First, a little history…
It’s hard to imagine that the winner of the 2007 CrossFit Games took home $500. Yep, that’s right, James Fitzgerald (OPT) took home $500 for winning the inaugural CrossFit Games at The Ranch. That paycheck went up to $1,500 when Jason Khalipa won in 2008 and then really got “big” when Mikko Salo won the title in 2009.
In 2010, the prize purse started to receive some attention (thanks to Progenex), even if it looks really small compared to today’s purse. Graham Holmberg won $25,000 plus a $1,000 gift card from Under Armour. Rich Froning, who took 2nd place that year, walked away with a $500 gift card.
In 2011, CrossFit began awarding the top 3 Regional finishers (those who qualified for the CrossFit Games) $3,000 for 1st place, $2,000 for 2nd place and $1,000 for 3rd place. In addition, the total prize purse for the CrossFit Games skyrocketed to $1 million thanks to CrossFit’s new sponsorship agreement with Reebok. Froning, the eventual winner, took home $250,000. Ben Smith, who finished 3rd, took home $25,000, the same amount that the prior year’s winner received.
CrossFit began paying out worldwide winners of Open workouts in 2012. The winner each week was awarded $2,012. The payout structure for Regionals and the CrossFit Games remained the same as 2011 for 2012 and 2013 (except the Open winner received $2,013).
In 2014, the Open winners received $2,014 (see the trend here?). The 2014 CrossFit Games purse also saw a spike that year thanks to Reebok. The total prize purse once again jumped from $1 million to $1.75 million. The individual winner took home $275,000. Second place received $65,000 and 3rd place got $35,000. The top 10 individuals at the CrossFit Games received a portion of the prize purse.
In 2015, the Super Regional was created. Thus, the Regional payouts increased to the top 5 with 1st place taking home $5,000. Also that year, the top 3 performances for each event at the CrossFit Games walked away with some prize money ($3,000 for 1st, $2,000 for 2nd and $1,000 for 3rd). While the top paycheck stayed at $275,000, the 2nd and 3rd place paychecks increased to $90,000 and $65,000, respectively. Also, the top 20 individual finishers earned a piece of the prize money.
And this year, the prize purse will be $2.4 million. Again, similar payouts, but the eventual winner will take home $285,000.
After 10 CrossFit Games seasons (plus four Open workouts in 2017), 144 male individual athletes have taken home prize money. However, only five men have earned over $100,000 in lifetime earnings from competing at the CrossFit Games.
Here is the top 10 list of lifetime earnings among men competing as individuals at the CrossFit Games*:
- Rich Froning ($1.04M)
- Mat Fraser ($478k)
- Ben Smith ($460k)
- Jason Khalipa ($101k)
- Josh Bridges ($100k)
- Bjorgvin Gudmundsson ($92k)
- Scott Panchik ($71k)
- Patrick Vellner ($67k)
- Brent Fikowski ($60k)
- Cole Sager ($58k)
*Does not include earnings from team/affiliate competition, endorsements or other functional fitness competitions.
The money has definitely changed over the past several years, as seen by Vellner and Fikowski making the top 10 after one appearance at the CrossFit Games, but it is still far from enough to earn a living solely from prize purse payouts. Of the 144 athletes who have taken home prize money, 105 have earned less than $10,000.
When you factor in the registration fees and travel expenses required to compete in the three-stage competition, many athletes must come out of pocket or find sponsors to make it to the Games each year.