Testing Fitness and Sports Standards

March 15, 2012


Matt Simonton's adjusted score reflects his performance not his capacity.

When held to a standard, competitors can be surprised to learn where they're falling short.

The CrossFit Games Open is a worldwide online competition that starts everyone off equally. It doesn’t matter where you train, what you look like, who your coaches are, or what you’ve done in the past. You start with a clean slate, do the workout and prove your fitness.

The structure of the Open competition makes it the most egalitarian sport in history. You don’t have to try out, you don’t have to convince anyone of your ability, and it doesn’t matter if anyone has ever heard of you. What matters is that you show up, throw down and demonstrate your capacity by doing as much work as you possibly can in the time allotted. 

There are many great examples of people coming out of nowhere and proving themselves during the CrossFit Games season. In 2008, Jason Khalipa surprised everyone by dominating the final workout of the Games and walking away with the title Fittest on Earth. In 2011, Ruth Anderson Horrell a sheep farmer and small animal veterinarian from the Invercargill, New Zealand, finished 2nd in the Australia Regional after outstanding performances in the Open submitted by video.  

In 2012, CrossFit releases an Open Workout each week along with a set of standards. Over the next four days, 70,000 people who train out of CrossFit affiliates, globo gyms, garages, or their backyard are put to the same test – may the best man, woman, and team win.  

When held to a standard, competitors can be surprised to learn where they’re falling short (“Wait, my world record air squats don’t hit full extension?”). With a good judge at a CrossFit box, an athlete can get the immediate feedback they need to change course – with the dreaded two words, “No rep!” Yet when training alone and submitting videos, that feedback can be delayed.

Matt Simonton, a 35-year-old former NFL kicker, trains alone in his garage. For the last two years, he has submitted video of every Open Workout.

“My strength of attacking every workout with the highest level of intensity possible has also proven to expose a weakness,” Simonton says. “Sometimes with my intensity comes compromised technique.”

This year and last, viewers have called out missed reps in several of his performances, and time and again Simonton has gone back, redone the workout, and fixed his errors. 

Unfortunately, the feedback cycle broke down on 12.3. Simonton, the formerly 1st ranked man in the North East and 13th ranked man in the world, submitted his video on Sunday showing a score of more than 12 rounds. However, his push presses were out in front of the vertical plane, rather than directly over his heels, as clearly established by the 12.3 movement standards (see his performance and the movement standards).

Consequently, CrossFit HQ has adjusted his score by removing all of his push press reps. This will take Simonton from the top of the Leaderboard and well outside of the top 60 in the North East.

“The community and our regional team brought this to our attention,” Co-director of the Games Justin Bergh says. “In the past, Matt has submitted videos and almost always responded to any criticism by posting a new video. In this case he did not meet the standards of the movement by the deadline so we had to adjust his score. Matt wasn’t trying to cheat the system, but he didn’t meet the standard. He's handled the situation very professionally, and I expect he'll still make a run at Regionals.”

Having been a place kicker in the NFL, Simonton is no stranger to pressure.  Now he'll find himself on the outside looking in, with just two short workouts to make up ground in the North East Regional.

“I respect the decision from headquarters and the competition,” Simonton says. “I’ll just have to work hard on the next two to get back up there.”

The purpose of the CrossFit Games is to find the Fittest on Earth. It’s pretty clear Matt Simonton has enormous capacity and tremendous fitness. Like the athlete who steps on the line and thus misses an easy score, Simonton’s adjusted score on 12.3 doesn’t reflect his true capacity. It does, however, correctly reflect his performance in the workout, according to the standards.