In mid-December, CrossFit headquarters released a skeleton of what the new CrossFit Games format looks like and first off is the 2021 CrossFit Open. New CrossFit owner Eric Roza has been talking about the resurgence of the Open since he took over and the goal is to have half a million participants register. It seems a couple of changes in particular could help them reach that goal. The Open had been advertised as starting on February 18, which has now been pushed back to March 11. It has always been at least five weeks long but is now reduced to three. The Open has qualified athletes for different competitions in different seasons and this year about 10 per cent of all participants will qualify for a new “quarter-finals” stage. Pushing the start date back by nearly a month gives people extra time after the holidays to prepare, while simultaneously extending the off-season for elite athletes. And, for this year in particular, it buys a few more weeks as the world still struggles to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. CrossFit to kick-start 2021 season with virtual Open in March Historically, there is a notable drop-off in participation after the third week (reasons for this are debatable, but the fact that fewer people do the week four and five workouts is not). A three-week Open should be encouraging from this perspective, and not just for individuals. Many boxes like to have some kind of Open competition, but managing that for five weeks can get tiresome. The opportunity for more athletes to qualify for a subsequent, relevant, stage of the competitive season will most likely reinvigorate the mindset of hundreds, if not thousands, of athletes. Qualifying for Regionals used to feel attainable for far more athletes, but the harsh reality is not many of us have the capacity to make it to the Games, no matter how hard we train. What do these new quarter-finals mean for CrossFit. We know very little about them at this point, but it seems they are almost an extension of the Open. For individuals, the quarter-finals start just two weeks after the end of the Open. Teams also have a quarter-final stage, starting four weeks after the Open. And finally, masters and teenage divisions will have their qualifier starting on May 3; notably for the age groups they are called qualifiers, not quarter-finals. One big question remains though. Will the three-week Open include only three tests, or will there be multiple workouts per week to increase the probability of getting the best athletes to the next stage? I’m hopeful there are multiple tests per week, but with the quarter-finals being so close to the end of the Open, it’s quite possible the Open is only three tests, that CrossFit headquarters feels that is enough to narrow it down to “around 10 per cent of Open athletes” who will advance to the quarter-finals. Online workouts are here to stay as CrossFitters get ahead of curve Then 10 live semi-final events will take place in six different continents between May 24 and June 14. These will be hosted by CrossFit partners (presumably many of whom were a part of, or meant to be a part of, the Sanctional season this past year). These events will operate under strict safety protocols. Although they are going by a different name, the early indications are that the semi-final stage is going to have a Regional feel to it. However, there are many unknowns. Perhaps most notably is who will qualify to compete at each semi-final and will athletes have the opportunity to travel further should they wish to. There are questions about how many qualifying athletes each semi-final will send to the Games. The only thing we know is that at least one athlete (male and female we assume) from each continent will qualify. The idea of a last chance qualifier has been discussed in CrossFit circles before and we finally have it in an intentional format. In 2019, the French Throwdown (the final Sanctional of that season) had the feel of a last chance qualifier, but it wasn’t quite as direct as this one seems to be. The semi-final stage of competition starts on May 24 and if you include the last chance qualifier, it ends the week of June 28. That’s a pretty big time frame. If athletes from the May 24 competition week are competing in the last chance qualifier with athletes who had their semi-final on June 14, the preparation and recovery for those two athletes is drastically different. Finally, what about the 2021 CrossFit Games, in-person (with an online contingency) in Madison, Wisconsin in week of July 26? The number of athletes, teams, masters, and teenagers competing in each division is thus far unknown. ‘Lessons from Covid’ from Hong Kong’s top CrossFit coach There is also the seemingly long overdue addition of an Adaptive division which many are happy to see. Gone are the days of starting the season without a rule book, or athletes sweating nervously waiting for it after the new year. While this information is great to have and there’s a decent amount to digest, it almost raises more questions than it answers. Hopefully the follow-up, or some additional explanation, sooner rather than later, will address the big questions. It gives hope that the season will be more predictable, more repeatable, and more comprehensive in terms of including everyone, while simultaneously whittling down a massive field to a legitimate elite who have earned the right to test themselves against the best for “Fittest on Earth”.