The 2021 Nobull CrossFit Games were history in the making for many reasons…no Mat Fraser on the competition floor meant a wide-open men’s field for the first time in five years, and Tia-Clair Toomey became the most dominant competition athlete ever with the most individual event wins and record-equaling fifth title. But, most notably to many in the community was the inclusion of the Adaptive Athlete divisions for the first time!
Adaptive Divisions – The Inaugural Year!
For the first time ever, the CrossFit competition season included eight adaptive divisions; three of which were invited to compete in the 2021 Nobull CrossFit Games. This historic change to the competitive landscape was championed by the new CrossFit CEO Eric Roza and led by the teams from Adaptive Training Academy and WheelWOD.
Women’s Upper Extremity Games Athlete Elizabeth Bride explains what it means to be included:
“The addition of the adaptive division meant more to me than I thought it would. It means that CrossFit recognizes people like me as competitive athletes too. A few years ago I would have scoffed and said it didn’t matter. But I realize now it does. It means a lot to be able to compete with what you’ve got, unapologetically.”
The Adaptive Divisions – By the Numbers
- 8 Adaptive Divisions: Upper Extremity, Lower Extremity, Seated with Hip Function, Seated without Hip Function, Vision, Neuromuscular, Short Stature, and Intellectual.
- 1,089 adaptive athletes registered for the 2021 CrossFit Open.
- 3 of the 8 adaptive divisions were invited to participate in the CrossFit Games based on Open participation.
- 29 adaptive athletes competed in the CrossFit Games — 5 men and 5 women from the Upper Extremity, Lower Extremity, and Neuromuscular divisions, with one athlete unable to attend.
- 10 different countries represented: 🇺🇸 USA (17), 🇬🇧 Great Britain (3), 🇫🇷 France (2), 🇪🇨 Ecuador (1), 🇪🇸 Spain (1), 🇨🇭Switzerland (1), 🇳🇴 Norway (1), 🇨🇱 Chile (1), 🇺🇾 Uruguay (1), and 🇿🇦 South Africa (1)
- 7 events over 3 days: adaptive athletes were tested on a similar schedule to the age-group divisions which competed Tuesday through Thursday of Games week.
- 2 events in the coliseum: this marks the first time adaptive athletes competed in the coliseum, or in the Games! Previously there have been exhibition showcase events in the coliseum, but never for the actual Games competition.
- 0 Americans in the Men’s Lower Extremity division. Just like the podium for the individual competition, the podiums for the adaptive divisions were represented by numerous international athletes.
Headlines and Untold Stories
You may have heard or seen the amazing lifts from Event 2, which was a 1-rep maximum lift (UE: deadlift, LE: snatch, NM: clean) for each division. Logan Aldridge, a single-arm athlete only weighing 165lbs, put up a 12lb personal record lift by hitting a 502lb deadlift…and that wasn’t even the heaviest lift in the division!
Here are a few astounding accomplishments:
- 525lb deadlift: the weight lifted by Josue Maldonado (USA), Men’s Upper Extremity, to win Event 2.
- 675 points: the number of points Brett Horchar (USA) scored out of a possible 700 to win the Men’s Neuromuscular division. Horchar only earned second-place one time during the competition which made him the most dominant adaptive athlete points-wise.
- 6:44 min/mile pace: The run pace held by event winner Casey Acree (USA) over 4.5 miles. Acree admits he thinks he could have gone faster but was far in front of the rest of the division so he slowed up on the last lap to reserve fuel for the other two events later that day. His time would have placed him third in the 35-39 year age group division.
Video: 2021 CrossFit Games Event 1
A few stories that went under the radar:
- First-ever open water swim: Sylvania Harrod (Men’s Neuromuscular, USA) had never swum in open water or anything larger than a pool before the Games. For Event 5, Harrod summoned the courage to swim 300m out and back in the competition lake, taking 28mins to complete the event, a full 20mins longer than most competitors. The swim was a huge personal victory for the disabled Army veteran.
- From relearning how to walk to running 3 miles: Letchen du Plessis (Women’s Neuromuscular, South Africa) had no complaints and went full speed into Event 1 of the CrossFit Games, a 3-mile run. Letchen is an athlete with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and dystonia which both present significant challenges for long-duration events. Watch a short profile on Letchen 👉 (external link: instagram.com/CrossFitGames/Letchen).
- A text message from the President: Victor Assaf Castro was the only athlete to represent Ecuador in the 2021 Games. On the last day of the competition, Castro received a text from the Ecuadorian President congratulating him on representing the country and inviting him to chat after the competition.
Video: CrossFit Games Athlete Profile – Victor Castro
The Way Forward
The first year with Adaptive Divisions in the CrossFit competition season was a huge success and was well-received by CrossFit staff and the community. As with any new endeavor, updates need to be made to ensure the inclusion of all divisions and continue to develop a more fair competition for all sport classes. Below are some ways ATA plans to help make this happen!
- Improve the adaptive classification and rulebook document (Adaptive Athlete Policy): ATA plans to work with CrossFit to add more detail to the classification process and sport class determinations to make the process clearer and alleviate any subjectivity.
- Advocate to include a scaled programming option for the CrossFit Open.
- Advocate for a Games Final competition for all divisions, even if that means some are virtual.
Men’s Upper Extremity Games Athlete (1st place) Casey Acree on what he hopes to see in the future:
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to compete in such a high-quality event on the biggest stage in the sport of fitness. I am also hopeful and confident that this will result in a huge increase in adaptive individuals making the choice to improve their quality of life by starting CrossFit training. With increased participation, the level of competition will continue to rise!”
If you are interested in participating in the 2022 CrossFit competition season or are coaching someone who is, start by reviewing the 2021 Adaptive Athlete Policy. This document governs the eligibility and includes anything specific to the Adaptive Divisions. If you need clarification or have any questions beyond that document, you can contact CrossFit by messaging [email protected]