They say third time’s the charm.
Mat Fraser entered last year’s CrossFit Games with the goal of finally claiming the title, but came in second – again. This year, he beat out familiar opponents and finally earned the title “Fittest on Earth” that had eluded him.
Standing at 5’6” and weighing 185 pounds, the 26-year-old Fraser has a talent for lifting some very heavy things very quickly. Fraser became involved with competitive weight lifting in high school in Colchester and attended the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., for two years after graduating. But at 19, he suffered a back injury from overtraining. After surgery, he returned to Vermont and assumed life as what he describes as a “plain Jane” student.
While at the University of Vermont he was introduced to one of the fastest growing fitness trends in America, CrossFit, a workout program and yearly series of competitions involving all kinds of lifts and cardiovascular endurance tests. The CrossFit program now has more than 12,000 affiliated gyms around the world.
Fraser entered last year’s world championships with some serious credentials: Just eight months after starting his CrossFit training, Fraser earned a spot at the 2013 Northeast Regionals. The following year he entered the 2014 Games as a rookie, and placed second behind four-time champion Rich Froning.
Fraser entered the 2015 Games as a favorite to succeed Froning (who retired this year) and claim the title of fittest on earth. But CrossFit emphasizes the unpredictable and at The Games, Fraser was confronted with two challenges that exploited his weaknesses, including “The Pig.”
He was also required to complete a hellish series of sprints, hurdles and rope-climbs that wore him down. After four days of competition in 13 events, Fraser finished just 36 points behind winner Ben Smith. While he returned to Vermont $90,000 richer, Fraser still wasn’t satisfied.
“It pointed out a hole in my game, something that I wasn’t good at,” he says. Preparing for CrossFit competitions are as much of a mental challenge as a physical one—and that’s what he loves about it. “Every day is a constant battle of finding my weakness and fixing them,” he says. “It’s like a chess match, a constant balancing act of movements and modalities.”
This year’s games proved different. In the opening events, Fraser amassed a stunning lead, finishing 197 points ahead of second-place finisher Ben Smith, who won the Games last year. Fraser recorded seven second-place event finishes and one first-place finish.
In an interview with crossfit.com, he described his new goal:
“Keep winning it,” he said.