It’s always a slightly awkward meal.
The annual CrossFit Games athletes dinner is the first time all the individual competitors meet together—the fittest from around the world. Everyone’s rested and fresh, and old friends and rivals get a chance to reconnect and share some laughs over a great meal, usually with Jenga, Operation and other games on the table for distraction.
It would be a relaxing evening with the sun dropping into the Pacific if not for the part where Games Director Dave Castro grabs the mic and sets stomachs churning with anticipation.
The athletes dinner has traditionally been Ground Zero for a series of bombshells from Castro, making the meal a nervous gobble while the athletes wait to find out how and when they’ll be tested.
In 2012, Castro famously flipped the script when he told the individual athletes the competition would start Wednesday—not Friday—with a swim-bike-run endurance test at Camp Pendleton. At subsequent dinners, he’s made announcements, introduced new equipment, teased athletes with red herrings, hinted at events and even left the competitors hanging by mic-dropping when they expected details of 2014’s first event.
At 2016’s dinner for the athletes at Petros Manhattan Beach, Castro arrived at 7 p.m., and the room got noticeably quieter. After a short round of introductions, a pregnant pause sat as heavy on the room as a Sam Dancer deadlift.
Castro started by telling the athletes this year would the toughest of the 10 editions of the CrossFit Games, both mentally and physically. Then he dropped two event announcements: A 500-m ocean swim, and a squat-clean ladder similar to the snatch ladder at regionals. Another detail: Murph’s gymnastics would be partitioned into 5 rounds of 20 pull-ups, 40 push-ups and 60 squats.
And then he left.
No new gear. No shock. No jaws on the table.
Becca Voigt was immediately suspicious of Castro. And with good reason: The Southern California athlete was given a big round of applause by her peers as the only person to qualify for the Games nine times in a row.
“I definitely expect more,” Voigt said thoughtfully. “I feel like Dave is really baiting us on this. … I feel like this is absolutely tame.”
For her part, Voigt wants it to get weird and wild. She’d prefer something that “shocks the crowd.”
Marcus Filly, a third-time competitor back from a one-year absence, was similarly suspicious of Castro: “He messed with us mentally, and it worked with me.”
Two past Games winners were more stoic, embracing the ready-for-anything attitude that characterizes the best Games athletes.
“We might see some different aspects of the Games, and that’s what we all train for. We train for the unknown,” said Sam Briggs, competing for the last time in 2016.
Defending champ Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir was eager and curious, explaining that she doesn’t yet understand what’s in store but wants a very hard test. Davidsdottir said she wants to be challenged and scared because she’s confident her training will get her through anything.
“I tell myself, ‘I’ve worked hard. This is what I’ve worked for. … I don’t work hard to do easy things,'” she said.
Overall, the individual athletes of the 10th edition of the CrossFit Games are suspicious and waiting for the other shoe to drop. They’re certain Castro has more in store, and they’re sure they’ll be knocked sideways shortly. Perhaps before dessert arrives.
“The next announcement will be the shocking one where he has the devious smile,” Voigt said.