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The four-time champion talks winning, comparisons to Froning, recovery, and more.
CrossFit saw an insane amount of change in 2019: changes in qualifying, competition, branding, and communication. In spite of all of that, the conclusion remained the same as it did last year. Mat Fraser and Tia-Clair Toomey won again.
This is Fraser’s fourth straight win at the Games. This year was more dramatic than he would’ve liked, having faced major competition in the form of Noah Ohlsen, but Fraser still left Madison victorious. We spoke with him about how he overcame that adversity, comparisons to Rich Froning, CBD, and a lot more in this exclusive interview.
FloElite: In six years you never finished below second. You’ve also won under both the old system and the new one. So you have a unique perspective. What are your thoughts on how the Games played out this year?
Mat Fraser: You know, broad strokes, the same as every year. I’m going out on the floor and I’m trying to win every workout. It was crazy seeing some names you expect to see at the top get knocked off early but we knew there were cuts coming going into the Games.
Every year they say, “All right. This is the scoring system. These are the rules.” When things are going well for everyone, no one’s complaining and as soon as things go poorly, that’s when you hear “this isn’t fair.” We all knew there were going to be drastic cuts after event No. 1.
I just went out there and tried to execute. This was probably the most stressful year for me. It was a little tough in the middle there to gain some points. It is what it is. I knew the only thing I could do was go out there and win events.
Noah was coming on strong at one point, for sure. What went through your mind at that point?
I think there was one point there that I could’ve won every event and if Noah finished in second, he would win the Games. So I knew the only thing I could control was winning the events. So in that sense it was very peaceful. At the same time, you can only hope that is enough.
The performing, adrenaline, and emotion has to take a toll. How do you recover from the events and the Games overall once it’s over?
The Games is a different beast than anywhere else. It’s when I’m the most selfish of the year so I’m doing anything and everything. This year I brought a massage therapist with me. So it was every morning and night, before and after events, getting body work done.
We got to the hotel early and on Day 1, and I was like “this bed sucks.” So I called Performasleep and had a bed sent out. So it was out with the old and in with the new. When we get to the hotel, we get some funny looks because it looks like we’re moving in for a month. I bring my personal coffee maker, my supplements, everything.
I also started using "beam." It’s not a cream but more of an ointment. This year I was having trouble with one of my knees every morning and night, I use it for that. It is a CBD product and I was skeptical at first because of where it comes from and I just didn’t know. But if it helps, it helps.
Let’s talk about the CBD topic for a minute. There are a lot of stereotypes and concerns. How concerned were you with "beam"? You take drug tests and passing those are a must. That had to make you a little nervous.
There were concerns and are with a lot of people because of where it comes from and whatever else. I will say I used the products before (like "The Fixer") I was sponsored by them and was like, “Oh my God. It’s incredible.” After I spoke with the owners, I talked about the concerns and not just the drug testing side of it. I don’t put anything in my body that is mind-altering. I don’t know how many people know this but I’ve been sober for a number of years so that was another big concern.
I actually had a buddy who is also sober and I asked him to take it. I have my career on the line so I had him test it. They agreed and sent it out. Then they tested him like an official drug test. Everything was good.
Looking at the season with all the changes that took place, how do you feel the season went and did the changes affect anything you did?
So early on rumors were flying and people were complaining about this and that. I approached it the same way I did when they made the changes to the Super Regionals. I just put my hands up and say, “Who gives a (expletive)? When the rules come out, then I’ll sit back, look at it, and make a plan.”
So once again, it’s a peaceful scenario and it’s about what I have control over. Early in the season while everyone was freaking out, I was sitting back, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for something to be said. When it was, my first reaction was concern. I hoped Sanctionals owners take this seriously. Then I thought this was a great opportunity because the sport can grow because capitalism will rise. If an owner puts on a good event, where will all the athletes go? To that event. Competitions will gain reputations and athletes will go to them. Year 1, like anything, people will run into problems. If it’s a good competition, they’ll make changes and it will get better. This year, with what little we knew, I couldn’t be more impressed with how things went.
What do you think was the best part of the switch to Sanctionals?
I’ve said it for years. With Regionals, if you got the flu the week of Regionals, your year was done. One week in the Open, if you get sick, you’re done. It also wasn’t like you could fly to Regionals in California and do theirs. Not an option. There was also the issue of some regions being strong while others were weak.
Now it opens up a world of competitions and if you have something like a sprained wrist for three months and can’t compete, you can go in June or July, to a Sanctional and still qualify.
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t bring this up. You’ve won four now. Do you think at all about the comparisons to Rich Froning? When you hear or read about it, what goes through your mind?
The only time it crosses my mind is when it comes up in interviews. But I get it. If you didn’t ask people would say you should have (laughs). I’ve tried to put it in words but I don’t have a great vocabulary to express what’s in my head. I was listening to a podcast and the host said “comparison is theft of joy.” I went, “Oh my God. That’s it right there.” If Rich only won three, should I pack it in and retire? If Rich won 10, are my four irrelevant? I’m doing my career now. If I won a single time, I’m going to hang that on my wall and be proud of it. That quote is the best way to put it. I’m proud of what I accomplished. If I go on to win more or no more, would Rich be less proud of his accomplishments? I hope not.
There’s a lot of people and fans who support you, sponsors who back you, and I know you train with Tia and her husband, Shane. How important are they to what you do and the success you have?
There aren’t words to express it accurately. I can’t thank them enough. When it comes to the fans, the cheers in the stadium, the messages I get, and the sport throughout the year. It’s so easy to overlook and I see it. I appreciate it all year long. Even the small stuff, when people chat about things not CrossFit related, that they excel at, and I geek out with them over that. So yeah, I couldn’t express my appreciation enough.
Thanks for talking with FloElite, Mat!
Roger Lockridge is from Lewisburg, WV. His work has been featured on numerous platforms and magazines in the fitness industry over the last 10 years. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @rocklockridge.