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Behind China’s First Sanctional, the Asia CrossFit Championship

“I started the event simply because I want to make China fitter,” was Max Ma’s answer when I asked him about the background of the Asia CrossFit Championship. With clear, ambitious and selfless goals like that, it’s no wonder the event was a success.

Max Ma, One Nation Shanghai CrossFit gym owner, and his wife, Carrie Yan, are the masterminds behind the event.

Having competed at a local competition, Max Ma realised that his potential as a CrossFit athlete in the country was very limited. Inspired by ambition, Ma thought that if he could get the best local athletes to compete against the world’s elite, he could impact more people.

Together with his wife, he set up the China Invitational two years ago, and the scale and reach of the event have changed dramatically since the first year.

The Innovations

Now a Sanctional, the Asia CrossFit Championship saw novelties like buzzers for the athletes to push at the end of their workouts. Ma recounted that one of the highlights of the event was watching “the Professor”, Brent Fikowski, express a lot of emotion hitting his at the end of Event 6, knowing he’d won the competition.


Talking about the buzzers Rich Froning said: “I think it’s one of the coolest things that’s been added to competition, it gives us some ownership over the finish. The chip timers can be a nuisance sometimes and it’s more convenient to have the buzzer and the individual lane clocks to see your time right there on the floor immediately.”

Apart from that, from the organization’s side, the biggest change this year was building a professional media team, managed by Kristen Chandler Toth. The team posted constantly on social media and answered every question on the live-stream broadcast.


Setting up the event “was a lot of pressure”, Max Ma said. “We tried to push the dates back with CrossFit HQ and to give us a bit more time to prepare. But it was still not enough!

“The truth is we didn’t know what the expectations were from either athletes or spectators. All we could do is try to do every little thing right and hope for the best.”

And sure they did. Everyone, from elite athletes to the ones at their first CrossFit event felt like they had a fair shot at competition. Spectators from across the globe could engage with the competition and follow their favorite athletes wherever they were. And, above all, the competition served its purpose: to find the fittest man, woman and team in the competitive field.


Competing against the best

Athletes expressed their gratefulness for the event to be split between teams and individuals, giving them time to relax and explore Shanghai a little. Whilst many of the local athletes who are not yet at an Elite competitive level were extremely thankful for getting the opportunity to compete with the top tier athletes.


“Getting to watch these athletes in person is something many of them thought they wouldn’t have the chance to do,” Max Ma said.

He added that the volunteers had the most difficult job during the weekend, and whilst they loved to get the chance to judge their heroes, he would like to create a more professional environment for them in the future to reward their hard work and talents.

The CrossFit Scene in China

When asked about the CrossFit scene in China, Max Ma said that after extensive market research he doesn’t believe that the sport is growing in the country and that it might take longer than thought for it to take off.


He added, however, that he deeply believes in CrossFit and hopes the Asia CrossFit Championship will help bring attention to the sport.

“I hope the event will remind all the owners to think outside of their own business and bring the national community together once a while. And more and more people could have the right tools to open up their own CrossFit box and call themselves an affiliate owner with pride.”

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