One of the most talked about topics following yesterday’s news about changes to the 2024 CrossFit Games season was the number of athletes who would now qualify for Quarterfinals. Last year the top 10% of individuals in each region advanced to Quarterfinals. In 2024, however, that number increases to the top 25%.
Looking back at the 2023 CrossFit Open, almost 17,000 men and just over 13,000 women advanced to Quarterfinals in the Open division. That number increases to over 42,000 men and 33,000 women if the same number of athletes register this year.
On the CrossFit Podcast yesterday, Adrian Bozman indicated that the change to 25% was to simplify and make it easier for athletes and fans to understand how the season worked between divisions. He also added that the Quarterfinals would be more of an extension of the Open and programming would need to reflect that more participants would be taking on the Quarterfinal workouts.
Hearing this, I was curious to what the differences were between a top 10% athlete and a top 25% athlete. So I went back to the 2023 CrossFit Open results and calculated how well the 90th percentile and 75th percentile athlete did on every Open workout.
I did not just look at the last man/women in from each region because of inherent variances in that athlete’s ability. For example, the last man in from Asia might have done really well in the burpee pull-up and shuttle run workout, but poorly in the 1RM thruster. Conversely, in South America, that last man in did better in the thruster versus the pull-up/shuttle run workout.
So the idea was that if you can finish inside the top 25% of every workout, you will finish inside the top 25% overall. And when comparing the last man in, some of his event scores were actually lower than the top 25%.
Thus, if you know you can finish inside the top 25% on every scored event, you will end up inside the top 25% on the final leaderboard.
One more caveat before I get into the numbers, I was actually surprised how similar the reps (or pounds) were across each region for the top 10% and 25%. While North America and Europe have more of the top elite athletes, as you work towards the general CrossFit gym member there becomes less variability between regions.
In looking at the men’s data, the first thing that stands out is the number of muscle-ups completed between the top 10% athlete versus the top 25% athlete. The top 10% athlete essentially needed to complete 10 of the 20 ring muscle-ups to finish inside the top 10% in his region. However, only one or two muscles was needed for the top 25% athlete (and in Africa and Asia, not one muscle-up was needed).
Moving on to Week 2, the top 10% athlete completed roughly 10-15 more burpee pull-ups than the top 25% athlete. And on the strength side with the 1RM Thruster, the weight gap between the two athletes was generally around 25-30 pounds.
Week 3 showed there is a massive gap between the two athletes. 23.3 was the gated workout with wall-walks, double-unders and snatches that progressed to strict handstand push-ups and heavier snatches. But to get to the HSPU, the athlete needed to complete the first two rounds in under six minutes.
As you can see in the chart below, the top 10% athletes made it through the first gate, completed the 20 strict handstand push-ups and 50 double-unders. The top 25% athlete, however, generally did not make it past the first 6-minute gate. If he did, the best was 10 strict handstand push-ups (in South America).
Now, turning to the women’s side. To make the top 10% on 23.1 last did not require a women, in any region, to complete one ring muscle-up in the chipper repeat from 14.4. So if the top 10% athlete didn’t get a ring muscle-up that means the top 25% athlete didn’t finish the 30 power cleans. Depending on the region, the top 25% athlete finished between 8-23 of the 95-pound cleans.
The gap between the top 10% and top 25% on 23.2A is similar, but slightly larger, for the women. The top 10% athlete finished five full rounds, but the top 25% athlete was approximately 15 reps short of that.
The relative gap gets much bigger when it comes to the 1RM Thruster. The top 10% athlete had more variance amongst them between regions compared to the other workouts. However, most were in the 140-150 pound range. But for the top 25% athlete, that weight dropped down to 120-130 pounds. That’s around a 14% decrease in weight!
And then there’s 23.3. Remember above where the top 10% male athlete made it through the 50 double-unders after the 20 strict handstand push-ups in the second gated section? Well, the top 10% female athlete either didn’t finish the second round of snatches (at 95 pounds) or only completed a few strict handstand push-ups after clearing the first 6-minute gate. Only the top 25% female athlete in Oceania received credit for one 95-pound snatch. No other top 25% athlete recorded a snatch at that weight.
The intent of the article is not to downplay the ability of an athlete in the top 75th percentile in the CrossFit Open. Compared to the general population, that same athlete is probably in the top 99th percentile. However, the Quarterfinals is the bridge between the community-based CrossFit Open and the professional Semifinals.
Quarterfinals takes thousands of athletes and trims that down to just the top 40 men and top 40 women in each region. The programming, as we have seen the previous three years at Quarterfinals, has not been programmed for a female athlete who cannot do (or get to) 95-pound snatches on 23.3 or a male who can only get a couple ring muscle-ups in during 23.1.
The first event of Quarterfinals last year started with nine front squats at 225 pounds (155 for the women) followed by nine 25-foot handstand walks. If the top 10% female athlete’s 1RM Thruster is less than 150 pounds, can that athlete even get one rep on the first Quarterfinal workout? How will that play out for an athlete who’s 1RM Thruster is 125 pounds?
The Quarterfinal workouts need to be difficult. The programming needs to find the fittest 40 men and women to advance to Semifinals. If the Quarterfinals is just an extension of the Open where the five workouts are accessible and doable for the top 25% in the world, will that be a good test to send the right athletes to Semifinals?
Only time will tell on that, but for now, the tables above give you a good idea of whether or not you’ll be in the hunt for earning an invite to Quarterfinals this year. Whether you are able to actually complete the workouts once there is still to be determined.