Alison Scudds & James Newbury Take Us Inside the 2021 CrossFit Games Demo Team

Two of the six CrossFit Games Demo Team members answer questions about what it's like to craft the hardest fitness competition on the planet.

The 2021 CrossFit Games kick off on July 27, and in the Individual divisions, the top elite men and women will be competing for the title of Fittest on Earth® in several grueling tests of fitness. 

These tests of fitness are known for being not only challenging, but creative. CrossFit Games Director Dave Castro, the diabolical mastermind behind the Open workouts we all know and love, gets to take the programming up a notch when he’s testing for the Fittest on Earth. 

In years past, this creativity would show up as a new object for athletes to tackle (2013 introduced The Pig, 2015 brought in the pegboard, and 2016 introduced The Snail) or a twist on a classic workout (Heavy DT in 2015 and Double DT in 2016). 

We can also count on the element of the unknown to subject athletes to weaknesses they can’t prepare for. At the 2020 Games Ranch Loop, athletes completed an unknown trail run, and therefore an unknown distance, and were then told to turn around and run all the way back to the start. 

The way Castro can create these tests and fit them into a whole picture that leads to finding the Fittest on Earth is through his testing team and the CrossFit Games Demo Team

We chatted with Demo Team Captain Alison Scudds (who is also a regular on Castro’s testing team) and Demo Team member James Newbury to learn more about their role in finding the Fittest on Earth.


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Editor’s Note: The following interview has been lightly edited for readability.

BarBend: You both were so close to making it to the Games this year. What motivates you to be a part of the Demo Team, which has you essentially complete the Games without a shot at winning?

Alison Scudds: Being selected for the Demo Team is an incredibly unique and prestigious opportunity. The motivation to help test out the workouts just comes from being honored to be asked to be a small cog in the great wheel that is the CrossFit Games…I get to express my fitness in a way that is so different from training and competing.

James Newbury: We were actually discussing that this morning. I’ve done so much training in this training camp with Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr [four-time CrossFit Games winner] and the crew here in Nashville. I want to put that fitness to use. I don’t want it to go to waste. It’s about using everything we’ve gained over the last five to six weeks of hard training and getting it to the point where I can actually use it for a purpose.

BarBend: What is your job as a member of the 2021 CrossFit Demo Team?

JN: For the most part…we’re there to demo and instruct how these workouts will play out to make sure everyone’s on the same wavelength. But also, I believe that we’ll be testing these workouts to make sure that things are ironed out. These workouts are tested previously many, many times, but they’re only tested in Madison on the field of play when we get there.  

AS: In 2017, when I was on the Demo Team, we still had to figure out the Obstacle Course and the Hay Bale event details because they could not replicate these exactly before arriving in Madison. So the morning of…we were literally testing out different rep schemes for the event the athletes were about to do.

BarBend: What’s the biggest responsibility associated with being on the Games Demo Team?

JN: For me, I think the biggest responsibility is being able to perform the workouts to the best of my ability. When Dave says, ‘hey, I want you to go out and swim two miles, then paddle one mile, then swim another two miles, etc.,’ being able to go out there and put a decent time on the board, so they know exactly what they’re going to be getting on the day. That’s one of the biggest things for me.

AS: The biggest responsibility, in my opinion, is to be ready and on-call at all times and do whatever needs to be done without hesitation and with an open mind and positive attitude.

BarBend: Alison, you are often a part of the testing team for the Games as well. How are those responsibilities different from being on the Demo Team? 

AS: Being a part of the testing team is, much like being on the demo team, such a unique opportunity because I get to peek behind the curtain a bit and see all the thoughts, decisions, and attention to detail that go into creating an incredible event. Training and competing can have a lot of structure and planning around it, whereas testing the Games workouts does not. You may do the same workout 3 different ways on back-to-back days, or you may think you’re doing a certain amount of reps, and just before you finish, you have to do a surprise extra round. An open mind is important because you don’t ever really know what to expect, so if…reality changes on you, it could be easy to get frustrated or distracted from giving your best effort. 


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BarBend: James, what are you looking forward to most at this year’s Games? 

JN: After training with Will [Moorad] and Tia, and Brooke [Wells], I’m really excited to see how they perform. Shane [Orr]’s got them so well prepared. I’m just looking forward to seeing them put on a show…I’m pumped for that.  I’m just really excited to have a spot at the Games.

BarBend: Alison, what are the particular responsibilities of being the Demo Team Captain? What does that title mean? 

AS: My responsibilities include being a liaison between the Games team and the Demo Team, to make sure we are all where we need to be when we need to be, delegating who will do which briefings for all divisions: individual, team, masters, teens…and making sure everyone on the team has a great experience! 

BarBend: James, how is teamwork going to play a role in being on the demo team? 

JN: We’ll be testing some of the Team workouts, too, making sure that things are ‘right’ there, so working as a team will be fairly crucial. We’ve had a few group chats with the team talking about how excited we are to all get together, so it already feels like we all know each other.

Watch the 2021 CrossFit Games

The 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games begins on Tuesday, July 27th, with Masters, Teens, and the new Adaptive divisions kicking off the action. Elite individuals begin competing on Wednesday, July 28. The full event will run until August 1, and is taking place in Madison, Wisconsin at the Alliant Energy Center

Featured Image: @jamesnewbury on Instagram