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2023 Deka World Championship - The Good, The Bad, And The Dangerous

Updated: 3 days ago

Let me start out by saying that I (Joel Hayes) had an amazing time at the 2023 Deka World Championship in Dallas, TX. I had qualified to compete in the Age Group events in 2022, but work kept me from attending, so I was very excited to both attend and compete this year, and just as importantly, see the Trio Fitness Training athletes compete and cheer them on! They worked their butts off for a long time to be there, and it showed!

NOW! On to the good!

Timeliness: As far as I could tell, almost every wave started at the time it was supposed to. Granted, I didn't watch every wave and check the time, but I was there for the start of at least 20 waves, and they kept rattling off within a minute or two of their listed start time. Awards were done throughout the day each day which was very wise...the awards show would have taken forever otherwise.

tft athletes

Friend/Family/Athlete/Spectator Support: There were very few moments throughout any portion of either day I was there (all day Saturday & Sunday) when someone wasn't loudly cheering for the athletes competing. I think the venue set up was spectator friendly. As the sport continues to grow, I think they will need to create a better setup for spectators, but for the numbers present, it was still very possible to see most of what was going on; even when the Elites were racing.

Photos: I think the photos turned out great. You can view all of the photos from the weekend by clicking HERE. Photos matter a TON. They are the means athletes use to share about the event afterwards and pull more attention to it for the future. Of course, they are also a way for athletes to show off that part of their life to their friends and family. The main photographer (I don't know his name unfortunately) was moving allllll day long to get as many photos of each athlete as he could. {UPDATE!!! People reached out and told us his that his name is Rick Moore. Here is his instagram. Thanks, Rick!}When I was volunteering as a judge, the photographer even explained to all of us before the heat started that he would be moving all over and might bump into us, but it was just so he could get great photos of the athlete. Awesome dude, and professional!

Setup: I thought the way that the races were laid out and the way the lanes were set up for the events was all solid!

ram reverse lunges

Overall, I thought the event was great, but now, we do have to cover the bad.


The number of actual Deka Staff: As far as I can tell, there is simply not enough Deka Staff; especially not for a World Championship. The same few people (props to them) were running around trying to manage things all at once - and it is simply not possible. They need more staff. I don't know if the budget isn't there, or if their parent company, Spartan Race, isn't funneling Deka's revenue all back into Deka, or what, but they could put on a better, more professional looking and feeling event if they had more paid staff on hand. I don't know the reason, and so I speculate, but whatever it is, they need to find a way to get more staff. The people they have are awesome, they just need more help. There was a time during the Elite women's race when staff realized they didn't have enough dumbbells out for the Farmers Carries, and had to scramble to fix it. Thankfully, it was fixed in time! Air Bike seat height resets were also a bit questionable, as were some of the resistance levels on at least 1 Tank. They just need more staff to attend to all of the important details of the race.

dekafit airbike

RULES: This is the big one. There is, as there should be, a FULL Deka rule book. I have read it (granted, about a year ago), but what I remember is a very detailed rule book that leaves very little up for question. That being said, and this ties somewhat into the point about the number of Deka staff, some rules are not followed according to the rule book. And before I continue, I would like to say that, according to the rule book, I also broke a rule.


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On the RAM Reverse Lunges, in the rules, it states, "Knee must be touching the ground 2) Knee must be below or behind the hip 3) At the top of the rep competitor must reach full knee extension 4) At the top of the rep both feet must be touching the ground side by side at the same time before the next rep can begin. 5) Split Squat Jumps are not allowed. Repeated from above - both feet must be on the ground at the same time at the top of the rep before you begin the next rep. iii) Rep is considered complete once the competitor reaches full knee extension." This was, with very few exceptions, NOT FOLLOWED. Almost every single athlete from Elite to Age Group, including myself, did not follow these rules. All day, both days I was in attendance, this rule was followed by almost no athlete. You can watch the live feed from the event bellow (credit to The OCR Report for their coverage all weekend) starting at 1 hour 12 minutes and you'll see most, if not all, of the Elite female athletes not following the rules as written. It was the same for the Elite men. Further, the rules explicitly state that Split Squat Jumps are not allowed, but many athletes, both elite and age group, performed them without penalty throughout both days.

You may say, "Joel, why don't you follow the rule? Shouldn't you have some integrity no matter what anyone else is doing?" The answer is, yes, I should follow the rule. I am not perfect, and I admit that, because no one else follows the rule, I also do not. The bigger problem Deka now has to solve is to either change their rule book, or enforce their rules. Currently, they don't have the staff to enforce the rules, and volunteers can't be counted on to accurately judge athletes at a World Championship...myself included. Referees should be trained by the event staff on exactly what is and isn't a rep so that judging is consistent to a high level...that is something that can't be achieved by volunteers in almost every case.


The Dead Ball Shoulder Over...yikes. I'm not going to put names in here because you can watch footage if you would like on The OCR Report Youtube Channel. However, there were multiple instances, in the Elite waves, of athletes passing the ball on the outside of their shoulder, and not over the shoulder. The rules state, "After lifting the weight, competitor must be in full body lock out: a) Knees are at full extension b) Hips are at full extension (3) Weight must go over the top of the shoulder." The specific wording is Over The Top Of The Shoulder. It was not enforced and no penalty was given. Again, an issue of not having the staff on hand to judge events to ensure standards are met.

Med Ball Sit-Ups had issues with athletes not reaching the ball far enough out so that it touched the ground between their feet and not behind their feet. The rule is as follows, "(2) Competitor must raise their torso off the ground and touch the ball on the ground between their feet. Each rep is considered completed once the ball touches the ground between the feet."

FINALLY! The Dangerous!

It also turns out that the dangerous is a broken rule as well. RAM Burpees. The rule says, "Weights may be placed down at any time, however cannot be thrown down in between reps or at the end of the zone." I can not tell you how many athletes tossed the RAM down from head-height. Elite & Age Group. People in every category did it. Even during the Reverse Lunges, RAMs end up bouncing around, and people do get hit and tripped. The RAM Burpees is where it is most dangerous though. I've seen athletes throw the RAM behind their heads to finish. At the World Championships, I only saw it tossed and dropped from head height, not thrown behind someone's head (though it may have happened). The issue here is that, for the men's RAM, it weighs 44lbs. A 44lb weight falling and bouncing is not a safe thing to be under or around. I am all for doing calculated dangerous activities from time to time, but no one is signing up for a Deka event with the expectation of a 44lb weight falling on them. It shouldn't happen. Most times the RAM doesn't hit anyone, but during a men's Team Strong event, I watched the first team to finish just drop that sucker and it bounced and almost landed on the person doing burpees next to them, and it ended up under that person as they tried to do their next burpee.

I will say, I think most athletes in this sport, including myself, have a bad habit of letting the RAM go close to the ground on the last rep and not keeping hand contact to the ground. That's something most of us can work on so that we aren't risking hitting other athletes to any degree.

Someone else said it, and I agree, if an athlete, at any level, drops the RAM, they should be disqualified. Again, however, Deka doesn't have the staff to enforce the rules in their book, and so these things continue.

OVERALL, it was a good event! It was run smoothly (to my knowledge). I had fun! Most people I know enjoyed it. It was a really cool experience! Hopefully, as the sport continues to grow, Deka will be able to higher more staff, enforce rules properly, and ensure that everyone has a World Championship level experience at their World Championship. There will ALWAYS be some kind of issue at every event ever, no matter how well planned or prepared, but the biggest issues Deka has are very very fixable. I hope they can continue to progress and improve, because I really enjoy this sport/event/thing.

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