Earlier this year, CrossFit revealed a new means for athletes to qualify for the 2019 Reebok CrossFit Games—sanctioned events. From these Sanctionals – as many in the community are referring to the sanctioned events as – the first place male, female and team finishers will be invited to compete at the Games this August in Madison, Wisconsin.
Thus far, 15 Sanctionals have been announced for the 2019 season, and with these announcements, we’re seeing familiar names take on new roles in the community as they work on the logistical side of these events. Veteran Games athletes and CrossFit Seminar Staff members Spencer Hendel, James Hobart and Austin Malleolo will be programming the Asia CrossFit Championship, set to take place in China this April, and two-time Fittest Woman on Earth Annie Thorisdottir will serve as the Championship Director for May’s Reykjavik CrossFit Championship.
While all four of these athletes are gym owners who program regularly for their affiliates, programming events of this scale will be a new beast. After all, invitations to the Games are on the line so we’re likely to see some of the most elite CrossFit athletes in the world compete in both locations.
We caught up with Hendel, Hobart and Malleolo to ask how their ties to the Asia CrossFit Championship came about.
“In true CrossFit fashion, I put Max Ma through his Level 2 in CrossFit Garden City a few years back,” says Malleolo. “Max and I met there, communicated back and forth and he started following the HAM Plan, which is the programming that Spencer, James and I write.”
As Ma, who was living in China, dove deeper into the world of CrossFit, he got the idea to start a competition for the country’s up-and-coming athletes. And thus, the China Championship was born. When it came to programming the competition, Ma looked no further than the men already programming his personal training plan. The HAM Plan has programmed the event for the past two years and Malleolo even attended the event its first year.
For 2019, the China Championship has been renamed as the Asia CrossFit Championship and Ma remains the Championship Director.
“We are essentially continuing what we were doing in years’ past,” says Malleolo. “We just get to increase the scope.” With rumblings that Brent Fikowski, the fourth place finisher in the 2018 Games, plans to compete at the event, the guys express their excitement to see athletes of that caliber take on their programming.
“We’re obviously excited, but it's not about us as programmers,” clarifies Malleolo. “It should be about the athletes. I've learned from working with Dave [Castro] over the years that his goal was always to showcase the athletes and challenge the athletes at different levels.”
Hobart agrees. “I'm curious to see with all of these sanctioned events if it turns into a programming arms race where one qualifier is trying to outdo the next qualifier with the heaviest barbell or flashiest workout.” He says they have no desire to turn the Asia CrossFit Championship into something of that sort. All three men are in agreement that their foremost role as programmers is to put together a safe, fun competition where the fittest athletes emerge on top of the podium at the end of the weekend. If the fittest individuals and team progress to Madison, then they have done their job correctly.
And if you are wondering whether they have already programmed the events for the Asia CrossFit Championship, the answer is yes.
“We got together a couple times and put together events for both the qualifier and the competition itself,” says Hobart. “Our goal was to not reinvent a model which we already believed worked really well.” He describes himself as a proponent of the “classic CrossFit” model.
The men are not willing to preview the events just yet but they will give advice to those who have their sights set on competing in the Asia CrossFit Championship.
“Follow CrossFit.com,” says Hendel.
“If anyone has spent any time following the three of us, I think they'll find that we are very true to CrossFit.com and what we originally grew up with,” says Hendel. “Our programming for the Championship follows exactly what we grew up on. There's nothing fancy. There's nothing that's going to throw athletes through loops. It’s your typical down and dirty CrossFit programming.”
The Asia CrossFit Championship will take place in China in April. Hendel, Hobart and Malleolo will all be in attendance, watching the competition go down. It will be the first trip to China for Hendel and Hobart.
Athletes looking to partake in the competition must first undergo the Asia CrossFit Championship Online Qualifier which will run from January 10 to January 28 and consist of four workouts. Registration for the qualifier is now open. From there, the top 70 men, top 70 women and top 40 teams will progress to the actual competition floor in April.