Athlete Cliona Ní Cheallacháin NicChárthaigh battled out for first place at the Spanish Throwdown, a CrossFit competition held in Madrid on September 6-8.

After eight workouts, three days of competition and three event wins, Cliona finished second in the Female RX division. The Irish athlete was, however, unable to attend the awards ceremony because she had to catch her flight back to Ireland.

Updating the leaderboard in the Uber on her way to the airport – she had done the final workout and caught the ride five minutes later – she found out she’d placed second and messaged the Spanish Throwdown on Facebook to thank them for the weekend and ask about arrangements to receive her prize.

Landing in Dublin, a picture of her prize together with message from the competition waited on her inbox: “No podium, no prize…. you can read regulation, web Spth”.

Clause 7 of the Competition Rulebook of the Spanish Throwdown (SPTH) states that: “In case of personal absence, from the finalists to the final ceremony and rise to the podium, said athlete will lose the right to the delivery of the prizes in cash and as to the pack of the established brands. Having only the right to the trophy.”

Every athlete agrees to abide by the rulebook when they sign up to the competition.

Cliona was aware she’d have to leave straight after the final workout as the competition was running over an hour late and she had a flight to catch. Knowing she’d miss the awards ceremony, she spoke to the competition’s staff member who had been briefing them all weekend to make him aware of it and check there was no problem.

“I understand the regulations but the head judge told me ‘okay prefect’ as I was going on the final floor,” Cliona told BOXROX over a phone call. “He understood that I was leaving straight after the final and was going into the final in second place.”

Cliona had taken two days off work for the competition and had to take that flight from Madrid because she had work on Monday and needed to be home for it. “I looked at the schedule and knew that we’d have time,” she said. “I didn’t stand on the podium because instead I was at the airport running for my flight and I was gutted about that,” she continuted.

“They really made it miserable for me. I should have been delighted that I finished on the podium,” Cliona said. “I really did enjoy the competition. But at the end of this they should have dealt with it so much better.”

After a week reaching dead ends, she took onto Instagram to share her story. “I sent them an email linking to the Instagram post saying look, just give me what I deserve, give me what I worked for. Without athletes there’s no competition,” she said.

View this post on Instagram

Last weekend I went to Madrid to take part in the Spanish Throwdown. I took days off work, paid entry, flights & accom in order to take part in this competition, as do many other crossfitters. From the start there was a clear language barrier, however little did I know that this would impact my weekend as much as it did. . After a tough weekend I went into the final in 2nd place, spoke to the head judge (who briefed the athletes all weekend in Spanish & English prior to each wod) about the fact that the comp was 2 hours late and that I had to leave straight away after the final, in order to get to my flight home on time, so would miss podium presentations. He then took my name, email and phone number on his phone and agreed to contact me after the prizes had been sorted. I went into the final & finished in joined first, but after tie break had been sorted I finished in 2nd. . Delighted with my finish, I messaged the @spanishthrowdown Facebook page thanking them for the weekend and asking about how I was going to receive my prize. Unfortunately for me, on landing in Dublin airport I got a picture of my prize with the caption ‘no podium,no prize’. . Even after messaging back and forth I was sent a picture of the athlete guide where it says in small print that if the athlete doesn’t stand on the podium they won’t receive their prize.I told them that I had never been informed of this before, even from their head judge! I pleaded with this organization to allow one of my friends to collect my prize in Madrid, but they refused.. something I found very weird for a ‘non-profit organisation’. . For a competition which is striving to be part of the sanctionals calendar next year they are missing one key component that is the epitome of all sanctionals – a community aspect, where its competitors are at the core. Just a word of warning to athletes, before you take days off work, spend your money on flights, accom and entry, before you put sweat, blood and tears into a 3 day comp.. make sure your work will be rewarded, because I know for one that mine hasn’t been. . . #Crossfit #WheresTheCommunityNow #SpanishThrowdown #GiveAthletesWhatTheyDeserve #NotUsualCrossfitPost

A post shared by Clíona Ní C. NicChárthaigh (@_clipee) on

“We organise this competition and set the rules we think align with the spirit of sport. Just like in the Olympics and any other competitions, if you don’t step on the podium you have no right to the prize,” Fran Delfín, Event Director for the Spanish Throwdown told BOXROX over a phone call. “Why have this rule? Because it’s disrespectful to the sponsors, the organisation and the fellow athletes if someone doesn’t step on the podium.”

“You spend a year organising an event, looking for sponsors and volunteers who’ll be there for free and then the moment of the awards ceremony comes and athletes don’t show up because they’ll lose their flights…

“Yes, it’s true the event was delayed by an hour, but the timings are approximate,” he continued.

The awards ceremony is a time where many pictures are taken and, besides being a part of the competition and the rulebook, it affects the event image to have empty podiums.

“If you think we don’t respect an athlete for forcing athletes to step on the podium and comply with the rest of the rules that’s your point of view, that’s an opinion. We respect sportsmanship,” Fran stated.

“As a sportsperson one should respect the rules whether you like them or not, there’s no need to send abuse and threats on social media,” Fran said. “We have received many threats and insults online; this isn’t sport, we stand by our rules and defend them,” the Event Director continued. “We’ve always been firm with our decisions, we don’t award wildcards because we value those who qualify online. Standing by the rulebook is what we believe in.”

“You are a useless piece of shit, pay Cliona what you owe her” was one of the messages sent to the Event Director.

“Other things could have been done differently,” Fran admitted when we mentioned the way communication was handled. “I still stand by my principles, not stepping on a podium is disrespectful to everyone and goes against the rules, but it is true that other things could have been done differently.”

“But receiving threats, insults and what not… you’re less willing to start a conversation.”

Since speaking to both parties Cliona has been sanctioned from the competition for not stepping on the podium. “We don’t stand for promoting a culture that encourages this type of behaviour,” Fran said in follow up communication. “This goes against the values of sport, where people should respect the rulebook, athletes, volunteers, the organisation and sport in general.

“We are sure Cliona is a great athlete and we wish her all the best, but that has nothing to do with our decision to abide by our rules.”

Our take:

  • Athletes have lives outside of CrossFit and schedules don’t always play in their favour, they don’t make a living from the sport and priorities have to be set.
  • The awards ceremony is part of the competition and it’s important for event organisers to have athletes standing on the podium.
  • Communication is key in this kind of situation, and in this case it seems a lot was lost in translation.
  • Independent of complying to the rules or not, communication could have been handled better.
  • Understanding and complying to the rulebook is part of the values of sport and the Spanish Throwdown is right on standing by their rules.
  • In circumstances out of anyone’s hands (competition running late, an early flight…) other arrangements could be made to provide everyone with a good experience, respect both parties for their efforts and keep everyone happy.
  • Threats and abuse and hate towards volunteers and event organisers are out of place, especially when an event is right.
  • Last evening the Morning Chalk Up joined Noah Ohlsen in setting up a fundraiser for the community to support Cliona and FITAID announced they are donating the prize money to her. We personally believe that, as much as Cliona would have wanted to be on the podium, awarding her for going against the rules without more context isn’t ideal.
  • Every athlete and staff member should be made aware of the rules. Cliona was told it’d be fine to leave when it wasn’t, but she also should have been aware of it herself.

The Spanish Throwdown is expected to release a statement in the coming days.


The interview with Fran Delfín was originally conducted in Spanish and translated by Caro Kyllmann.

 

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