It’s been a big few weeks for competitive CrossFit. Not only did CrossFit HQ announce the 2021 competitive season, but they also included news that the Open will also introduce a new division for adaptive athletes.
“It’s not outside the range of me saying this is what we’ve been working for the last seven years. So this is exactly what we’ve been working for,” adaptive athlete and coach Kevin Ogar told BarBend on a call.
Although the Adaptive Division will be included in the 2021 CrossFit Open, sources tell us it may not be included in the CrossFit Games until 2022 as classes and standards undergo further development — though the final decision has yet to be made.
Logan Aldridge, Director of Training at Adaptive Training Academy (ATA), which is working with CrossFit to build standards for the divisions, told BarBend this is due to a few reasons:
- First, although the adaptive division is technically one division, it contains eight (tentative) classifications. Programming for each presents specific sets of logistical hurdles, discussed more in depth below.
- Secondly, deciphering how to manage this logistically, in terms of access and registration numbers, is a challenge.
“To incorporate this Adaptive Division and the uncertainty of how many people will register and participate makes it difficult to plan out what the Games will look like….CrossFit headquarters admin, the group that we’re working with to make this happen in the Open, they were concerned about offering this in the Games in the rule book.”
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“Well, they went to Dave Castro and others and confirmed that, if we get enough participation in the CrossFit Open, per division, we may select divisions that have deep participation to move on and qualify for the Games.”
So you’re saying there’s a chance? According to Aldridge, it’s at least partially a numbers game.
“If we have 500 upper extremity athletes participate in the Open, that’s plenty of a population to develop a Games roster,” Aldridge said.
Building the Adaptive Division: Eight Separate Classes
Classification with the Adaptive Division will be key according to Alec Zirkenbach, ATA’s Executive Director.
“Classification is a way to keep competition fair. This way we can distinguish who is the fittest in the world and not the ‘least disabled’,” said Zirkenback in a recent open forum hosted by ATA.
In this manner, the CrossFit Open in March 2021 will tentatively include eight separate classes for the Adaptive Athlete Division.
- Upper Extremity Impairment
- Lower Extremity Impairment
- Visual Impairment
- Short Stature
- Neuromuscular Impairment
- Seated Athletes (Class 2; athlete has hip function)
- Seated Athletes (Class 1; no motor function of the hip)
- Intellectual Impairment (also known as neurodiverse or cognitive impairment)
Part of the reason the process of classification is proving taxing is the unpredictable nature of CrossFit programming: that it is unknown and unknowable. Especially in the Open, the movements are not known ahead of time, which makes adapting for essentially eight different divisions of athletes very difficult.
Also called into consideration is the process of actually medically defining an adaptation to ensure competitive fairness. Having defined categories within the Adaptive Division, much like in the Paralympics, helps define the boundaries of each.
Another challenge is registration, which Aldridge addressed in talking to BarBend.
“If you live with a disability, if you identify at all in your life as adaptive, living with a disability, please sign up and participate in the CrossFit Open. That’s the biggest, most important message we could be sending.”
“It doesn’t matter how you feel like you stand, whether you feel like you qualify for this category or that category. All those details are coming out, and that will be there…just participate. It’s one thing if you want to participate and qualify and compete, and that’s great. Absolutely participate.”
ATA Athletes Leading By Example
Aldridge himself is planning to compete in the Open, right alongside coach and fellow ATA organizer Kevin Ogar.
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“This first year, I have actually been asked to come out of my competitive retirement,” said Ogar. “The other staff members of ATA and WheelWOD, I told them they could vote on it and that if they thought that it was best for an old, out of shape athlete to represent them, then I would.”
Ogar is no stranger to competition: A three-time CrossFit Regionals athlete, Ogar severed his spine in a freak accident during a fitness competition unaffiliated with CrossFit Inc. Aldridge, who is often referred to as the “Fittest One Armed Man on Earth,” boasts a 185 pound clean & jerk and a 350 pound deadlift.
Though this year’s rollout of Adaptive Divisions may occur on a slightly smaller scale — though again, Games inclusion is still TBD for 2021 — the ATA and CrossFit are taking big steps for adaptive athletes and inclusion. The ATA is encouraging athletes and coaches interested in getting involved to contact them, as well as to register for the 2021 CrossFit Open.
Featured image of Logan Aldridge from @davidmullis