April 28, 2021
The First Cross-Continental Comparisons of the Quarterfinal
By Chad Schroeder
A cross-regional comparison of top-tier athletes as they head into a subsequent phase of the Games season.
A cross-regional comparison of top-tier athletes as they head into a subsequent phase of the Games season.

The cross-regional comparison (CRC) was used to compare all athlete’s performances worldwide in the CrossFit  Regionals  from 2011 to 2018. The CRC ranking had no bearing on qualifying for the Games, but it was a good tool for media and fans to evaluate athletes and rank athletes coming into that final stage of competition. Now with the advent of the Quarterfinals, we are able to again compare top-tier athletes as they head into a subsequent phase of the Games season. But instead of athletes in different regions, we can now compare across continents in the cross-continental comparison (CCC).

There are two types of comparisons. One evaluates all participants and is known as the worldwide CRC or CCC. The other evaluates the qualifiers and is known as the qualifier CRC or CCC. With the worldwide comparisons, all scores from every Regional event (for the CRC) or continent test (for the CCC) are ranked against each other and assigned a worldwide ranking for the event or test. Then, these event or test rankings are added together to get a CRC or CCC point total, and the totals are then ranked to determine an athlete’s worldwide CRC or CCC ranking. Total points tiebreakers are determined by the best event or test rank between tied athletes. If two or more athletes’ best event or test rank is tied, then their second-best ranks are compared. If the second-best ranks are tied, then their third-best ranks are compared, and so forth until the tie is broken. 

For the qualifier CRC or CCC, the process is the same for the scoring and ranking, except only the qualifier’s scores are used (the Games qualifiers for the CRC and the Semifinal qualifiers for the CCC).

Same but Different

Despite the similarities between the two ranking systems, there are differences between the CRC and CCC. Those differences are outlined below:

Cross-Regional Comparison

  • From 2011 to 2018, Regionals were held over three to five consecutive weekends. Athletes competing in the later weekends had many opportunities to practice the events. Plus, they had the added advantage of learning effective strategies from the athletes competing in the earlier weekends. This was apparent with most of the worldwide Regional event records set in the last few Regional weekends. Thus, the CRC rankings were somewhat skewed to the later weekends’ athletes. However, the competition was all relative to each weekend, so athletes competing against each other at their respective Regional had the same amount of preparation time.
  • In the earlier years, some Regionals were held outside while others were held inside. Some competition spaces had different dimensions and flooring materials. However, the competition conditions were the same for each athlete at a respective Regional. In the later years of Regionals, the standardization was improved with the competition space layouts. Plus, all competitions were brought indoors.
  • At Regionals, most of the top athletes who were going to compete on a team at the Games competed on a team at Regionals. There were a few occasions where an athlete competed as an individual at Regionals but did not qualify. However, they were able to jump on a Games team from their affiliate that qualified at Regionals. Therefore, the CRC mainly consisted of the top individuals intending to compete at the Games.

Cross-Continental Comparison

  • Unlike Regionals, the Quarterfinals happened during one weekend, with sets of tests conducted within regular 24-hour intervals Thursday through Sunday. This format helped streamline the conditions for athletes competing virtually from all around the world.
  • The CCC is somewhat of a microcosm of the Open, with athletes typically competing in their own gym. Like in the Open, athletes could repeat tests as long as they submitted their scores by their required deadlines. However, the short score submission windows dissuaded most from retrying a test due to fatigue, recovery times, and other tests yet to be performed.
  • The CCC can only be used during the Quarterfinals and not with the Semifinals in this new Games season format. The Semifinals will have their own unique events, thus making a comparison of different Semifinal events objectively impossible. Additionally, for this season, there will be a mix of in-person and online Semifinals due to COVID-19 restrictions.
  • A number of athletes who competed in the Quarterfinals as individuals  are also competing in the Team Quarterfinal. Thus, the rankings will include some top athletes who will compete on teams in the Semifinals and maybe even the Games.
  • With the relatively large number of athletes advancing to the Semifinals from the Quarterfinals, some elite athletes may not have felt the need to go “all out” with their Quarterfinal test performances. They just wanted to qualify and advance with the main goal being the Games. For example, some athletes called it good with a 4-rep-max front squat weight knowing that it would be enough to get them into the Semifinals. However, at Regionals, the number of qualifying spots was much smaller, so an athlete’s best effort in every event was critical. Thus, a max lift event would have athletes risking going for heavier weights knowing their Games spot could be on the line.

Worldwide Cross-Continental Comparison

Below is the listing of the top 50 from the worldwide CCC for women and men. Note that the blue line below the top 40 signifies the number of eventual Games qualifiers. This has no significance to the Semifinals but is an interesting reference marker. Here are a few notes and observations from the worldwide CCC:

  • The scores shown for the tests are in total seconds (or lb. for Test 4). 
  • The continent rank shown for reference was the athlete’s actual Quarterfinal continent ranking, which determined who qualified to the Semifinals from each continent.
  • When looking down the worldwide CCC, the highest-ranked athlete who did not initially qualify for Semifinals was Lisa Eble from Europe in 182nd place. For the men it was Streat Hoerner from North America, who was in 207th place for the worldwide CCC ranking.

 

Chart 1

 

Chart 2

Semifinal Qualifier Cross-Continental Comparison

Below are the tables with all the Semifinal qualifiers and their respective qualifier CCC ranking and point totals. As with the worldwide CCC, the top 40 blue line signifies the number of eventual Games qualifiers; again, this is just for reference. A couple of notes regarding this qualifier ranking:

  • For the men, Scott Panchik and Travis Mayer swap the top spots, with Mayer on top of the worldwide CCC and Panchik on top of the qualifier CCC. The main reason for the swap was that lower scores are hit harder in the worldwide rankings given the opportunity for more athletes to place in between the two athletes being compared (Mayer and Panchik in this case). In this comparison, Panchik took a bigger relative hit to Mayer in Test 1 with a worldwide CCC place of 82nd to Mayer’s 20th (a 62-point difference). In the qualifier CCC for Test 1, Panchik was 55th and Mayer 13th (a 42-point difference, and therefore a 20-point difference between the two CCC rankings on Test 1 alone).
  • Jonne Koski and Jay Crouch were the only two men competing outside North America  to land in the tTop 15. Koski and Crouch took 12th and 13th, respectively.
  • For the women, Tia-Clair Toomey was first and Kara Saunders was second for both the worldwide and qualifier CCCs. Unlike the men, there was a greater mix of continental representation in the women’s qualifier CCC top 15, with nine North Americans, four Europeans, and the top two hailing from Oceania.
  • The rankings will change for the actual individual athletes who compete at the Semifinals. Athletes will be added through the backfill process due to some individual Semifinal qualifiers electing to compete on Semifinal teams or simply electing not to compete in the Semifinals. Some will perhaps choose to focus on the age group competitions as well. For now, this is the CCC for the initial Semifinal qualifiers.

 

Chart 3

 

Chart4

Continental Comparison from 2017, 2018, and 2021

The worldwide CCC also presents the opportunity to measure how well athletes from the different continents are doing year after year. One comparison to explore is the number of athletes from each continent in the worldwide CRC or CCC top 50, 100, 150, 200, and 250. I went back to worldwide CRCs from 2017 and 2018 and determined what their continental athlete breakouts would be for the various ranges listed above. 

Note there are always caveats with these comparisons. The pool of athletes in the CRC was much lower than the CCC, but for the top end of the rankings, we would expect to see the same relative number of top athletes. 

Additionally, in 2018 the Latin America Regional unfortunately had to manage an equipment shortage due to a trucking strike in Brazil. The athletes in the Latin America Regional were excluded from the 2018 CRC due to performing modified events from the lack of the required Regional equipment. 

Comparing the last two years of the worldwide CRC to this season’s worldwide CCC shows some interesting trends from over the last five years. See the table below.

Chart 5
 

When comparing these numbers, it is important to look at the changes over the years for each range within each continent. Here are some of the significant takeaways:

  • The North American numbers are dropping across all the ranges, especially for the women. This is an indication of how the rest of the world’s elite athletes are improving in greater numbers.
  • Conversely, the number of Europe athletes are increasing across all ranges, especially for the women.
  • Oceania has stayed roughly the same, with some drops in the larger ranges.
  • Despite the 2018 CRC being skewed by the 2018 Latin America Regional, the growth in the number of South American athletes in the elite levels in all ranges is very evident.
  • The Asia athletes have been relatively steady over this time frame.
  • There has been a noticeable drop from the Africa athletes, especially in the larger ranges.

One additional point of significance for the 2021 CCC is the effect COVID-19 has had on participation rates across the world. The impact is different for each continent and for various countries within the continents, depending on the local restrictions. Looking at this same data from the 2022 Games season will provide an even better indicator of the development of elite fitness across the different continents.  


Chad Schroeder has been doing CrossFit since 2009. Schroeder started working for CrossFit Media regularly at the 2012 CrossFit Games. He compiles and tracks all the CrossFit Games season results, athlete bios, and career records. He provides direct stats and research assistance to the media crews during live events and production shows. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, he is a civil engineer during the day and was in the United States Air Force for 10 years. He has his Professional Engineer’s license along with master’s and bachelor’s degrees in engineering. Before finding CrossFit, he came from a triathlon and marathon background. Outside his work and CrossFit, he enjoys hiking and snowshoeing in the Colorado mountains  He also likes following MMA (UFC) and is a huge Star Wars fan and Lego collector.