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A look at the CrossFit Games History


With the 2014 CrossFit Games season just days away, I thought it would be fun to take a look at how the games got to be as big as they did. From beer & barbecue at Dave Castro’s parents ranch to ESPN coverage, alot happened in less than 10 years. Read on below for a CrossFit Games history lesson.

If CrossFit prides itself on preparing athletes for the “unknown and unknowable”. It is precisely this philosophy that makes CrossFit unique in the world of fitness and gives rise to some of the fittest men and women on the planet.

The nature of CrossFit leads inexorably to competition. CrossFit is about work done; work done over broad time and modal domains. Naturally, the question soon arises, “Who can get the work done quicker?” With that question posed, the CrossFit Games became the means to find the answer and establish the fittest man and woman on the planet?

The unknown and unknowable aspect of CrossFit, in many ways, mirrors the history of the Games itself. From its inception, through the first few years of the event, the Games were just as much a workout for the organizers as they were for the athletes.


  • The inaugural CrossFit Games in 2007 were the result of Coach Glassman’s desire to run a fitness competition with a Woodstock vibe. During the brief planning period, names for the competition ranged from “the Woodstock of Fitness” to the now world-famous “CrossFit Games.” Thankfully they settled on the later rather than the former.
  • CrossFit had been around for a number of years by now and affiliates dotted the western portion of the U.S. and Canada. Word was sent out to the existing affiliates that a get-together was planned for June 30 through July 1st (check out one of the original advertising flyers here).
  • 60 athletes – along with about 150 spectators – from the U.S. and Canada converged on Dave Castro’s parent’s ranch in Aromas, CA for a weekend of beer, barbecue, and fitness.
  • Athletes competed in three events over the course of the weekend including the infamous hopper workout which embodied the unknown and unknowable mantra, a 5k trail run, and the CrossFit Total.
  • At the end of the two days, James “OPT” Fitzgerald and Jolie Gentry were crowned champions and each received $500.


  • The second year of the competition brought new challenges to both organizers and athletes. Though the Games were again held at the Rancho de Castro in Aromas, that was about all that was similar to the previous year’s Games. Registration increased dramatically and organizers had to cap attendance at 300 athletes. As registration was on a first-come-first-served basis, some of the best athletes weren’t able to compete. It was this fact, more than anything else, that would set the stage for all future versions of the Games.
  • Not only did athlete registration increase, but so too did spectator attendance. The 2008 Games hosted 800 spectators over the weekend’s activities.
  • Saturday’s workouts consisted of two couplets (Thrusters/Pull-ups and Deadlifts/Burpees) and a cross-country run while Sunday’s workout consisted of 30 squat Clean & Jerk.
  • In the end, Jason Khalipa and Caity Matter emerged victorious and were awarded $1500 each.
  • The 2008 event was pivotal in the development of the Games because it showed organizers that the sport was going someplace; that the potential was there to make this something big.


  • 2009 ushered in even more changes to the Games thus showing that the unknown and unknowable concept was indeed alive and well.
  • For the organizers, the 2008 event had provided an inkling of what the Games could become. Planning for the 2009 event began almost immediately after the conclusion of the 2008 event and led to the institution of the first pre-qualifier round in the form of Regional competitions held across the U.S. and in a few locations abroad.
  • 146 athletes emerged from the Regional competition to again make the journey to the Castro ranch in Aromas. Accompanying the athletes were 4000 of their closest friends, relatives, box mates, and people just looking to see what the Games were all about.
  • Along with the new pre-qualifying round, Games organizers did away with the scaling option that was available in previous years making the event into a legitimate competition. Organizers also instituted cuts for the first time in 2009 to whittle the field for the final few rounds of competition.
  • Athletes were treated to eight grueling workouts (five on the first day) over the course of the weekend including the infamous sledgehammer event, a brutal 7k run through the steep hills around the ranch, and a nasty chipper to end the weekend.
  • All told, Mikko Salo and Tanya Wagner were awarded the $5000 prize and title Fittest on Earth.


  • The 2010 Games was as different from 2009 as 2009 was from 2008. Even more changes were implemented to the qualifying process with the institution of a Sectional round. The road to the Games now proceeded down a much more arduous path: from Sectionals to Regionals to the Games itself.
  • While teams had been a part of the competition since 2007, they were now required to qualify at the Regional level in order to compete in the games. The 2010 Games were also the first time a Master’s division was contested.
  • The biggest change from 2009 was that of venue. The ranch in Aromas could no longer accommodate the athletes, workouts, and ever-increasing number of spectators. Organizers moved the event to its current location at the Home Depot Center (now the Stub Hub Center) in Carson, California.
  • To satisfy the growing popularity of the sport, the 2010 CrossFit Games – for the first time – made use of the internet to broadcast coverage around the world.
  • 86 athletes competed in 9 events over 3 days including a surprise final broken into 3 consecutive parts. Progenex sponsored the prize purse and awarded $25,000 each to Graham Holmberg and Kristan Clever as top finishers.
  • 2010 was the beginning of the modern era for the Crossfit Games. With a venue now set to accommodate the growing number of spectators and a qualification process in place, the CrossFit Games had come into its own.


  • Organizers continued to refine and improve the games in 2011. A title sponsorship between CrossFit and Reebok allowed for a dramatic increase in prize money and a partnership with ESPN helped spread the sport of fitness to a wider audience than ever before.
  • Most significantly, organizers did away with the Sectional qualifiers and replaced them with a unique, internet-based competition known as the CrossFit Open. This gave anyone and everyone – regardless of location – the opportunity to vie for a chance to compete in the Games. More than 26,000 athletes from around the world signed up to compete in the Open.
  • 86 athletes made it through the Open and Regional competitions to compete in 10 individual events held over 3 days including a surprise first event held at the Santa Monica Pier consisting of an ocean swim, beach run, and calisthenics.
  • Rich Froning Jr. and Annie Thorisdottir battled their way through the workouts to claim the top podium spot and earn the $250,000 prize.


  • For the organizers at least, the unknown and unknowable theme that had accompanied the evolution of the Games over the past five years settled down in 2012. The Games would again be held in Carson, CA and the internet-based CrossFit Open would see its second year of use – in conjunction with Regional events – to determine the athletes who would compete for the title.
  • 69,240 athletes signed up to compete in the Open with 50 males and 50 females making it through to the Games in Carson.
  • Event organizers continued to throw the unknown and unknowable at the athletes; this time in the form of an added day of workouts two days prior to the official start of the Games. All told, athletes competed in 15 events over 4 days with Rich Froning Jr. and Annie Thorisdottir becoming the first repeat champions in CrossFit history.


  • The CrossFit Games continued its unprecedented growth in 2013 with 138,000 athletes signing up to compete in the Open. In the end, Rich Froning Jr. was – for a third time – crowned male champion while Sam Briggs was crowned female champion.


What will 2014 bring? Only time will tell. Regardless, the future of the CrossFit Games is no longer unknown and unknowable. Indeed, the future of the CrossFit Games is now known and knowable. As CrossFit casts a wider and wider net in its quest to find the fittest man and woman on the planet, the future of the Games will no doubt remain as bright as those sunny July days in Aromas not so long ago.

Further Reading:

Official CrossFit Games History (view workouts, leaderboards, videos, and much more)

Visual History (Infographic) (for those of you who like pictures more than words)

CrossFit Journal – Dave Castro talks about the history of the CrossFit Games
(videos available for download)

Analysis of the CrossFit Games (for those of you who like numbers more than pictures or words)