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Now’s The Time! Why Adaptive Athletes Need to Sign Up for the 2021 CrossFit Open

There are a lot of reasons why athletes should sign up for the CrossFit Open this year. Whether you want to get out of your comfort zone or are eyeing up the leaderboard; the Open brings the CrossFit community together, which is so important after such a difficult year.

The 2021 Open is shaping up to be the most inclusive in CrossFit history; with Equipment-Free and Foundation categories being introduced for the first time. It’s also the first year Adaptive Divisions have been included — and offers a chance for adaptive athletes to prove that this is a category that belongs in the Open alongside all the able-bodied ones.

What will the Adaptive Division look like in the 2021 CrossFit Open?

Pioneered by WheelWOD’s Chris Stoutenburg and the Adaptive Training Academy (ATA) alongside CrossFit HQ, the Adaptive Division includes eight subdivisions — further split into Men and Women — and is open to athletes age 14 and up. The adaptive divisions for the 2021 CrossFit Games season are allocated as follows:

  • Men and Women Adaptive: Upper Extremity
  • Men and Women Adaptive: Lower Extremity
  • Men and Women Adaptive: Neuromuscular
  • Men and Women Adaptive: Vision
  • Men and Women Adaptive: Short Stature
  • Men and Women Adaptive: Seated Athletes (with hip function)
  • Men and Women Adaptive: Seated Athletes (without hip function)
  • Men and Women Adaptive: Intellectual

Creating these eight categories and making them both inclusive and competitive without scaling is tricky process, with inspiration and learnings drawn from WheelWOD’s experience with the adaptive competition circuit and the Paralympics.

“We made sure it’s as fair as possible.” ATA’s Executive Director Alec Zirkenbach told BOXROX, “We’re trying to find that balance between inclusion and having a good amount of athletes be able to do the workout without having a scaled division, but also make it super competitive because it needs to be a fair, legitimate competition.”

Read more: The Full Story: How the Adaptive CrossFit Open Came to Be

Why should Adaptive athletes sign up?

Despite the Open workouts being competitive and having an air of difficulty about them, adaptive athletes should consider signing up anyway. Right now it’s important to show CrossFit that adaptive athletes are hungry for it, and prove this is a category that can grow and thrive within CrossFit.

“It’s kind of weird, but I think the important message is the big picture,” CrossFit athlete and ATA’s Director of Training, Logan Aldridge told BOXROX, “Like where are we going to be in five or ten years?”


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While the inclusion of the Adaptive Division in the Open seems like the natural progression of a growing and enthusiastic community within the CrossFit and functional fitness space, it’s still very important that the number of sign ups reflect that. 

“If we can make sure that participation is there, we’re not so worried about the performance. We will have competitive athletes. The divisions will be competitive. But I think that’s the biggest ask to prospective participants is, hey, don’t be a bystander.”

“Don’t sit outside and look at it and say, OK, I’ll do that next year — go ahead and sign up now. And yes, there may be workouts that are a little bit too difficult to submit and you can’t get on the leaderboard. But now you’re seeing what this world looks like.”

For Alec and Chris, 2021 is only the beginning. They have some lofty goals for the future, and hope to introduce age groups and further splits within the subdivisions to make the competition even fairer — but all of that relies on good sign-up numbers for the 2021 CrossFit Open.

“What we need is athletes,” Alec tells us. “We need adaptive athletes to register. They have to register, or else nothing is going to change. So this is their opportunity to compete and show that they want this platform.”

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for the 2021 CrossFit Open now!

Read More: Check Out Two of The Fittest Adaptive Athletes as They Take on a Competition CrossFit Class

Featured image: photo by Iko PB

Image Sources

  • Adapted CrossFit B23 IkoPB-30: ATA

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