"Smack me in the face, ok?"

Saturday October 1st Crossfitters from throughout the Midwest gathered at Crossfit Freedom in Libertyville, IL for the Life AsRx Tour-Chicago competition.  My first surprise upon arriving was that the entire competition was being held outside.  This plan could have been playing with fire weather-wise in October in Chicago, but we ended up with beautiful weather.  It was really fun arriving and catching up with folks from Regionals last year, some Games athletes and other CF peeps I don’t see very often.  There were a number of things I thought were really exciting and inspiring:

  • The athlete competing with a prosthetic leg.  I haven’t seen that in a CF competition before, it was awesome;
  • Watching the crew from Crossfit 515- they’re legit;
  • Competing with some girls in their very first Crossfit competitions;
  • Competing side by side with/against my training partner for the coming year.  This is gonna be sick!;
  • Competing with that really uncomfortable feeling of being way behind your competition.  Valuable stuff!

The competition was set up with 3 WODS, followed by a final WOD for the top 10 ten athletes, however at the conclusion of my day I had done 5 workouts.  I’ve debated with myself a bit about how much detail to provide about the events of the day and how I ended up doing an extra workout.   Overall I walked away with some very valuable lessons about competition, but unfortunately also came away with some bad feelings about the day.  Forgive the length here,  I tried to be as concise as possible, but I still feel like I’m leaving out a lot of detail.

The issues started with WOD 2, the first workout of the day that involved judges actually counting athlete reps (the first event scoring was based on row for calories).  WOD 2 was an 8 minute AMRAP of fat bar deadlifts, GHD sit-ups and double-unders.  This workout was super fun to do as I was in the lane immediately next to my box-mate and training partner and we spent the 8 minutes going rep for rep trying to beat one another.  At the conclusion we finished 2 reps apart.  However, when we checked the posted standings my score was shorted 60 reps.  Yes 60.  An athlete in another heat was apparently “gifted” 40 reps above her actual score.  I have no idea how either of these errors occurred, but event organizers conferred with the judges involved, agreed that the scores were erroneous and indicated that corrections would be made to the scores.  It was voiced to me how cumbersome and inconvenient it was for event organizers to contact my judge, who had left the venue.

I seriously struggled with my DUs on Saturday- it was kind of embarrassing.

WOD 3 was another AMRAP- 5 minutes of 24” box jumps and 1 pood kettlebell snatches.  Again, my training partner and I were basically neck and neck throughout the workout, but at the conclusion my score was shorted a round. Yes, not a rep a ROUND.  That’s 34 reps short. 

For anyone who has not competed in a Crossfit competition, every event I have participated in the judge has a scoring sheet where reps and rounds are (supposed to be) accounted for.  Following the workout the athlete is asked to initial the scorecard.  You know that moment immediately after a workout when you often see Crossfitters lying on their backs making sweat angels or writhing around?  That is when you review the scorecard and verify your score is correct by initialing.  This is where my responsibility for the day’s events comes in- I initialed my scorecard even though I had doubts about what the judge had recorded.  I stood there panting and sweating and questioned her about it but I didn’t want to be “that” person arguing about judging so stupidly, I initialed.  After talking to my Crossfit Chicago people who had been watching I realized I was indeed shorted a round as I had suspected.  A competitor even came over to offer assistance since she had counted my workout and knew I was shorted.  I went to discuss the matter with officials and my judge.  My judge stated that she thought she had counted right, but it’s possible an error had been made (of course it’s possible, we’re all human).  Event organizers did not want to correct my score because I signed the sheet.  Things got SO uncomfortable for me here because I don’t want to appear as if I’m requesting special treatment or asking for something I didn’t earn.  However, it’s absolutely unacceptable for a judge to lose track of an entire round!  I can see if there is a dispute about an athlete meeting proper range of motion standards or something subjective, but a judge straight up sleeping on the job?  How does that happen and how is it acceptable?

The more the issue was discussed, frankly I started to feel insulted.  As if I would ever ask for credit for work I didn’t do.  I would think officials would want to correct erroneous scores, but we kept going back and forth with them saying there’s nothing they can do, and me saying that is unacceptable.  It was SO uncomfortable going through that, but if I hadn’t stood up for myself I would have been shorted 94 reps on the day.  That’s off the chain.  I can’t imagine anyone with a competitive bone in their body participating in an event and not expecting their work to be accurately accounted for.  I felt bad for my judge as I know it was an honest mistake, but still unacceptable.

We work too hard for our reps to not be accurately accounted for. I don't care if it is a free event.

After some time, event organizers told me since I didn’t have a video of the workout my only alternative would be to repeat the workout.   I wasn’t immediately sure what to do in that scenario, but a quick look at my coach and I knew.  I repeated the workout.  The individual heats had already concluded, so I jumped in on a team heat and demonstrated that the score they recorded was indeed incorrect.

Now I’m left feeling uncomfortable about winning the competition because some may feel it’s unfair that I repeated a workout.  However, integrity is a big part of Crossfit, and I feel confident that no athlete there would want to win because another athlete’s score was shorted.  Secondly, repeating a workout puts you at a distinct disadvantage for subsequent workouts (a fact that was highlighted to me by event organizers when they presented me with that option), so in that regard I don’t think it was unfair to the other competitors.  The scoring issues put a huge damper on the entire experience.  Am I off base here?  I would love to know what people think.

I signed up for this event to have fun,  support a local Crossfit competition, and hang out with other Crossfitters.   But through this course of events, I really gained a lot more than I anticipated I would in experience.  My take away for future competitions would be:

  • Count your own reps/rounds as you workout (this is hard for me, I may need to work on that skill);
  • Have someone on the sidelines count for you, so you can quickly verify numbers with them before you sign off;
  •  Video record all your workouts in competition.  There’s really no way around the need for this, it seems;
  •  When in any doubt don’t sign your scorecard

Everything happens for a reason, so maybe this experience will help me or someone else in a future competition.  This event has made me really curious about what rules are written by our governing body regarding this kind of thing and if invitational competitions can be sanctioned or non-sanctioned, similarly to USA Weightlifting, so athletes can get a sense of the caliber of event they are participating in.

Thinking about sportsmanship reminded me of this awesome competitor Annie Sakamoto who won the “Spirit of the Games” award this year.  Besides being blown away by her athleticism (let’s face it, the lady puts on a clinic in technique) I was blown away by how genuinely excited and enthusiastic she was about the excellent performances of others.  What a great role model!


“What is left when honor is lost?” –Publilius Syrus

Author: Elisabeth Akinwale

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  • Great job this weekend Elisabeth! It was great to watch you in person again (regionals/games last “season”). I don’t think your off base at all, and you give a very fair point of view. Our gym (CrossFit Progression) had 5 athletes competing and we all had at least one judging issue. Although it was a free event to attend, and the judges were volunteers, there should be a higher standard. Maybe using a better score card (like the open) to keep track of reps could’ve helped the situation, or since the only thing counted was reps a simple tally counter would’ve worked.

    • Thanks Alex! Yes as the day went on I heard more and more incidences of scoring difficulties. I’m actually incredibly surprised at the number of issues. Now on Facebook hearing Ginny King say there were similar issues in Dallas, that’s pretty disappointing. I had the same thought about the Open scorecards that had clearly marked spaces for each movement each round. I also wondered if it would have been easier to score workouts for time vs. AMRAPs since rounds were getting lost…anyway, thanks for your thoughts!

  • Being a judge and more importantly a crossfit judge carries huge responsibilities
    i can`t help but feel sometimes this is lost on the willing volenteers who step forward to do this, the burden and the need to keep the integrity of results is ever so apparent.
    I have been in events where the judge get things wrong and it sucks.
    that you agreed to do another round was magnanimous to say the least.

    i totally agree with your three points but would even add that the credentials (i.e knowledge and understanding of the movements involved etc) of the Judging pool be checked out during the build up to events.

    i know this may come across as petty and even diva like but when judging goes wrong it take all the fun out of proceedings.

    This would be a good time for organisers and boxes to increase the focus on what is a key part of the crossfit experience.

    my 2pence worth…

    • I’ve judged too and 2nd your thoughts completely. If CF competitors are being held to standards, so should judges … in fact, I’d contend that we should be held to higher standards given how we have an “official” role. Having to do a WOD a 2nd time is incredibly generous. IMHO, the integrity of judges should always be closely inspected.

  • I’m in total agreement, it’s a huge responsibility, even if it is “just” a free event for fun. All the hullabaloo did take the fun out of it, to some extent. I left feeling concerned that I would be perceived as “petty and diva like” for wanting things to be accurate.

    Thanks for your opinion Chidi!

  • I don’t think you should feel uncomfortable about winning, or about anything you did or said in that situation, and your feeling of being insulted is also justifiable. Do not take the blame upon yourself just because you signed the score sheet; we’ve all blindly trusted in our judges/counters at these events. And I think you should be able to, that’s why you go to an organized event, this is not a pick-up game of bball in the park, or stickball in the sandlot. Definitely something to learn from, and it’s obviously much more important when you are at the top of the leaderboard, so the extra measures you’ve listed should be taken in the future. It’s unfortunate that needs to be done, and even more unfortunate that the only way to fairly solve the issue was for you to repeat the WOD. I was shocked to read that, I don’t think I could go again that quickly (that’s what he said?), but of course you not only did it you seem to have matched your first attempt, amazing and gracious as always.

  • JK, to your point about this not being a pick up game- EXACTLY! Crossfit as a sport is growing, we were on ESPN2 for goodness sake. If we are to be viewed as a legitimate sport I think solutions such as “the athlete needs to provide their own instant replay” seems insufficient. I don’t know if there are easy answers as longer established sports still struggle with issues of achieving fairness and correct outcomes. I’m bringing this up not as it relates to the Life asRx event specifically, but our sport overall.

    And yes IMHO, AnnieS. is the shiznit!

  • I know the organizers of the event were struggling to find judges. Unfortunately when you’re desperate, you might end up letting anyone who is willing to help step up to the plate. Yes, the event was free, but you’re right – the integrity of the sport needed to be upheld. I don’t envy anyone who has to judge at these competitions, especially when it involves counting double unders!

    Excellent performance – you’re a tremendous athlete! Sorry your day had to be ruined by some shit-tastic judging.

    • A number of people have said to me, “I figured there were going to be issues when they changed the venue, couldn’t secure judges, etc.” I wanted to support the event regardless. I will definitely consider carefully before I participate in another non-HQ competition.

      Thanks Jennie!

  • It’s never wrong to ask for what is yours. I’m glad that you did and you should not feel bad about that.

    Ultimate frisbee saw a similar situation as the sport grew more competitive. In Ultimate, players call all their own calls (fouls, travels, etc) It relies heavily on “the spirit of the game,” the idea that individuals play with a certain degree of honor. At high levels and in heated situations, players started to make (perhaps on purpose, perhaps not) some questionable calls. Unfortunately, there are people out there that want credit without the work. This brought on the role of the “observer,” who is essentially a ref, and settles disputes when the players can’t come to an agreement about the call.

    Perhaps crossfit needs some of this…either 2 judges per athlete, mandatory video cameras at each event, or simply a little more “spirit of the game,” in which athletes are taken for their word, and an outlet exists in which to settle disputes….

    • Hmmm, self officiating? I wonder if that’s unique to Ultimate I’ve never heard of such a thing in other sports. I’m amazed that works at all. I come from a sport with judges, clearly stated rules and processes for addressing any disputes- still far from perfect though.

  • “In matters of principle, stand like a rock…” (Jefferson, I think). I genuinely believe that when you stand up for yourself, you empower others to do the same. It’s unacceptable for a judge to be so careless, I hope they learned a valuable lesson and will be more careful next time. Great job this weekend, Elisabeth!

  • You will never get rid of judging issues. In any sport. I think the solutions you came up with are the best you or anyone can do. But having friends who’ve judged and talking to them about it, it is harder than it seems. Most of the judges are lovers of Crossfit and want to do the best job possible. I think for the most part, most get it right. But with a sport still in it’s infancy, especially on the “local” level, we have to expect something will go wrong.

    You handled it great. Congrats on your win.

  • I completely agree Ben, there are bound to be judging issues, particularly with such a new sport. And since issues are inevitable when we’re dealing with human judges I think it’s important to have a process in place to resolve those issues in as fair and consistent a manner as possible.

    I have no hard feelings at all toward the judges who donated their time to making this event possible- but as a sport we should have a better response to errors than just shrugging our shoulders.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  • I competed in my first CF event (Survival of the Fittest by Garage Games) in July. At this point, I had been doing CrossFit for 3 months, so to say the least I was out of my element. I wasn’t sure what to expect! I asked everyone that I competed against how long they had been doing CF (1 on 1 workouts). On my second workout I was paired against a guy that told me that he had been CFing since 2008. This was confusing but even more confusing was that he then told me, “but I just graduated Army Ranger school, so I don’t know how good I’ll do.” He then broke into a free standing HSPU. I was utterly confused! I was competing in the Scaled Division, how could a person like this be performing scaled workouts still?!? (Don’t get me wrong…I respect him for serving our country, just like every other service man and woman!) But after he killed me in box jumps and weighted pushups, and I later saw him doing a scaled version of Fran, which consisted of jumping pull ups, I was beginning to get aggravated! Surely he can do Fran Rx’d. I honestly felt embarrassed for him at that point.

    I emailed the people that put on the event and asked how you determine which division a person should compete in, and they had no definite answer. So while I am still confused at this conundrum, I am working daily on becoming a better CrossFitter so that I can become a better person, all while getting me out of the scaled division!

  • Thanks for your comment Tyler. It’s awesome that you decided to put yourself out there and compete just 3 months into Crossfit.
    That’s all you can do, is keep working to improve yourself. We are in the same boat with being somewhat novices to the various competitions throughout the year. As we gain experience we’ll be better equipt to decide which competitions will be the most fun and rewarding to participate in.

  • Big fan of yours and expect your podium appearance at the Games sooner rather than later. Anyway, I think your takeaways from this experience will be a giant benefit for you in the future. Talking with a coach prior to signing a scorecard will be a standard practice, I believe, for all elites in the future. That signature means a lot.

  • You are so DIVA! I love it!

    Don’t ever let anyone take what is rightfully yours!

    Go get’em girlfriend!

  • It sounds like you handled the situation well. We had a somewhat similar situation at the UFC Throwdown in Houston with double-unders. A few teams, including mine, (all with the same judge) ended up doing roughly double the reps because she wasn’t able to count them correctly. It was really frustrating, but luckily (?), we weren’t anywhere near being in contention to win. Eventually, Castro noticed and pulled the judge from that particular event (she was fine otherwise), but having been in the first heat I wish I had spoken up. Partly because that should have been my team’s best event, but mostly because I might have been able to spare later heats that frustration.

    You’re a class act, Elisabeth, and a fierce competitor. Looking forward to seeing you again at Regionals! Love the blog, too. Insightful and well-written – not easy to come by in the blogosphere!

  • It’s nice to hear that you wish you’d have spoken up- kind of makes me feel justified in my doing so. Was there a specific reason you didn’t speak up? I’m glad to hear Castro remedied the situation when he noticed it. I was SO wishing I was in Houston!

    Yes, looking forward to seeing you at Regionals, too! Thanks for the comment and compliments.