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CrossFit Long Beach Mentioned In Venues Today Magazine's Pre-Coverage Of The 2012 CrossFit Games
Submitted by Fernando on Thu, 06/28/2012 - 11:28am
The Quest to Find World's Strongest Man & Woman
In their third year at Home Depot Center, CrossFit Games are a sellout success
Canada East Regional Men's winner Matthew Lefave is one of 45 athletes competing for the title of World's Fittest Man at this year's CrossFit Games at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
If a man beats a bear in a wrestling match, but no one is there in the woods to watch it happen, does he really earn bragging rights?
Not likely. Feats of strength aren’t meant just for muscles — they’re meant for the masses as well.
No one understands that better than CrossFit founder Greg Glassman, whose quest to crown the Fittest Man and Woman on Earth has become the apex of a global health movement. Just six years old, the CrossFit Games are now a sellout at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., attracting a $1-million purse from shoemaker Reebok and a television partnership with ESPN.
Tickets for the July 13-15 event have been sold out since June 1, with 10,000 CrossFit fans eagerly throwing down $40-$60 for a weekend pass. In response to increasing demand from fans, the CrossFit Games released a second allotment with limited access to some of the vendor villages around the event. CrossFit Games General Manager Justin Bergh said they sold 1,100 of those tickets (also $50) during the first 90 minutes they went on sale Monday, with another 3,000 to go.
That’s nearly double the 6,500 tickets redeemed on the busiest day of the competition in 2011, and Bergh said CrossFit is poised to keep growing. Over 4,000 gyms worldwide now operate under the CrossFit flag, following the principles of founder Glassman, who created the first CrossFit in Santa Cruz in 2000.
Back then "they put up a free website, crossfit.com, and started gaining some traction from other individuals who wanted to become affiliates,” said Bergh. Each day, Glassman would post new workouts online, designed to be followed with near exact precision by an increasing number of former college athletes, active duty and discharged military, and law enforcement professionals looking for ways to maintain an elite level of fitness. Plenty of weekend warriors and fitness newcomers followed suit, looking for a way to burn calories and get in shape. (Full disclosure: Managing Editor Dave Brooks is a member of CrossFit Long Beach.)
Workouts constantly change and are known for their high levels of intensity — everything from running with sandbags, rope climbing and classic Olympic-style weightlifting exercises like the clean and jerk or the snatch. Exercises are usually combined and athletes compete to finish their workouts against the clock.
Gyms pay several thousand dollars a year to operate under the CrossFit name, and it’s not uncommon for some cities to have multiple affiliated gyms — Beaverton, Ore., a 90,000-person suburb of Portland, has three CrossFit gyms within city limits. The greater Atlanta area has over 50 gyms.
“The only thing we care about with the games is that it’s driving the success of our affiliates,” said Bergh. “We have 4,000 affiliates worldwide, and their well-being is our goal. It’s not the financial success of the games that we care about as much as the success of the affiliate community.”
For Southern California affiliate CrossFit Long Beach co-owner Gina Caywood, the proximity to the Home Depot Center (about a 15-minute drive) has meant “all sorts of people coming in from around the world for the Games, and many of the athletes that are here for the games come and work out at our facility.”
Caywood said the broadcast of the games also generates a lot of interest from local residents, who Google their local CrossFit affiliates after seeing a telecast of the event and call to inquire about training among some of the fittest men and women in their community.
“We get a lot of people who have been competitive athletes in other sports,” Caywood said. “After college, there’s not a lot of other options to do something competitive, but CrossFit gives them an environment to train in a new and different kind of sport.”
And joining a CrossFit affiliate means a chance to compete in the CrossFit Open, the first of two qualifiers to land a spot among the top 90 male and female athletes who eventually compete in the Games. The CrossFit Open is literally open to anyone willing to pay the $20 competition fee, and try their hand at five grueling workouts over five weekends.
In 2012, over 68,000 CrossFitters competed in the Open, trying to win a spot to compete in one of 17 regional competitions at sites like the Richmond (British Columbia) Olympic Oval, the Los Angeles County Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., and the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castlerock, Colo. The winner of each regional tournament goes on to compete in the CrossFit Games.
“It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, doing the open workouts definitely push you to a new level,” CrossFit Long Beach co-owner Chad Cross said. And for an athelete to actually make it to the Games?
"They have to be at Superman status," he explained.
“Athletes are training for the entire year in fitness, but they don’t know what the exact events are until just before the competition,” Bergh said, later adding, “we have to coordinate all of the details in almost complete secrecy,” while trying to work with media and broadcast partners prepare to stream the events live.
CrossFit brings in 50 top-level national judges for the Games, plus another 80 judges with regional experience. Need some new CrossFit gear? Everything from specialty to workout shoes, to nutritional supplements to designer clothes is available and for many spectators, the games are a once-a-year shopping opportunity to pick up new workout equipmemt.
“I’d say the closest thing we’ve ever done to this is the X-Games,” explained Katie Pandolfo, Home Depot Center general manager. The level of competition at the games, and the use of the entire Olympic grounds “defines what we do here at the facility as a training center.”
There are also specialty food offerings at the Games. Many CrossFit athletes follow the principles of the Paleo diet, which emphasizes natural foods like organic fruits, vegetables and meats — a challenge for Home Depot Center’s concessionaire Levy Restaurants, which offers traditional stadium fare.
“This year we’re bringing in six different food trucks and mobile vendors that meet the food requests of our community,” Bergh said. That includes the Paleo Shack, which sells wild Pacific-caught Mahi Mahi, and Burger Lounge which uses beef from grass-fed cows.
“Our fans are very vocal and they’re very exacting in their requests,” Bergh said.
CrossFit also has its own in-house media team, with web videos, articles and photo galleries regularly updated with new content. CrossFit is in the second year of a media partnership with ESPN — competitions are broadcast live on ESPN 3, and CrossFit produced 12 episodes for ESPN 2.
And nearly everyone expects the sport to continue to grow, including CrossFit Long Beach’s Cross who noted that the number of local competitions, affiliates and members show no sign of stopping.
“I expect there will be more of everything, I don’t think we’ve gotten close to capacity,” he said, later adding “in a lot of ways, the growth is the hardest thing to keep up with, both at our level and for the CrossFit Games."
Interviewed for this article: Justin Bergh, (202) 449-8533; Katie Pandolfo, (310) 630-2054; Gina Caywood and Chad Cross, (562) 492-6951
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