CrossFit Athlete Ben Smith Is Concerned About Bias in Sanctionals

There has been a whole lot of commotion in the world of CrossFit these last few months as the format and qualifications process of the annual CrossFit Games have been totally overhauled.

The changes to the Games are too numerous to list here, and we’re pretty sure we’re going to hear about more of them as the event’s July 31st kickoff date nears. But chief among them, and one that’s the subject of a lot of discussion in the CrossFit community right now, is the radically different approach to how athletes qualify for the CrossFit Games.

It used to be all about nailing the CrossFit Open and then CrossFit Regionals, but this year CrossFit HQ has guaranteed entry to the CrossFit Games to folks who win various fitness events — called Sanctionals — throughout the year.

Examples include Wodapalooza, the Rogue Invitational, and the Asia CrossFit Championship, and this brings us to the focus of our article: some people think there may be some conflicts of interest in this new model, or at least there’s room for a conflict of interest to take place.

Enter Ben Smith, who won the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games and was a podium finisher in 2011, 2013, and 2016. In an interesting Instagram post, he made the following comments:

To all these “Sanctional” event coordinators that are qualifying athletes for the CF Games: This seems like common sense?… Don’t have people programming the events for the competition ALSO be the coaches of athletes competing in these events. What am I missing? ————————————————-

I’m all for this format/changes and think it should work just fine, possibly even better than the last format. But these comps have a responsibility to be un-biased. I love that the events are varied in structure And programming but I see this programming bias potential as an issue that needs to be resolved and should just be common sense. Thoughts? Am I missing something? ————————————————–

(Ps. Don’t say that programming doesn’t matter. It does. And That’s not the point, I’m thinking bigger picture for the “sport” as a whole and just want to start a discussion. Thx.)

He added some more thoughts in the comments:

Say there are 4-5 top athletes competing for one spot and one or two of them have coaches that are programming the event. Whether you think they are “front runners” or not doesn’t matter. It’s an advantage. And we all know “every second counts”.

Four-time World’s Fittest Man Rich Froning chimed in to say, “There needs to be some type of programming committee.” What do you think?

Featured image via @bsmit13 on Instagram.

Nick English

Nick English

Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of things.

After Shanghai, he went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before finishing his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and heading to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like BarBend, Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.

No fan of writing in the third person, Nick’s passion for health stems from an interest in self improvement: How do we reach our potential?

Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.

At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.

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