What Wodapalooza’s Cancellation Could Mean for the Future of CrossFit Sanctionals™

Changes to Wodapalooza and the Rogue Invitational mark a turning point.

Wodapalooza was set to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year in Miami but has since been canceled. The news was shared in a social media post, citing the reason for the cancellation as “due to a situation outside [their] control.”

Given the event’s size and popularity, it does not bode well for the remaining field of CrossFit Sanctionals™ events fans hoped would make a comeback in 2021.

Wodapalooza and Its Cancellation

CrossFit had partnered with organizations to host 28 Sanctionals for the 2020 season, with only 10 taking place before global calls to cancel in-person events. Wodapalooza was considered one of the largest of these, with 3,000 athletes showing up to compete and an attendance of more than 45,000 fans over four days.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Wodapalooza (@wodapalooza)

Wodapalooza is run by Loud and Live Sports, which oversees a family of four additional events: West Coast Classic, Madrid CrossFit Championship, Granite Games, and Mayan CrossFit Classic.

Matt O’Keefe, Loud and Live’s President, announced on the Make WODs Great Again Podcast in January 2021 that Wodapalooza would be taking a step back from its relationship with CrossFit and would be canceled for 2021. O’Keefe told hosts John Wooley and Niki Brazier, “we’re going to push outside the system and go back to where it was, and live on its own.”

Shortly after the episode aired, a confirmation was posted to Wodapalooza’s Instagram account. CrossFit branding was also removed from the accounts and websites of the former-Sanctionals sister events.

The New CrossFit Games Qualification Process

In December 2020, CrossFit announced details around the 2021 CrossFit Open, which included the season rulebook and additional information on the future of Sanctionals. The Open will now kick off the week of March 8, 2021, and announce one workout per week for three weeks, instead of the five-week, five-workout format participants are used to. The top 10 percent of athletes in the Open will be invited to compete in online Quarterfinals the week of April 5, 2021, with a subset of top athletes then invited to 10 live Semifinals hosted by CrossFit event partners across six continents.

Not included in the rulebook at the time of publication is how many athletes from each Semifinal event will be invited to the Games and who the event partners will be for those events.

What Happens to Other CrossFit Sanctionals?

At the time of publishing, 16 of the 28 Sanctionals initially scheduled for the 2020 season have yet to announce details or plans around their 2021 events. Of the remaining 12 competitions on that list, five make up the Loud and Live events, which are operating outside of CrossFit for the year, and the others each have varying levels of 2021 details announced.

The Dubai CrossFit Championship

The Dubai CrossFit Championship (DCC) has run every year since 2012. The event’s large prize purse attracted top-level athletes, even before it partnered with CrossFit as the first-ever Sanctionals event. For example, the 2019 DCC offered $595,000 in cash prizes, in a format where no athlete leaves with less than $1,000. Given their position early in the season (it typically runs in December) and the surges of COVID cases globally, Dubai announced its cancellation last May.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Dubai CrossFit® Championship (@dxbfitnesschamp)

The 2021 Rogue Invitational

The Rogue Invitational, another large Sanctionals which ran successfully in 2019, was forced to cancel their in-person event in 2020, though their virtual competition was well-received. They announced in December 2021 they would be moving the event from Rogue’s Ohio headquarters in May to an undisclosed location in Austin, TX, in October 2021.

With the CrossFit season running from the CrossFit Open in March to the CrossFit Games in late July, the Rogue Invitational is now considered an offseason event.

Filthy150

If the 2021 season was to run the same way as the 2020 season, the Ireland-based Filthy150 would’ve kicked things off last November. The event’s website has a large “2021 details coming soon” message, and they’ve been actively updating their social media with details surrounding the CrossFit Open. The Filthy150 team may be working to become one of CrossFit’s partners for a European Semifinal, but no details have solidified at the time this article was published.

Strength in Depth

In January 2020, Strength in Depth (SiD) crowned Laura Horvath and Mat Fraser as Sanctionals champions, eventually sending Haley Adams and David Shorunke to the Phase 1 CrossFit Games online competition.

Adams would go on to the CrossFit Games in Aromas, where she took fourth overall. One of the largest events in the United Kingdom, SiD has published that their 2021 dates are to-be-confirmed and has yet to comment on whether they’ll be a part of the CrossFit Games season.

Italian Showdown

The Italian Showdown had a very different approach to qualification than the other Sanctionals scheduled for the 2020 season. They had announced they’d be doing registration without a qualification process and take the first 1,500 athletes to sign up. Much like the Rogue Invitational, they shifted to an online competition and ran the event in late September 2020. According to their website, they’ll no longer be a CrossFit Sanctionals event but will be back in 2021. Dates have yet to be announced.

Asbury Park Summer Games

The Summer Games, in Asbury Park, NJ, have the benefit of operating later in the season. According to their website, they intend to hold their event from June 26-27, 2021 and are maintaining their ‘Sanctionals’ status — a title that now infers partnership with CrossFit instead of the ability to qualify winners to the CrossFit Games.

Whether that means they’ll be a part of CrossFit’s Semifinals or will be an independent event remains to be seen. If the Summer Games do qualify athletes for the 2021 CrossFit Games, the event would be taking place around the same time as CrossFit’s new “Last-chance qualifier,” and Summer Games winners would have a quick turn-around, with the finals in Madison almost precisely a month later.

Eric Roza on the Future of Sanctionals

CrossFit owner and CEO Eric Roza spoke about the future of Sanctionals on the Talking Elite Fitness Podcast in November. He doesn’t see event partnerships going away, although not as qualification opportunities for the CrossFit Games. Roza told hosts Tommy Marquez and Sean Woodland, “So these events…I think there’ll be more and more, and I think there are a lot of events that haven’t been Sanctionals in the past that probably will emerge in the coming years, too. They won’t necessarily be Games-qualifying events.”

In the same interview, Roza added that he wants a “robust, optional post-Games season,” which aligns with Rogue Invitational’s move to October, a few months after the 2021 CrossFit Games.

Work is also underway for CrossFit to become a better partner with event companies. Roza continues:

“We’re going to be really investing in helping these guys succeed. It’s hard to run an events business…We’ll hold a couple, but we’re more about the sport of CrossFit and helping these other event operators succeed, with all the infrastructure and scale that they need, including a robust media schedule, bringing sponsorships, etc., and promoting the hell out of these events as well. Which is something CrossFit hasn’t done in the past.”

With the changes to the season format, 2021 looks to be a transition year, in the same way 2019 was, due to the creation of Sanctionals and the addition of the National Champion system. It’s the hope of fans and athletes that a few years of turmoil results in one coherent, stable season. One thing is for sure: 2021 will be unlike any season which came before it.

Featured image: @wodapalooza on Instagram

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