting several of these Open events the past month or so, so you have a little taste of what is in store. We like to refer to these events as “tests” not as “workouts” as they are meant to test you. They may be a little more difficult, they may include higher level skills, they may get really heavy. These things are all planned out to test our fitness and ultimately find who is the fittest to move on to the next level.
Again, for most of us, it doesn’t really change anything. As you’ll hear me say, “it’s just another workout”, so nothing to worry about. If you would like to sign up, you can do so here: https://games.crossfit.com/open. The cost is $20, and gives you access to the leaderboard which will tell you how you stand compared to everyone else that signs up around the world. There are also custom leaderboards where you can sort by age, country, state, etc. Is it necessary for you to sign up? No. You will be doing the events on Friday regardless of if you sign up or not.
If you do decide to sign up for the Open, your score for each event will need to be judged and validated before you submit online. You may also do the workout without a judge, but you will need to video the workout and submit that as your proof. Judges need to take and pass the Judges Course Certification for that year (https://oc.crossfit.com/) in order to judge athletes. If you plan on submitting videos instead of having a judge present, I recommend you also take the course as it not only teaches you the movement standards, but it also gives you the requirements for the video submissions.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 which will detail how we organize our in-house Hakkapeliitta Open challenge, and Part 3 which will detail how our Friday Night Lights will be run.