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CrossFit Games chief Dave Castro is OK being the 'villian'

Dave Castro, the head of CrossFit Games, says there is method to the madness of some of his decisions.

Posted: Aug. 1, 2018 2:30 PM
Updated: Aug. 1, 2018 2:42 PM

"Our community needs a villain and if it's going to be me, fine."

In the world of CrossFit, there is no more controversial figure than Dave Castro.

As director of the CrossFit Games and its qualifying events, Castro is the sport's de facto face and as such, any controversies are directed solely and squarely at him.

Often Castro is subjected to the full fury of the CrossFit community -- mainly over the brutal make-up of disciplines at the events -- but it is something he feels is an occupational hazard.

"I don't do this to be popular," Castro tells CNN Sport. "I don't do this to make friends. I don't do this to have a lot of followers on Instagram. I'm not doing this to further my popularity.

"I'm doing this because I have a mission to create this sport, to test these athletes and determine the fittest in the world and I'm true to that."

This year has been no different.

During the 2018 CrossFit Open -- a global event with approximately 500,000 competitors -- Castro announced an event with a degree of difficulty so high that the community immediately erupted.

In the third of five global qualifying rounds, Castro announced the ring muscle-up (more on that later) ahead of the bar muscle-up, in doing so, making it theoretically impossible for many to advance beyond the start.

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A bar muscle-up is like a pull-up, except the move isn't complete until an athlete is completely above the bar with arms locked out, as if stretching to get a better view. The ring muscle-up is essentially the same, except performed using gymnastics rings suspended from the ceiling.

Both variations are difficult, with the rings considered significantly more challenging. It's something most CrossFitters cannot do, even those who have mastered bar muscle-ups.

It's like having a giant wall to scale just a few yards into a marathon. Actually, it's as if a large proportion of the runners had mastered scaling brick walls, only to find out that before they get to the brick wall, they must scale a glass one.

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'Furious'

This year's controversy wasn't anything new. Back in 2011, Castro introduced double-unders into competition (a double-under is simply jumping rope, but the rope must complete two cycles per jump. Basically, a double-speed rope jump), and the backlash was immediate

"That surprised me. I was blown away." Castro recalls. "These were basic, but people were furious."

A few years later, muscle-ups were introduced in the Open, once again causing a firestorm among CrossFit competitors, with many once again calling the competition too difficult and exclusive.

But as Castro explains, there is a method to his madness.

"If someone doesn't have a bar muscle-up for whatever reason... [that week] that person is fighting like hell to get their first bar muscle-ups. [When I announced it] guess how many people around the world got their first muscle-up? Tons!"

It appears Castro might be on to something. Just a few years since double-unders were first introduced in the Open, the movement has become a staple, considered a basic standard all CrossFitters are expected to do.

As for muscle-ups, it's interesting to note that their inclusion is no longer considered controversial on its own. Rather, it's the order in which they appear that's the focal point.

Perhaps five years from now, Castro will be facing criticism for introducing something hereunto unknown in a workout before ring muscle-ups.

Visit CNN.com/sport for more news and features

You can just hear the cries: "That's ridiculous. Ring muscle-ups are easy, but that? That's crazy!"

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