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Was The Peg Board Event Scored Fairly?

Was The Peg Board Event Scored Fairly?

Aug 6, 2015 by Armen Hammer
Was The Peg Board Event Scored Fairly?
The 2015 CrossFit Games featured a new competitive element that stumped pretty much everyone: the peg board. 

In the men's division only 20 competitors got a single successful ascent and descent and only 6 finished Pedal to the Medal 1, the event which featured the peg board.

There was even more carnage in the women's division: no woman even got to the last portion of the event and only 12 competitors completed a single rep (ascent and descent in control). 

This isn't a problem with the programming. While I would have liked to see the CrossFit Games show the athletes more respect and put them in a position to succeed, there's nothing wrong with including the peg board at the Games.

The issue arises when the scoring doesn't reflect the difference in capability. Remember the task the CrossFit Games set out to complete: find the fittest in the world. From the Open to the Games we went from 275,000 competitors to 40. Those 40 are the best of the best and finding meaningful differences between their capabilities is not an easy task. The events at the CrossFit Games are designed to expose weaknesses and reveal who among the best is even better than the rest.

Unfortunately while the events were well designed to do that, the scoring wasn't ready for it. The CrossFit Games scoring is points based and rewards the top finishers with more points compared to those who finish in the middle of the pack.

The problem arises when we consider that the ranking on which the points are awarded is relative so when only 12 athletes score a single rep, every other athlete ties for 13th place. What this does is minimize the ability of the event to actually separate the athletes based on performance.

Even more surprising is that CrossFit has actually found a very simple and effective way to resolve this issue: minimum standards. In the Open if you're unable to post a single rep in a workout or if you skip a workout, you're "listed on the Open Leaderboard in subsequent workouts below all Athletes who have posted a score in every workout". 

It may seem harsh to essentially disqualify an athlete from the CrossFit Games for a single event, but the Games are clearly not messing around when it comes to creating a competition worthy of crowning the Fittest on Earth so why pull punches when it comes to the expectations on the athletes?

Perhaps it is too harsh to remove athletes who aren't able to complete a single rep in an event. In that case, there's an equally simple alternative: completing 0 reps gets 0 points.

If an athlete declines to participate in an event or fails to record a single rep, why would they be awarded any points at all? Yes they're technically in "last place" in that event because comparatively they've completed less reps than anyone else in the field, but shouldn't there be a difference between last place and not participating?

CrossFit already actually does this in every heavy lifting event in Regionals and the Games. In 2015, if a competitor failed to post a score in the heavy snatch event at Regionals or the heavy clean & jerk event at the Games they not only were placed last but more importantly they were awarded 0 points.

This didn't really matter much in the clean & jerk since the vast majority of the field recorded a score and getting last place in that event would have only resulted in 2 or 4 points anyway. On the other hand, when a third of the field ties for last place, like what happened in the women's division for Pedal to the Medal 1, this makes a huge difference.

This scoring issue created a situation where the eventual women's champion Katrin Davidsdottir rightfully chose to stop trying on the peg board in Pedal to the Medal 1 because it was clear that almost no one else was able to do it either. You know who didn't stop trying? The leader going into the last events, Sara Sigmundsdottir. In Sigmundsdottir's case, actually attempting to do the workout was a strategical error which may have resulted in tiring her out and maybe even resulted in her losing the title during the last event.

Katrin Davidsdottir, left, isn't even on the field of play while Sara Sigmundsdottir, right, continues to attempt the peg board

Simply put, CrossFit needs to fix the scoring system by adding in a minimum work requirement in every workout. Failure to meet that minimum requirement should at least result in 0 points awarded in that event and possibly a complete removal from contention.