The CrossFit Games: Turning Spectator Sport On Its Head Since 2007

The CrossFit Games: Turning Spectator Sport On Its Head Since 2007
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games start tomorrow, Thursday 3rd August, and this year is set to be the biggest and most exciting year yet with a move from the Stub Hub Centre to the Alliant Energy Centre in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Eight weeks ago Regionals wrapped up and the final five men, women and teams from each region were crowned Games Athletes. I attended our local event, the Meridian Regional in Madrid, with Reebok and it was absolutely electric. I watched the Team competition for the first time and couldn’t believe I’d neglected to watch it previously, but despite the “JST… JST… JST” chants, by far the biggest crowd turned out to watch the individual women. Apparently a couple of years ago, people were actually leaving the stadium as the men took to the floor for the final heats. So why is the female race so much more exciting? And how is it that CrossFit has managed to turn the trends of spectator sport on its head?

Photo courtesy of Reebok.

Women in Sport

Look at any other sport – football, rugby, tennis, etc; the majority of excitement (and publicity) comes with the men. Perhaps the only exception is volleyball… for reasons that will remain unsaid! Generally speaking, women’s sport is barely even given the prime time slots or channels on TV. The men’s Wimbledon finals take precedence over the women’s, and journalists even fail to recognise female achievement in sports. And if you thought the gender pay gap was large in our ordinary day jobs, you just have to look at prize money for various sports to know there are bigger problems out there.

But in CrossFit, the prize money is the same, women and men compete in the same events with the same movement standards (only the weights are scaled according to the general rule of thumb that men have approximately 30% more muscle mass). In fact, the women’s competition is so much more exciting because it’s that much closer a battle. With a number of women all battling it out for the top spot, every second and every point counts.

More Than Just a Close Race

But is it just the closeness of the competition that makes the females that much more entertaining to watch? CrossFit often gets a bad rep, but one of the things that most people will agree on is that it is incredible to watch and the elite athletes are ridiculously strong, agile, fast, mobile… basically they are real-life T-800s. Seeing someone throw a weight over their head that the majority of people would struggle to even pick up off the floor, climb a rope using just their arms, run, swim, walk on their hands, push and pull extremely heavy and awkward objects – it’s fascinating. And then to see all of those things being done by a woman when women have been seen as weaker and less capable for so long? There’s something amazing in that.

Photo courtesy of Reebok.

Never Specialise

Another way that the Reebok CrossFit Games has challenged the norm is in the celebration of not specialising. You can’t win the games by having just one strong element – you need to be a jack of all trades. Looking at the previous winners, male and female, arguably the people who have won the most times have been the people you can’t pigeon-hole. The closest you see to that with your typical Olympic sports is the multi-event sports, like heptathlon, or perhaps where you get people switch sport (like Bradley Wiggins and Rebecca Romero switching from cycling to rowing and vice versa), but it’s just not on the same level as with CrossFit.

Why Watch This Year

So how is this year’s competition hotting up? Personally I think there are lots of reasons why this year’s Games are more exciting than any other, but here are my top 5 reasons to watch the Games this year:

1. First all-British team finalists. 

We have our first all-Brit team competing at the Games, Team CrossFit JST. Watching them compete at Regionals (and topping the leaderboard overall) was phenomenal and I can’t wait to see how they get on in Madison. If you want to feel like part of the team you can even buy a CrossFit JST team t-shirt from Reebok UK!

Photo courtesy of Reebok.

2. Motivation x 1000.

Being at Regionals in person and hearing the crowd made the whole experience that much more exciting – the atmosphere is incredible as everyone cheers their favourites, but the camaraderie is also clear – it motivated me so much to work on my weaknesses and progress my own training and I want to get that feeling back by tuning in to the coverage online.

Photo courtesy of Reebok.

3. Rory McKernon.

My CrossFit Media Team crush… his handsome face will be presenting pretty much the entire weekend. Need I say more?!

4. The women’s competition.

There’s going to be a battle at the top, and it’s going to get emotional. There’s a fire inside the Icelandic ladies’ bellies and they are going to fight it out like never before, but there’s an Australian on their tails, plus our favourite Brit – Sam Briggs – and it’s going to be amazing to see who comes out on top.

Photo courtesy of Reebok.

5. The exciting events.

If you haven’t seen them yet, you need to get looking – this year the events look ACE. I mean: 1RM snatch, an obstacle course, cyclocross, a muscle up and clean ladder and a strongman/handstand walk pairing? I can’t wait to see the action.

Will you be tuning in to the Reebok Crossfit Games? What (or who?!) are you looking forward to seeing?

Photo courtesy of Reebok.

Thanks to Reebok for the use of the photos (including featured image) and for the amazing trip to Madrid in June. Make sure you’re following the Reebok UK and Sport Stylist social channels to get all the behind the scenes from Lucy Denver who’s gone to watch!

Georgina Spenceley
Georgina Spenceley

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