Five Observations from the 2014 CrossFit Games:
1) Mat Fraser’s debut was the greatest rookie performance in the history of the Games, and there is a GIGANTIC reason he was able to do what he did.
What? You thought I was gonna let Froning look cool, while not talking about the guy I’ve been saying could beat him for the last year? Big deal, Rich won again – he’s been doing this since 2010, and hasn’t been touched since he learned how to climb a rope. As a matter of fact, every male top five finisher has competed in at least three times as many Games as Mat. The last rookie to podium was Talayna, and she had competed at multiple regionals before making her first Games appearance. Fraser didn’t just luck his way into that second spot. His lowest finish of the weekend was fourteen spots higher than Froning’s, he went into the final event trailing by only five points, and the fifty points he ended up losing by is the closest anyone has ever been to Froning.
So… Where in the world did the next great exerciser come from, and how was he able to push the insanely hyperbolized “Fittest Man in History”.
Well, if you attended a Para Bellum Series camp you’ll already know this, but for the rest of you: Mat Fraser was a weightlifter. Yep. He won multiple youth and junior national titles, was on three junior world teams, and trained at the Olympic Training Center for about a year. Jared and Mat grew up lifting and competing together, and for the better part of a year we have been telling groups of campers that Mat would be the first male who could legitimately give Froning a run. No, we aren’t exercise Nostradamus (just imagine that’s plural, I’m not even gonna attempt it). Jared knew how hard of a worker Mat was, and I knew that a 77kg lifter – with a good work ethic – would be able to step into the Stub Hub Center and have a level of competence that it would take a non-lifter years to develop.
My introduction to Mat was at the Northeast Regional in 2013. Daniel Tyminski and I were warming up when we heard the crowd go crazy during the second heat of the 3RM OHS. We asked some people what happened, and someone told us that “a dude named Fraser doubled 315#”, we literally looked at each other and said “who?” When I saw him walk past, and realized he was half the size I thought he’d be, I immediately texted Spencer and asked if there was a Weightlifter named Mathew Fraser. He said that he knew him, and I knew we’d have to watch out for him the rest of the weekend.
Since Mat’s fifth place finish at regionals, I’ve watched leaderboards as he dominated multiple off-season comps against numerous Games competitors. His Akinwale-esque rise (started CrossFit in January 2011 – 13th at the 2011 Games) to the upper echelon of the sport is not an accident. About two years ago I wrote a series called “The Importance of Olympic Lifting for the Sport of Fitness“. Mat’s performance did a pretty damn good job of illustrating every point in that series, and should serve as notice that there absolutely is a hierarchy, or a most important element to the development of a fitness athlete.
Put this thought in your brain, and let it float around a bit… Mat did nothing but compete in Weightlifting until roughly eighteen months ago. He finished 18th on “Triple Three”, and 17th on “The Beach”. He beat Froning by a score of 102 to 93 on those events combined, and they were both over thirty minutes long.
Let me go ahead and crystalize my point: It took Mat Fraser eighteen months to develop enough capacity to beat the “fittest man in history” on the two longest and most endurance oriented events of the Games.
Go pick up a barbell.