The Good, the Bad, and the Cornrowed at the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games

High Holy Week, aka the 2016 CrossFit Games, is over. On the whole, this year’s event felt like the most organized yet. Congratulations CrossFit Games, at 10 years old, you’re finally a real boy! The programming and judging was on point, athlete safety was clearly a priority, no one almost died — three A’s for Effort across those major expectations.

Across minor expectations, 2016 still fared pretty well. The top of the women’s leaderboard was a constant question mark, Mat Fraser finally won so no one had to fear for their own safety amidst a potential second place wrath, and a few rookies made a Canadian splash, eh!

While the athletes are all undoubtedly hungover after getting hammered after three beers (let us know how your tolerance is when you have 8% body fat and only drink once a year), we’re left to ponder the week and analyze the highs, lows, and the wonderfully weird.

The Good

Increased Safety

For anyone who doesn’t think HQ learns from their past, the 2016 Games should prove otherwise. HQ had multiple opportunities to prove that they’ve been paying attention to what went wrong in order to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Murph was programed in the morning, not the blistering afternoon. The athletes had access to coolers of ice and water right on the field, so they didn’t have to choose between heat stroke and losing precious seconds during the biggest competition of their career. Barbells that sat out in the heat were protected with covering so they didn’t get searing hot. Event 10 was delayed by a few minutes in order to makes sure all the athlete’s boxes were dry — great steps from the organizers all around.

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The Throwbacks

CrossFit never forgets. Whether it’s an old workout brought back from the dead or a nod to those who paved the way, one thing that’s always for sure is that if we’ve seen it once, we’ll see it again. We loved the Aromas throwback, particularly because of the contrast between Wednesday at the Ranch and Friday under the lights. Ten years ago, no one could have predicted that a sold out StubHub stadium would be possible, especially in such a short period of time. To see the contrast, just a few days apart, was a pretty awesome thing.

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Rise of the New Guard

Every year always has a few new faces, but now that the sport is 10 years old, we’re starting to see the next generation of athletes rise to the top. While most of the media focus was on the lopsided battle between dominant Mat Fraser and the 2015 Champ Ben Smith, Games rookies Patrick Vellner and Brent Fikowski were busy quietly dominating over an experienced field. Taking 3rd and 4th respectively, Vellner and Fikowski simply put their head down and did their job with little pomp and circumstance. 

As if their performances weren’t impressive enough, Fikowski turned to Facebook to give fans a rare glimpse behind the scenes. His daily recaps provided some refreshing insight, like when he proudly announced that he shoved some ice down his underwear to cool down before his interview or that his Murph warm up was short because he only planned on only doing “305 air squats today.”

The Bad (or at Least Not So Awesome)

The Old Guard Must Fall

As much as we love seeing the rookies make a statement, there’s only room for a few at the top. Many of the usual suspects were nowhere near the podium conversation, which as the sport gets older, is to be expected. Former champions Annie Thorisdottir and Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet, along with long term staples like Kara Webb, Chyna Cho, Noah Ohlsen, Emily Bridgers, and Spencer Hendel, all lost ground as the weekend went on.

Some were probably battling injury, others probably did the absolute best they could, but the bottom line is that the Games have evolved and not everyone is going to be able to evolve with it. Gone are the days when just being really really good at CrossFit will help you win the Games. You’re better off moving to a farm and carrying potbelly pigs from one side of the barn to another in between intervals of Fran.

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Ring Handstand Push Up Standards

While the judging seemed solid overall, it got a little confusing during the ring handstand pushups. According to the commentators, a good rep required the shoulders to touch the rings, straight legs, and the arms to be locked out at the top. No reps were given if the athlete used their legs to help shimmy up the straps.

This was all well and good until Christian Lucero figured out that he could basically do an inverted bench press by arching his back so much that he was just doing a fancy ring push up. As the heats went on and athletes started to adopt this easier, uglier variation, head judge Adrian Bozman cracked down. The commentators then began to inform us that the new standard required the feet to visibly move up and down so the athletes were forced to be in a handstand position, not a push up position. As a result, the first two heats got away with more than the last two heats, creating inconsistencies.

It’s only the second time we’ve seen this movement at the Games, and we expect it’ll be back — with consistent standards all around.

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Those Damn Box Jumps

Though Saturday night’s final workout was a fun race to the finish line, it’s frustrating to watch yet another athlete go down with a blown Achilles because of box jumps. Alethea Boon joined the Danglefoot Club that includes Kate Rawlings, Cheryl Brost, Kristine Andali, Julie Foucher, and a whole host of people you’ve never heard of who have ruptured their Achilles during box jumps for reps. We all know injuries happen in all sports, but it’s a bummer to see the number of Achilles tears that happen solely on one movement, especially when programming burpeee box jump overs could help reduce the risk (though at the cost of slowing down the sprint-pace events).

The Weird

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The Unexpected Wedding

In a CrossFit Games first, two lovebirds had a #WODwedding. Christina and Oliver said their “I Dos” in front of tens of thousands of their closest friends. Christina wore a white Reebok sports bra and white custom Nano 6s while Oliver pinned a boutonnière to his Reebok tee. The two kissed in front of a flowered Reebok delta and had an entire stadium feeling all the feels.

The Protests

While the Games were going on in Carson, California, a group called Gays Against Guns were busy protesting the announcement that a Glock pistol would be awarded to the male and female winners of the 2016 CrossFit Games. The group, otherwise known as GAG, parked themselves outside of Reebok CrossFit 5th Ave and CrossFit Union Square in New York City, forcing the gyms to shut for part of the day. 

Ignoring general concepts of affiliate licensing, partnerships, and the fact that the folks at those individual affiliates and Reebok FitHubs had nothing to do with the Glock giveaway, the protest was about as effective as when vegans protest barbecues.

So yeah, that happened.


For all the flack Dave Castro takes from the entire world, the guy does one thing better than 99% of his critics ever could: Dave Castro does not care what you think. For all of the inspirational Live Your Best Life! Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Already Taken quotes that litter the internet, no one actually embodies those mantras more than Dave Castro and his cornrows.

Not everyone loves him, what he stands for, or how he presents himself, but take an objective step back, calm your emotions down for a second, and look at how he handles the unique position he’s in. He doesn’t senselessly argue, engage, or call people names. He unapologetically stands by his decisions, is nothing but who he is, and still manages to have a little fun in the process. Oh, and he entertained you (for free) for six days straight, some of those with braided hair. The guy has something figured out!

Featured Image: Brent Fikowski (@fikowski)