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The Rise of the CrossFit Games – a Chronological Account of its History

The CrossFit Games were born with a relatively simple idea: to find the Fittest on Earth. Following CrossFit’s logic – to achieve a greater work capacity across many disciplines and domains – and its “jack of all trades, master of none” approach, the idea was born that, the athlete that could endure anything and succeed despite everything that was thrown at them deserved to be crowned Fittest on Earth.

And so the CrossFit Games began, first as a barbecue affair with around 70 people performing varied workouts, to what the Games are now: a true test of fitness. Today, the Games are a hugely popular, televised event, with a total prize money purse of $2.6 million and thousands of spectators worldwide.

Athletes are truly tested at the Games, as they can’t train for what they don’t know is coming. Each year, a new surprise or two is thrown into the mix. Only the CrossFit Games put athletes through such a wide range of physical activities and have them showcase so many different facets of fitness.

Some weird and wonderful things have happened at the Games since their inception over a decade ago. Every summer since 2007, the Games have evolved to become what they are now; the workouts, equipment and qualifying process changing in the way. Therefore, we have compiled a chronological account of their history for you to delve into the past and witness the Games’ incredible transformation.


The Games were born in a ranch in Aromas, California, more as a backyard barbecue affair with some sport than an incredibly serious competition – although the goal, to find the Fittest of Earth, was always clear. People were only required to register to compete, and around 70 people took part.

Workouts were chosen randomly, with Dave Castro pulling coloured balls labeled with movements from a hopper.

First prize was awarded $500, and the winners the first year were James Fitzgerald from Canada and Jolie Gentry from California.

These were the first ever workouts from The CrossFit Games.

CrossFit Total

  • Back squat 1-rep max
  • Press 1-rep max
  • Deadlift 1-rep max

Hopper Style CrossFit WOD

  • 1,000-metre row, five rounds of 25 pull-ups and seven push jerks.

Trail run (approximately 5 k)


Now in its second year, entries to the Games were given on a first-come first-serve basis, with a cap of 300 competitors. There were complaints that, because of this, the fittest athletes didn’t get to compete. Rumors then followed that, for the coming year, a qualifying process might be introduced.

About 800 spectators came to watch the event unfold and the documentary Every Second Counts was filmed during the Games, taking an inside look at the sport’s culture and community.

Winners for this year were Jason Khalipa and Caity Matter, both from the USA.

The 2018 Games’ workouts featured a hill run, thrusters, burpees, Olympic Weightlifting and more.

2008 Workouts

Sunday Workout

  • 30 Squat Clean and Jerks, (155/100 lb.)

Hill Run

Workout A

21-15-9 reps for time of:

  • Thrusters (95/65 lb.)
  • Pull-ups

Workout B

5 rounds for time of:

  • 5 Deadlifts (275/185 lb.)
  • 10 Burpees


For the first time, athletes had to compete to qualify to the CrossFit Games at regional competitions. These were held in the US, Canada, South America, Europe, Iceland, Asia, Australia and Africa, as well as online. To make it to the Games, athletes had to first qualify on a regional level.

Over 150 athletes took part in this edition of the Games in the individual contest, with close to 100 teams in the Affiliate Cup. Almost 4,000 fans turned up to watch.

Whilst individuals had to qualify for the Games, teams could still enter on a first-come first-serve basis. After an overwhelming amount of applications, there was talk that teams might also have to qualify to enter the Games.

An exciting, if slightly strange, workout was introduced this year: the row and sledge hammer event. It saw athletes row and then pound a stake into the ground, in a competition that many found unfair, as the ground into which the stake was pounded into was different for every athlete; some pounded into sand and some had to break through rocks.

The male champion of the 2009 CrossFit Games was Mikko Salo from Finland and the female Tanya Wagner from the US.


In 2010 Sectionals were introduced as way of determining which athletes made it to the Regionals and, ultimately, to the Games. For the first time, teams also needed to qualify to the Games at Regionals. 45 men and 41 women participated in the 2010 Individual competition, with the male and female winners each awarded $25,000 after CrossFit signed a sponsorship deal with Progenix.

With its rapid expansion, the Games moved from the Aromas Ranch to the Home Depot Centre in Carson, Southern California. The first workout of the event was dedicated to Amanda Miller, a 2009 CrossFit Games athlete who passed away before this edition, aged 24.

A Masters division for athletes over 50 years was also added to the competition and, for the first time, CrossFit ran an online stream during the event.

Winners of the 2010 CrossFit Games were Americans Graham Holmberg and Kristan Clever, whilst Brian Curley and Laurie Carver won the first Masters competition.

2010 Games workouts here.


The Sectionals were replaced by the CrossFit Open in 2011. The Open, an internet-based competition, allowed any athlete in the world to compete. The best athletes then went on to the Regionals to make it to the finals and, ultimately, to the Games.

The Open’s first year saw athletes complete six workouts over six weeks, posting their scores online. More than 26,000 hopeful athletes competed for spots at the Regionals.

CrossFit also signed a 10-year partnership with Reebok in 2011, which allowed the prize money to increase by a significant amount, with the male and female winners each awarded $250,000.

The Masters division was divided into four age groups for this edition and it was the first year the CrossFit Games were broadcasted on ESPN. The company broadcasted three hours of the event live online every day of the competition and, six weeks later, ran the entire male and female competition on primetime TV.

It was the first year athletes were surprised with an out-of-premises workout, as the first event of the 2011 Games featured an ocean swim.

The winners for this edition were American Rich Froning Jr. and Icelandic Annie Thorisdottir.

2011 Games workouts here.


The CrossFit Open saw over 69,000 athletes participate in 2012, in hopes of qualifying for the Regionals or simply to test themselves against the global competition.

The numbers of fans who turned up at the Home Depot Centre to watch the Games was also record-breaking and, for the first year, the CrossFit Games saw repeated winners, with Rich Froning Jr taking the male title and Annie Thorisdottir the female.

This year’s surprise was a 700-meter ocean swim with fins, an 8-kilometer bike ride across undulating terrain and soft sand, an 11.3-kilometer run across steep hills and more than 427 meters of elevation gain, and multiple trips across the Obstacle course. A true test of endurance.

2012 Games workouts here.


Now on its third year, the CrossFit Open attracted a staggering number of athletes worldwide, yet only the top 48 male and female athletes, and the top 30 teams from 17 regions were invited to participate in the Regionals.

Regionals then awarded Games spots to the best athletes, with the Latin American Regional assigning a single male, female and team spot respectively, and the Central East Regional awarding five spots each. If defending champions earned return trips to the Games, their places opened up additional spots for others.

For 2013 the Games moved from the Home Depot Centre to the StubHub Center in Carson, California and, again, started outside the arena, with the competition beginning at an aquatic centre.

Around 200 athletes participated in the four Masters categories, ranging in ages from 40 to 60-plus.

Two new pieces of equipment were introduced in this edition of the Games: the Pig and the Worm. The first is a weighted metal frame that can be flipped end over end and the latter comprises six short segments of logs linked together by rope. Many athletes struggled with the Pig, as they could not find a way to shift it down the track.

For the third consecutive year, Rich Froning Jr won the male competition, whilst the female title was awarded to Samantha Briggs.


More than 209,000 people registered for the CrossFit Open, yet only the top 48 male and female athletes, as well as the top 30 teams from each of the 17 regions, were invited to participate in regional competitions.

For the first time, every domestic and mayor international Regional was broadcasted live on CrossFit’s website. Again, Regionals awarded a certain number of spots to the Games but, this year, no extra spot to the Games was awarded when a past CrossFit Games champion finished on a regional podium.

For the third consecutive year the Games started with a swim event, with athletes facing a 250-yard swim through the ocean against the surf. The sprint sleds were introduced in this edition of the Games and, even though they looked incredibly aerodynamic, proved exceptionally hard to propel along the ground.

2014 was the first year the top 20 athletes were awarded prize money. Three-times Games winner Rich Froning Jr announced he would retire from the individual competition after this edition of the Games, and finished with style, winning the Games for the fourth consecutive year. The female champion in 2014 was Camille Leblanc-Bazinet from Canada.

2014 CrossFit Games documentary.

2014 Games workouts here.


Big changes were announced for the qualifying process to the Games: the best 48 athletes from the 17 Open regions would no longer advance to their respective Regionals. The number of Regionals was cut to eight and Regional qualifiers plummeted to 10 for Latin America, Asia, and Africa, 20 for regions in the United States and Canada, and 30 for Europe and Australia.

Scaled options were introduced for the Open and a Teenage division was added to the Games for athletes aged between 14 and 17.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Games started in water, but again, the event had a twist: athletes were given paddleboards. The first workout of the Games saw competitors swim 500 meters around the Hermosa Beach Pier, then paddle two miles on the hard-to-balance prone-paddleboards, and then swim around the pier again before crossing the finish line.

For the first time, an event was put up for vote on Twitter, with the community being able to choose and vote for Friday’s closing event by tweeting #DoubleDT or #HeavyDT.

This year, even though clues it might be present were given out here and there, the new piece of gear that was introduced to the Games was the peg board. The instrument left many athletes to figure out how to ascend, having never used one before.

Meg Pegboard CrossFit Games 2015

The male champion of the 2015 CrossFit Games was Ben Smith from the US and Icelandic competitor Katrin Davidsdottir won the female contest. They each won $275,000 prize money.

2015 Games workouts here.


2016 marked the ten-year anniversary of the CrossFit Games, with the sport in general having gained enormous momentum and the Games having evolved significantly compared to the first edition.

324,000 athletes participated in the Open, and only 40 men and 40 women, together with 30 teams of six, moved on to the eight Regionals. The top five in each category were then given spots at the Games.

The 2016 Games started very much off-site, with athletes flying to the Aromas ranch, where the Games had started, for the 10-year anniversary. After the first day, athletes flew back to Carson to finish the rest of the event.

The snail was introduced in one of the workouts for these Games. The new piece of gear is a huge drum packed with sandbags that had to be rolled by the athletes. As the object is moved, the sandbags rolled up the inside wall and then fell back down again. As a result, the weight wasn’t ever evenly distributed, and it became practically impossible to build any momentum.

Pushing the Snail CrossFit Games 2016

Athletes were also tested with ring handstand push-ups in this edition of the Games.

Taking the title for the second year in a row, Katrin Davidsdottir won the female competition, whilst Mathew Fraser took the male title.

2016 Games workouts here.


The Games moved to Madison, Wisconsin, for the 2017 edition and 11 different countries were represented. A new Masters division was introduced for athletes between 35 and 39 years of age.

This was the first year a Games podium finisher was disqualified after testing positive for performance-enhancing substances, with Ricky Garard being stripped of his third-place title after the event.

The female competition was incredibly close and tense right to the very end, with Tia-Clair Toomey having spent most of the four days in the top spot, with fellow Australian Kara Webb right behind her heels. Going into the final event only a few points separated them.

It came down to whoever won the last event would win the 2017 CrossFit Games. The end was too close to call after Tia was no repped right next to the line and, after an agonizing five minutes, Dave Castro announced that Tia was the 2017 CrossFit Games winner.

Annie Thorisdottir, who had won the Games in 2011 and 2012 but hadn’t ranked as highly the two previous years, proved all her critics wrong after finishing third, and Mathew Fraser was crowned male champion for the second year in a row.

2017 Games workouts here.


The 2018 Games brought a new concept into the field: Chaos. At each station of the workout, athletes simply had to perform the exercise until their judge told them that they had completed the set amount. With high box jumps, an odd object, burpees, OH DB squats and much more, this was an exciting and fun event to watch.

The 2018 Games also featured the infamous marathon row, and paddle boards made their second appearance at the event.

It was a year of repeated winners, with Mathew Fraser taking the male title for the third consecutive year and Tia-Clair Toomey the female title for her second consecutive year.

2018 Games workouts here.

READ: Every CrossFit Games Winner from 2007 to 2017 (All Individuals, Masters, Teams and Teens)

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