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This year marks the third year the CrossFit Games have called Madison its host. But has anything really changed from last year? It turns out, quite a lot has.
The CrossFit Games exist to crown the "Fittest on Earth." However, up until this year, the Games only sent invitations to the top 40 men and top 40 women from across the globe, most of whom were from the United States. Now, CrossFit is changing its approach to how athletes are chosen. Rather than choosing the top 40 overall athletes for both men and women, the CrossFit Games have extended invitations to compete in the Games to the top men and women athletes from a huge number of countries across the globe. In addition to the competitors from each of the invited countries, the Games will also be populated by athletes who have won sanctioned CrossFit events. In total, there will be close to 300 athletes competing in the elite division.
Justin Bergh, General Manager of the CrossFit Games, says this change comes in an attempt to better portray the global scale of the Games. With more than 15,000 licensed gyms worldwide — more than half of which are located outside of the United States — the sport only continues to grow in international circles.
"Brazil has over 1,000 CrossFit gyms, however they've never had a representative competing at the CrossFit Games in the elite men's division or women's division, and this year that'll happen for the first time — where their national champion will be recognized and has been invited to participate in the Games," Bergh says.
Though the United States is still the most represented country at the Games, athletes from other nations, like France's female national champion, will have a chance to perform on a worldwide stage for the first time.
New elimination process
The result is that this year's Games will have a lot more competition. With nearly 300 athletes expected to compete this year, CrossFit is faced with a logistical challenge: How do you narrow down the field? The answer is simply a more rapid elimination process.
With that progressively accelerated elimination schedule comes less time needed for the competitions. In previous years the CrossFit Games started around 8-9 a.m. and would often run until 9 p.m., but now athletes can expect their days will finish around 5-6 p.m., which means one thing: more free time to explore Madison.
"Now there are hundreds and hundreds of new athletes from around the world that will be coming to Madison, exploring Wisconsin and spending not just the four days of the competition, but some of them a week or 10 days or more in the United States with Madison as their fitness capital of the world," Bergh says.
With more than three times the amount of competitors invited this year and more time to spend outside of the Games, one can only imagine what kind of liveliness will fill Madison's streets, restaurants, bars and entertainment centers.
CrossFit Health Conference
Another event to keep in mind is the third installment of the CrossFit Health Conference, held at the Monona Terrace on July 31. Though it's not exactly a new conference, this year's iteration will be condensed into a single day jam-packed with speakers covering topics like "the war on cholesterol and fat, the metabolic effects of low-carb diets, and the widespread sacrifice of scientific truth on the altar of the pharmaceutical industry," according to CrossFit's website.
Broadcasting the Games
In line with the continued growth of CrossFit around the world and an influx of international competitors, this year's Games will see major changes in how the event is shared with spectators. While previous years have seen the CrossFit Games broadcast the events on ESPN, and more recently CBS, this year streams of the Games will be opened to anyone who might want to share it with their audience, meaning people from all over the world will be able to add their own content — including foreign language commentary — to their version of the streams.
"The perspective that people have on Madison — from Iceland and from Sweden, Norway, from Italy, Dubai and other places — [is that] Madison is synonymous now with the capital of fitness."