CrossFit Games – The Fittest on Earth ?!?

Yesterday’s WOD is a great example for why it is impossible to determine who “The Fittest on Earth” really is (which of course does not mean that the CrossFit Games are not great – it is just that, shall we say, the tag-line is a bit misleading if applied only to the winner?)

Yesterday’s WOD was 5 rounds for time of 400m run and 5 backsquats. Below a number of the results that have been posted:

#11 – cosmo

  • 250lbs
  • 12:40

#15 – JBarr

  • 255lbs
  • 13:26

#19 – stitchez

  • 205lbs
  • 14:33

Now to be clear, those are not all the results – but for the sake of the argument let us assume they are, as those drive home the point very well. So, according to this WOD, who is the fittest of those three? It is clearly not stitchez: at 205lbs and 14:33 he is both slower and squatted less than both cosmo and JBarr. So far so good. So it must be either one of those. But who?

JBarr squatted more than cosmo, so from this point of view he is the fittest. But of course he was slower, so cosmo must be the fittest. Clearly, this depends – what is the trade-off between weight and time? Now arguably here 5lbs is less important than a 46s difference so cosmo is “fitter”, but what is the difference in weight would have been something more meaningful, say 20-30lbs?

Mathematically all results of multiple exercises are something that is called a partial ordering. What this means is that sometimes it is possible to decide that someone is better than someone else (which is the reason why I included stitchez in the sample – both cosmo and JBarr were better in this WOD than him). However, in other cases, the ordering is either not possible, or depends on an additional and arbitrary decision (often disguised in a scoring system), like in this case where one needs to decide whether 5lbs or 46sec are more important.

So I think I am with Leo here

1. Leo wrote…

They both are great athletes, no doubt about that. And they’re the Crossfit champions of 2010, which is a GREAT accomplishment. But I don’t think they should be called “The Fittest on Earth”.

I think it takes a lot more than a Crossfit Games event to find out who’s the fittest man and woman on Earth. Maybe for an Inuit in Alaska is not important to do muscleups but to walk 50 milles on freezing temperatures. Being fit is relative depending on where you live and what your body physical needs are.

Congratulations to Graham Holmberg and Kristan Clever for being the Crossfit Games 2010 Champions!!

It of course does not really matter – it is very clear that those competing for the first places at the CrossFit Games are (amongst) the very fittest men and women on Earth, and they are a class apart from the rest of us. It might matter though for those who missed the top slot because of the way the scoring system and/or exercise choice (which is really the same thing, mathematically) was biased against them. But then, this is really not the business of the rest of us…

Note: I have made a very similar point in the much more detailed post here. Yesterday’s WOD was a great example though for a CrossFit “competition” where it is not obvious at all how the “winner” should be determined.

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