Curses and sports go hand in hand.
By curse I don’t mean the kind that will melt some Nazi henchman’s face off while Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood fight to keep their eyes shut.
I’m thinking of something far tamer, like the “Sports Illustrated Curse.” Believers can cite 100 cases where the athlete gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated soon fell from grace in their sport, dating as far back as the first edition in 1954. Ronda Rousey anyone? Too soon?
Similarly, the Heisman Trophy, the highest honor in college football, appears to doom whoever possesses it to a loss in their next bowl game or even for the remainder of their football career. Heisman winners have an astoundingly low 48-percent winning record in bowl games, which suggests the curse is alive and well on the AstroTurf.
The Sport of Fitness may be no exception. Receiving an invite to perform in the Live Announcement of the week’s Open workout is an honor reserved for the top athletes in the sport, but with a substantial fraction of the Open announcement athletes failing to qualify for the Games, it makes me wonder, is there a Curse of the Open Announcement?
Our quest to uncover the curse begins in 2013, the first year that Dave Castro announced the Open Workout in front of a live audience moments before top Games competitors went head to head. In the first year, 12 Games competitors took part in the announcements. Of those, two Games champions—Annie Thorisdottir (due to a back injury) and Kristan Clever—as well as then-6-time-Games-competitor Chris Spealler failed to qualify for the 2013 Games. That’s 25 percent of the field. It’s no “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but Indy’s warming up his whip.
In 2014, things heated up. Of the 13 athletes, five failed to qualify for the 2014 Games, including Marcus Hendren, Garret Fisher, Stacie Tovar, Graham Holmberg, and Sam Briggs–a whopping 38 percent of the field, including two Games champions. Somebody get Harrison Ford on the phone…
2015 brought things back down a bit. Eleven athletes competed, and three didn’t make it back to the Games: Julie Foucher (due to an Achilles tendon tear at the Central Regional), Lauren Brooks, and Josh Bridges. That’s a “Temple of Doom”-ish 27 percent.
Taken together, that means that roughly one-third of all athletes invited to perform in an Open announcement would later fail to make it to the Games. Indiana Jones jokes aside, that’s surprising given that we’re talking about stellar Games athletes, the bulk of whom (29 of the 36) had just come off of a top-10 Games finish.
For those of us walking around with voodoo dolls and rabbits’ feet in our pockets, it is more than enough to make us believe in an Open announcement curse. For the skeptics in the CrossFit world, let’s pause to look for another explanation.
The numbers show it’s just plain hard to qualify, or re-qualify, for the Games.
The attrition rate has remained stubbornly at just over 50 percent for the last three years. That means half of the field from the previous year’s Games failed to make it back.
Attrition Rates (Entire Games Field)
2013 | 53.8%
2014 | 53.5%
2015 | 55%
This is true even for the top athletes at the Games, though their attrition rate is significantly lower at roughly 25 percent.
Attrition Rates (Games Top 10)
2013 | 20%
2014 | 25%
2015 | 30%*
The Games Top 10 attrition rates aren’t far off from those of the “cursed” Open announcement invitees, especially when you consider that the Open announcement group is a small sample and includes athletes who finished outside of the top 10 at the previous year’s Games.
So, it’s less a curse of the Open announcement and more the gritty reality of the Sport of Fitness. It’s hard to remain among the Fittest on Earth when the athletes around you are getting ever fitter, and in order to qualify you have to seamlessly overcome every obstacle that your body, life, and sport throw at you for a seven-month season.
Such little room for error means, even for the fittest athletes in the sport, tomorrow isn’t promised today.
The Live Announcement of Open Workout 16.1, presented by Western Digital Corporation, will start at 5 p.m. PT Thursday, February 25 on Games.CrossFit.com.