On Jan. 4, 2022, an internal email was sent to the staff of CrossFit by CrossFit owner and CEO Eric Roza. It explained the rationale behind the decision to release longtime General Manager of Sport Dave Castro. That email was leaked to the press the same day, causing a flurry of articles to hit the internet covering Castro’s firing and stirring a wave of conversation, hot takes, and emotions amongst the CrossFit community.
One day later, on Jan. 5, 2022, CrossFit broke their silence with a statement on games.crossfit.com, wherein they called Castro “the founder of the CrossFit Games” in the article’s subtitle:
On Tuesday, Jan. 4, CrossFit parted ways with Dave Castro, the founder of the CrossFit Games and a driving force behind the systemization of CrossFit into the Sport of Fitness.
The statement did not shed light on any previously unknown information. It reiterated the most notable points of Roza’s email, which included recognition of Castro’s work in the early days of the CrossFit Games via “the growth of CrossFit’s training business and helping to scale the seminar department to reach tens of thousands of trainers.” Additionally, it confirmed that CrossFit’s Vice President of Sport and Partnerships Justin Bergh would become the new General Manager of Sport.
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CrossFit also recognized Castro’s contributions to the sport in their Instagram post, captioned as “Thank you, Dave.” Like Roza’s email, the post’s content suggested that the trajectory of CrossFit’s future does not include Castro. Roza said in the email, “I have made the difficult decision to change the leadership of the Sport team to best support CrossFit’s go-forward plans, and Dave Castro will be leaving the business.” CrossFit’s Instagram post said,
We are here to preserve the heart of CrossFit and help lead our sport into the future.
At the time of this article’s publication, Castro has made one public statement regarding his release. On his Instagram page, he made clear that the decision for his removal was “not mutual,” though Roza had “messaging prepared” that it was. Castro’s firing came just seven weeks before the start of the 2022 CrossFit Open, the programming of which is “pretty much done,” according to a video of Castro on the CrossFit Games YouTube channel:
Dave Castro and the CrossFit Games
The origin of the CrossFit Games was the brainchild of former CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman and Castro as they walked together on a ranch owned by Castro’s parents in Aromas, CA, which most recently hosted the 2020 CrossFit Games Finals. Their goal was to create “the Woodstock of fitness” and find the Fittest Man and Fittest Woman on Earth®.
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The inaugural CrossFit Games was held from June 30 through July 1, 2007. There was no qualification process for the 2007 Games; athletes only needed to register for the competition (a qualification process for individuals was not established until 2009). The Games did not leave the ranch until its continued growth compelled a move to the then Home Depot Center in Carson, CA (now Dignity Health Sports Park) in 2010.
The Open was introduced in 2011 to cast a “wider net” to give more legitimacy to the title of Fittest Man and Fittest Woman on Earth®. That year, CrossFit signed a decade-long partnership with Reebok which lasted until late 2020. NOBULL became the title sponsor of the CrossFit Games in March 2021.
A significant part of Castro’s legacy in the CrossFit Games is keeping athletes guessing what Games events might consist of. His knack for this kind of chaos stems back to the 2007 Games, where an event’s movements were determined by pulling colored balls from a hopper (also called a peanut roaster).
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Castro’s precedent of programming events not known by the athletes at the CrossFit Games remained present through the 2021 Games. “Mystery Event” is a common feature on official Games event lists, where they often remain unknown until shortly before it is performed.
Castro introduced off-location workouts at the 2011 Games with the “Beach” event that involved a 210-meter ocean swim. A water-based event has been featured at every CrossFit Games since. Castro’s propensity for adding new elements at the CrossFit Games continued in 2013 with the introduction of the Pig — a pillar with weight plates on both ends — and the Worm — a long bag loaded with sandbags used in Team competition.
In 2014, Castro introduced sprint sleds used in two events — “Sprint Sled 1” and “Sprint Sled 2.” In 2015, Castro’s programming added paddleboards and pegboards to the growing arsenal of potential CrossFit Games equipment. The 2016 Games debuted the Snail — an oversized drum loaded with sandbags that athletes rolled across a field.
…the methodology of CrossFit: preparing for the unknown and unknowable.
Although predetermined in the programming, Castro has even surprised Games athletes by altering an event while it’s happening. A notable example was the Ranch Loop event at the 2020 CrossFit Games Finals, where athletes had to run an arid course around the ranch in Aromas. After crossing what they thought was the finish line, five-time Fittest Man on Earth® Mat Fraser, and reigning CrossFit Games champion Justin Medeiros were met by Castro telling them they had to re-run the entire course again in reverse — they were only halfway. It was a twist so large that Fraser did not believe Castro at first and flipped Castro off, presumably thinking he was joking. He wasn’t, and Fraser and Medeiros jogged back onto the dusty trail.
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CrossFit in 2022 and Beyond
Although Castro is no longer responsible for programming the 2022 CrossFit Games, his presence will undoubtedly be felt during the 2022 Open. He confirmed on Dec. 31, 2021, that the Open will have two new yet-to-be-named elements not seen in the Open before. In total, Castro programmed 15 CrossFit Games. As Roza put it in his email:
“[Castro’s] vision, creativity, and drive have taken the CrossFit Games from an informal backyard competition at his family’s ranch into a global phenomenon with hundreds of thousands of participants and millions of viewers worldwide.”
Featured image via CrossFit Games YouTube channel.