CrossFit Games Vs. The Olympics

November 6, 2009 3:00 PM

Posted in The Games »
25 Comments » on this entry

Games09_OlyVSGames_KhalipaSpeal.jpgThe CrossFit Games is unique in both it's format and the culture that surrounds it. The marriage of elite fitness and the festival ambiance is unique to Aromas.

Days before the 2009 competition gets underway Tony Budding, Games Co-Director, reflects on what makes the CrossFit Games unique. "The primary difference is that when you compete in the olympics, you know what you're up against. One of the key components, one of the ways that we test for the unknown and the unknowable, the way we require very broad levels of fitness is that the athletes don't know what they're competing in."

The high levels of camaraderie among the athletes is rare in sport. CrossFitters celebrate the successes of other competitors. Many share strategies, and even actively cheer on their rivals.

CrossFit Vs. Olympics ... [wmv] [mov]

25 comments on this entry.

1. Tim Carr wrote...

November 6, 2009 3:58 PM


I'm dying over here. . . .LOL!!

2. Regs wrote...

November 6, 2009 7:18 PM

As someone who attended and competed (affiliate cup) in the Games this year and also attended the last Olympics in Beijing, I think the comparison is a little premature if not laughable. Let's not get ahead of ourselves on this one. First, Crossfitters aren't the happy family that Tony makes them out to be. Anyone that paid attention to the Eastern Canada regional and the message board would have to disagree with Tony. I can also tell you that Olympic athletes have plenty of camaraderie. Not all of them, but many of them. I think the "trash talk" that Tony speaks of is rather rare. It may be much different because some of the sports are contact sports. It also must have something to do with the amount of money involved in the Olympics. Medals equal money. Period. I would venture to guess that in 5 -10 years when the winner of the Games actually wins good prize money that the attitudes of a few competitors may change. I hope not, but I'm a realist. Tony also claims that Olympic athletes know what they are training for while Crossfit Games events are unknown and unknowable. Try telling an Olympic wrestler that he should know exactly what is coming at him in a match. Do you think every basketball game plays out the same? At the same time, Games participants probably performed every movement at the games (except maybe the hammer/stake event). I am in no way trying to knock the Games. It was an incredible event with incredible competitors. But things are getting a little out of hand when we start discussing the Olympics and the Games together. I understand that HQ needs to hype the event, but there has to be a more realistic way to do it. Things like this tend to, in my experience, turn people off to Crossfit.

3. jake wrote...

November 6, 2009 10:30 PM

whats wrong with comparing the games to the olympics??? tony said there are similarities and differences, one of the largest differences being the fact that the games are on a much smaller scale than the olympics. i don't think that tony made an unrealistic comparison here. both the olympics and the games consist of individuals or teams competing in many different modes of fitness and sport.

i understand what you are saying about the wrestling and basketball thing, but i think you are stretching the idea a bit. yes they dont know exactly what will happen at each moment in their game/match, but they are specialized in that sport. i think that tony was referring more to someone like a track and field athlete or swimmer who have specific events that they are to compete in. the games competitors didnt know the events until most of them were probably in california! that's where the two are different.

the olympics are the biggest sporting event in the world. the crossfit games in no way carry the same stature that the olympics do. however, the two do carry enough similarities that a comparison between them is viable.

TIM CARR im with ya on that one man. im dying to know as well. partially because i want to sign up for a level 1 cert that is close by and i hope the two dont conflict.

4. Dom replied to comment from Regs...

November 7, 2009 6:14 AM

In response to your Wrestling/Basketball comparison. They know exactly what they are up against! I think John Welbourn explained it well when he was talking about CFFB. He knows the time of the game, how long the game will be played, where it's going to be played, he has video of that team, he knows the sport that's being played, the position, blocking assignments, snap counts, etc. In the games you don't know if it is going to be a 7k run with the Hill from Hell, a 700m run with a Mini Hill from Hell, or a

5. Dom wrote...

November 7, 2009 6:22 AM

(cont) 200m Sprint with a 70# Sand Bag and a Hill from Hell Jr. Then they tell the athletes that your going to have to do 90x Snatches at 75#, and then do that same movement at Max Load? How did the athletes even know they were going to have to do Snatches? They don't suddenly stop a Basketball game and say alright everyone do 150x Burpess as fast as possible. Runners don't show up to the Boston Marathon prepared to run 26.2 miles, (a distance they 100 percent know that they have to run) and then the officials say now your going to run "Murph" with a 20# pack, or do 4 Rounds Run 400m and 50x Squats.

6. Haley Beann wrote...

November 7, 2009 12:00 PM

I don't think one can really compare the CF Games to the Olympics. The CF Games tests your overall, broad-based, non-sport specific fitness. CrossFit is a training program. A very effective, innovative one. In contrast, the Olympics is a group of individual competitions that test an athlete's sport-specific proficiency. You cannot compare an event that tests overall general fitness to one that tests an athlete's ability to preform a very specific event.

Why would anyone want to compare CF to the Olympics anyway? Yes, both Olympic athletes and CF Games athletes have a high level of fitness but the whole point of CF is to establish a level of competency across a broad spectrum of athletic endeavors. Almost the exact opposite of the specific Olympic games test.

7. Regs wrote...

November 7, 2009 1:32 PM

Jake, you are correct in saying that "both the olympics and the games consist of individuals or teams competing in many different modes of fitness and sport". But I think this comparison is like saying a golf cart and a Ferrari are worth a comparison because they each have four wheels and move people around. These two events do not belong in the same conversation. They just don't. I don't think this takes away from the success of the Crossfit Games or the experience that many of us had there. It doesn't need to be in the conversation with the Olympics to be important to us and to change lives. I don't think that we need to try to make Crossfit something it's not....yet.

Dom, speaking about the unknown, I think you've tipped back a little too much of the koolaid (which isn't always a bad thing). Welbourn's comaprison is terrible in my opinion. There are so many more variables in a game of football than any crossfit WOD you could make up. By nature, any sport where you compete directly against another person is going to be unknown and unknowable. Many Olympic sports and professional sports are constantly unknown and unknowable. Welbourn knows how long the game is and when it is, but he lines up against another person 70 times a game. That person is going to attack him each time in any number of ways each time. It is ridiculous to surmise that these situations are known. When was the last time the pullup bar changed between rounds of a WOD. The equivalent would be the box height changing every time you did a box jump. The only unknowable event at the Games may have been the stake event. But the stake didn't move and some of the competitors hammered stakes for their job. The second part of that event was a row. How much less unknown can you get? They even used a stationary rower of the same brand that almost all competitors train on daily. How about the Olympic baseball and softball tournaments. If you are a hitter you have no idea what pitch you are going to see or how many outs or people on base there will be. Sometimes you don't even know what pitcher you are going to see until they trot out of the pen. Everyone throws a different fastball and a different curve. You don't even know what team you are going to play next. The examples go on and on and on. I struggle to see how this can be compared to saying you have to run with a sandbag up a hill. The hill doesn't move, the sandbag weight is constant. A lot of competitors have run with weight before. In fact, one of the regionals had a sandbag carry as an event. Snatching for reps and then max load? We have all done those movements hundreds of times. Most people have done the exact same max snatch with the same type of bar and same weight. How can you compare that to having Lionel Messi, one of the best soccer players in the world, running at you with the ball. That is truly the unknown. And in many cases it will be the unknowable. I will grant you that track and field and swimming may be little different. But if you are running the finals of the 1500m, you are reacting to other people changing lanes, going out fast, and other unknowns. Don't believe that because the claim is made by people selling Crossfit and the Games that the Crossfit games is the test of the unknown and unknowable that this is the only competition that those descriptions fit, or even fit the best. The Crossfit Games don't need to be in the conversation with the Olympics to be wildly successful and make a huge impact on people. Let's call the Games amazing and an incredible test of fitness and leave it at that, while remembering that the true importance of Crossfit is it's ability to reach all ages and fitness levels and change their lives for the better.

8. gaucoin wrote...

November 7, 2009 2:10 PM

Reg is way smarter than anyone else. If no one else disputes this the issue will be over.

9. grambo wrote...

November 7, 2009 3:16 PM

Ugh what is the point of this video? Regs, awesome points in your posts, totally agree. Tony, what experience do you have with the Olympics, Olympians, behind the scenes mental game etc?

Stuff like this is just fodder for people to make fun of CF and the games with. Keep it in perspective.

10. badnews wrote...

November 7, 2009 4:15 PM


Your entire argument is fallacious. The question is not what happens when the game begins, any of your variables could be put in the same perspective of the jockeying during runs etc etc.

Now imagine this. The american olympic team shows up to Beijing and none of the sports have been picked. You are allowed to have 15 athletes on your team and there will be 15 events but they could be anything: swimming, weightlifting, baseball, basketball wrestling whatever.

There is a giant difference between saying: I don't know what event I will be facing and I don't know what specific situation will manifest itself in a game I have played more than a thousand times in the last 15 years.

Do you honestly think the games or crossfit are trying to detract anything from a multi-billion dollar event that highlights human performance?

11. Regs wrote...

November 7, 2009 6:18 PM

badnews, for you to claim my argument is fallacious shows you may not grasp the claims that I am making. I assume from your nebulous examples that you disagree and feel that the Crossfit Games and the Olympics should be in the same conversation. If you want to believe that the Crossfit Games are more unknown than a competition against another individual or team then that speaks to your own personal experience. That is your opinion. It is mine that "surprising" someone with a mix of events that they have been practicing for to achieve a peak general physical fitness level doesn't make it more unknown than a traditional sport. You can claim that the triplet at the games could have had infinite combinations. You're right. But do you think any of the athletes were worried about HSPU that they have specifically practiced, or the KB Swings that they specifically practiced, or the GHD sit ups that they specifically practiced? I would say no they weren't worried. As far as your example of the Olympic team showing up to Beijing and not knowing the event, I think you could do better. I don't see the correlation as that would be the same as asking a Crossfitter to show up at the games and play ping pong. It would be something that the athlete hadn't trained for. You could argue that the stake event did that, but that was the only piece of the whole weekend and some of the competitors swung axes and hammers for a living and others assuredly practiced with a sledgehammer and tire like we do at our box. At the end of the day if you can't subscribe to my argument, which I have a feeling you won't, I think this argument and the points you make don't matter in the big picture of the Games and the Olympics in the same conversation. Haley said it best in her post above. "The Olympics is a group of individual competitions that test an athlete's sport-specific proficiency. You cannot compare an event that tests overall general fitness to one that tests an athlete's ability to preform a very specific event." Let's not make the Games into the Olympics. It can stand on it's own for what it is. I must lastly address your final question. You ask if I honestly think that the games or crossfit are trying to detract from the Olympics. I'm not sure what I wrote that made you think I hold this opinion. The fact that you pose it this way leads me to believe you don't understand the broad discussion itself. Of course I don't think Crossfit is trying to detract from the Olympics. I think it is fairly obvious that Crossfit is trying to raise it's own stature by forcing it's way into this conversation with the Olympics and that has been my problem from the start. As was stated above, this is the type of fodder that turns people off to CF.

12. Matt Solomon wrote...

November 8, 2009 12:49 AM


You say you don't know what the early Olympic environment was like, but do you know what the current environment is truly like? "Usually in high level competition, you've got edginess, you've got people trashtalking". Was that still about the Olympics? Maybe the NFL!?!

I have seen plenty of clips on television of olympmic athletes (esp track and field) that all got along, gave high fives, encouraged eachother, etc. You could argue that is why the tv program showed it, but it's fairly similar to my crossfit exposure (ie only videos CFHQ puts online).

CF and the CF Games are great for many reasons (the visible comraderie being one of them), but this clip gives me the impression that CF is unfairly hyping itself up at the expense of the Olympics.

13. Latham Fell wrote...

November 8, 2009 10:58 AM

Crossfitters are free to compete in the Olympics, and some do. Olympians are free to compete in the Crossfit Games. Crossfit Games competitors are the fittest athletes in the world. Olympians are the best specialist athletes in the world. The two sets of athletes have different goals. Never the twain shall meet.

Some Olympians probably have a high enough level of general conditioning, in addition to their specialist skills, to place high at the Crossfit Games. It's yet to be seen. Gymnasts, swimmers, and middle distance runners would be my picks. Ping pong players and weightlifters? They're too specialized. They wouldn't make it past the Qualifiers.

Just because you are a world class athlete does not mean you are fit.

14. Chubbs wrote...

November 8, 2009 12:45 PM

These arguments (Crossfit v. Olympics) have run the gamut from the actual ability it takes to succeed in either to comparing the overall atmosphere. In my humble opinion, they do not belong in the same conversation. As people have said, comparing what is an amazing physical training program to the oldest sporting event in the world is somewhat asinine. It just cannot be done in a defendable manner because Crossfit athletes and Olympic athletes train for entirely different reasons. Olympians train to be the best at their sport. Do you think Usain Bolt gives a shit that Michael Phelps is a good swimmer? Not one bit. But, I bet you that when Khalipa sees a video of somebody doing Fran faster than him, or Everett sees some Crossfitter snatch more than him, it irks them and drives them to train harder at those events. That is the biggest difference. No person who calls themself a Crossfitter with above-average ability would like somebody else in their box to take their number one mark in a WOD or lift, so they strive to be the best at everything within their physical realm of possibility. Conversely, Olympians want to be good at ONE thing (decathletes and heptathletes excluded), and they work at that ONE goal.

The argument should not be centered around corporate sponsorships, or ability to earn "legit" prize money, nor on the event itself. The true difference is found in what drives each individual competitor, and that is where any similarities between the two events disappear

15. sevan wrote...

November 8, 2009 1:27 PM

I had a lot of respect for the Olympics, until they started wearing clothes.

"And there were all these peripheral things that came with the festival: the artistic happenings, new writers, new painters, new sculptors. There were fire-eaters, palm readers, and prostitutes.

This was the total pagan entertainment package."

~National Geographic - describing the ancient olympics

I hope the CF Games becomes as much a party as a sporting event.

16. jake wrote...

November 8, 2009 4:06 PM


i understand what you're sayin about trying to create the hype. if that was the reason for this video then it is pretty laughable. the games do not need this comparison for people to get excited about them.

there are as many differences between the games and olympics as there are similarities. the comparison is fun, even though it is far-fetched. i try not to take anything too literally here. is everything at the games going to be unknown and unknowable? no. however, does cf better prepare you for the unknown and unknowable? absolutely. i think the comparison between the two was a fun way to provoke some conversation. as you've stated already, this wasnt an attempt to detract from the olympics.

17. The Pie wrote...

November 8, 2009 7:37 PM

On a totally separate note here. Anyone who is planning on attending the 2010 winter olympics in Vancouver, BC Cananda. We are planning on hosting multiple Olympic inspired WOD's during those two weeks and we hope we will get a chance to meet many Crossfitters from all over the world. We are located in North Vancouver about 15min away from 3 major mountain venues. Give me a buzz if you are going to be in town.

Chris Harrison
CrossFit Lions

November 9, 2009 10:48 AM


You should probably look a little bit closer at the qualities of most weightlifters before assuming that they couldn't do well at a qualifier, possibly ping pong (table tennis) players as well.

Don't be so cocky and thing that Crossfitters are all dominant in broad time and modal domains. Everyone has weaknesses (although I would say Mikko is as close to not having a weakness as anyone out there). Lighter weight class weightlifters' only real weakness would be longer duration activities.

My guess is given two months to train Crossfit specific exercises, most lighter weight class Olympic caliber weightlifters would do very very well in qualifiers. Give me one actual, scientific reason why they wouldn't and we might have a discussion going here.

BTW, swimmers? Swimmers are actually the LEAST likely of the groups you mentioned to have the ability to compete in CrossFit of any kind.

19. cam birtwell wrote...

November 9, 2009 10:51 AM

oh, and while I'm here,

PLEASE can we not talk crossfit and olympics in the same sentence? Just smacks of ignorance and false bravado.


20. Michael wrote...

November 9, 2009 8:53 PM

Tony have you been to the Olympics?
Have you trained an Olympian?
Have you trained any athletes? And for how long?
What athletes did you train and what were their results?
What is you back ground in athletics?
What sports and on what level did you compete or coach?

I have to ask these questions to even begin to understand where you are coming from. I think it would help all of us understand what goes through your head when you say these amazing things.

21. sevan replied to comment from Michael...

November 9, 2009 11:16 PM

Hey Michael,

To help put this in context, I interviewed Tony for 3 hours straight the day prior to the Games. I asked him the question about the Olympics along with dozens and dozens of other questions.

He is not teaching an "Olympics vs CrossFit 101 Class".... however, Tony is an authority on CrossFit, arguably one of the most knowledgeable people in the world.

Thus making him keenly aware of at least half of this equation and making his opinion more valid than most peoples.

Does this help you ?

I am not trying to be offensive, just trying to shed a light.

And as recall, Tony has trained Olympians, trained with Olympians and even a few X-Games Athletes.


22. Kenny Powers wrote...

November 10, 2009 5:40 PM

"He is not teaching an "Olympics vs CrossFit 101 Class".... however, Tony is an authority on CrossFit, arguably one of the most knowledgeable people in the world."

Wow, really?

"Thus making him keenly aware of at least half of this equation and making his opinion more valid than most peoples."


"And as recall, Tony has trained Olympians, trained with Olympians and even a few X-Games Athletes."

Throwing an Olympian through a mind numbingly painful/pointless workout does not constitute 'training' said athlete.

23. Gant wrote...

November 12, 2009 12:42 PM

"The high levels of camaraderie among the athletes is rare in sport."

WTF? Only someone who has never competed in an individual sport would say something like this.

Please keep producing material like this.

24. Igor wrote...

November 12, 2009 1:39 PM

As crossfitters, we train for 'events' the same way a sportsperson does. When I turn up for the games, I know the type of events they are going to put on - there will be squats, some dl, some sprints, maybe a 5k run, some med ball throws, some ring events and bodyweight events. Maybe even some tyre flipping and kettlebells thrown in.

These can all be trained for. You think crossfitters don't train for specification, well we do, we train for it in the above activities and a few more. Difference is, we train to be jack at all trades, masters at none. None of the games results were anywhere near oly results in comparitive fields. To argue that we are up there with oly athletes is laughable at best.

Every time we say that an olympic athlete should do a 'fran' or a 'murph' to see how fit they are, its a bit of a joke isn't it? Because of course somebody who has done the 'fran' or the 'murph' before, and multiple times, is going to be faster at it than somebody who hasn't. We do specialise as crossfitters - we specialise at WODS and crossfit style exercises. Take us out of that environment and we would suck, just like another specialist sportsman would.

For example, why is our gymnastic ring efforts limited to muscle ups and dips and chins? why not teach the iron cross? why not include it in the WOD? Is this too 'elite' for all of us? If we are 'elite', surely we could do an iron cross, a pretty basic level of gymnastic rings. I think we are not as elite as we think we are, and we need to stop bigmouthing ourselves so people stop laughing at us.

25. Murphiseasy wrote...

November 13, 2009 9:21 AM

Where is that list of olympic athletes that trained for their games using cf?