There’s been a lot of talk about the five men and five women who competed in the 2020 CrossFit Games, but not much has been said about the effectiveness of having a field that small, a scoring system with such big point jumps, and whether this format accomplished what it was supposed to. From a logistical perspective you would think the small field frees Dave Castro and his crew to be more imaginative and creative with the programming. However, according to Castro, the test we saw in Aromas, California, was more or less the same we would have seen if the top 30 men and 30 women had been able to compete. Even though it may not have changed, there are questions that must be asked about this format. Was a field of five entertaining enough? At the end of stage one, when 30 men and 30 women were whittled down to five, I thought the cut was too drastic. The point margins were so thin between fifth and 10th after all seven events that it felt as if the leaderboard was screaming for them to take 10 athletes. Of course, this was not to be because the Covid-19 pandemic forced the organisers to restrict the field. Instead, we got the best five, as promised, and we saw them complete the most gruelling Games we’ve ever seen. From an entertainment standpoint, the dominance of Mat Fraser and Tia-Clair Toomey was so great that the race for the other podium places became equally enthralling. Should Toomey and Fraser have handicaps to make Games competitive? Justin Medeiros, Samuel Kwant, Noah Ohlsen and Jeffrey Adler each held different positions across all three days of competition. It’s hard to think of anything more entertaining on a leaderboard. Did the scoring system work? The scoring system has seen a variety of different formats over the years, but we ended up with the biggest jumps in terms of points between placings we’ve ever seen. Even though the gaps between points were bigger, the scoring system still fitted into what has become a pretty typical mould for elite level competitions. In this iteration, the scoring system went from 100 to 75 to 55 to 35 to 15. It is pretty typical for the jumps not to be consistent from first place to last place. In a typical season making up a 60-point deficit in one event requires you to have an excellent event finish, and the person you’re trying to catch also has to have a pretty bad event. This year, a bad event finish cannot possibly be worse than fifth, and against only four other competitors it’s likely to happen to everyone eventually. Other than Fraser, who never finished worse than second in any individual event, every athlete took at least one fifth-place finish. Toomey and Katrin Davidsdottir only let that happen once each, but every other athlete in both divisions had at least two fifth-place finishes. This helps explain the fluctuations from event to event. Considering all of this, I would say CrossFit got it right. When running the numbers based on average event finish (which is a popular way to double check that the scoring system accomplished its goal) the final placings check out exactly. Is three days long enough? In the modern era it has become normal to expect a four- or five-day competition. Yet again, 2020 forced the Games’ team to adapt their usual plan, ultimately settling on a three-day, 12-event competition. There’s never been a more complete three-day competition and it’s arguable that this test, and all it encompassed, is quite simply the best we’ve seen under any circumstances. Many people were sceptical heading because most of the events we knew ahead of time were relatively short-time domains. As always, it is prudent to wait until we see the complete test before making any premature conclusions. Now that we’ve seen the entire test, it’s obvious why there were several relatively “short” events; the Ranch Loop and Atalanta more than account for adequate tests in the long, very long, time domains. If anything, you could be critical that there was nothing tested between 16 and 47 minutes, but it’s negligible. The difficulty, balance and duration of the tests individually, and the competition as a whole, are as good as they have ever been. Will we see something like this again? There was so much good about the Games, especially stage two, that it makes me wonder what lessons the event directors and organisers will use going forward. It’s only a matter of time before CrossFit HQ releases their layout for the new structure next season. I suspect elements of this year’s Games will be present. And yet, it is hard to imagine that we will see a field this small ever again, depending on the pandemic. What we learned from the last two Games is that, after Fraser and Toomey, the margins between the next five to 15 men and women are small. I’m not sure we need a full field of 40, or even 30, but given a full test of 12-15 events over three to five days, 20 athletes would provide plenty of excitement. I’m looking forward to seeing how CrossFit uses this experience to continue to make our sport even more compelling.