The retirement of Mat Fraser earlier this month came as a shock to the entire Crossfit community. The total dominance which he held over the sport for the past half a decade has been astounding to watch and in the eyes of many, will never be repeated. At 31, the consensus of opinion that Fraser could have gone on to claim at least a sixth title appeared to be voiced outside of the Fraser camp as his decision to retire as the undisputed best Crossfit athlete of all time came just a few months after he secured an unprecedented fifth straight title of Fittest Man on Earth.
The sport of Crossfit has seen a meteoric rise in recent years. The combination of Olympic weightlifting and cardiovascular challenges have created a community that revels in the impact it has on an individuals’ overall health. Unlike singular athletic events, Crossfit combines a series of athletic movements combing power, flexibility and endurance to test all possible facets of fitness. Whilst often synonymous with being capable at many activities without excelling at one, Frasers’ registered lifts of a 500lb (227kg) Deadlift, a 485lb (220kg) Back Squat and a 375lb (170kg) Clean and Jerk goes someway to demonstrating the athletic prowess of those competing.
Every year, the Crossfit Open provides the opportunity for any individual, no matter how long their involvement in the sport, to compete with the rest of the Crossfit community to earn regional, national and global rankings for their specific age groups.
At the elite end, Fraser’s dominance has had no small part to play in the growth of the sport but, as a result, the make-up of a Crossfit athlete has changed. At its’ inception, the 2007 Crossfit Games saw athletes compete that would have paled in comparison to mere Regional athletes a decade later. All this contributes to Frasers’ achievements being even more astonishing.
The Crossfit Games is the global finals that occurs every year. In a traditional season, the fittest 30 men and 30 women compete in a series of events throughout a weekend to be crowned as the ‘Fittest on Earth.
Fraser was crowned as the Fittest Man on Earth for an unprecedented 5th time in a row, following his successful defence at the Crossfit Games towards the end of 2020. In such a volatile season of competition, the Games took a different approach, returning to its’ roots at the ranch of Crossfit CEO Dave Castro, where the Games were originally held back in 2007. In such a turbulent 2020, the Games also undertook a different format. Usually consisting of the very best 60 athletes (30 men and 30 women), the Games was split into two sections. Following a global open competition, the 30 fittest athletes in each gender were scheduled to compete in a two day competition, featuring 7 events. From this first stage of the Games, the 5 fittest men and 5 fittest women advanced to the final stage of the 2020 Crossfit Games; an in-person event to be held at Dave Castro’s Ranch in California – the birthplace of the games.
For Fraser, he was looking for his fifth consecutive title whilst his training partner, Tia-Claire Toomey was looking for her fourth. Tia herself was a 2016 Olympian with the Australian weightlifting team, who trained Crossfit alongside her Olympic preparations. After picking up her second consecutive silver at the Crossfit Games that same year, she teamed up with Fraser to begin her own reign of dominance over the women’s field, since securing four straight Games titles. Both ran, swam and lifted clear of the competition in 2020, amassing points totals hitherto unseen in the sport. In the process, Fraser amassed a record-breaking 29th career event win at the Crossfit Games to record an unparalleled fifth consecutive title.
Mat Fraser’s Career
After major back surgery halted his Olympic dreams within Olympic weightlifting in 2011, Fraser found himself joining his local Crossfit affiliate as a means of keeping himself fit and active. After being coerced into local competitions, his success provided him with an opportunity to create a secondary income, balancing his training with his studies. A year later, he became a Crossfit athlete and debuted at the Crossfit Games in 2014. Sponsorship deals with Nike, Rogue Fitness, Compex USA and GOWOD mobility followed, as well as his coining of the phrase ‘HWPO – Hard Work Pays Off’ to quantify his approach to his training.
In an astonishing debut performance, Fraser made the podium at the first time of asking, securing a silver medal behind the legendary Rich Froning who completed his retention of a fourth consecutive title. Fraser secured the Rookie of the Year award for his performance in his first Games.
With Froning subsequently retiring from individual competition, Fraser readily admits he didn’t take the following year as seriously, assuming he would wrap up first place by turning up. A consecutive second place in 2015 was the catalyst for Fraser dedicating his life to the sport, returning in 2016 to record the biggest margin of victory in the sports’ history. A feat he further extended a year later at the start of his domination of the sport for the next half-decade.
Mat Frasers’ fiancé, Sammy, assumes all of the responsibility outside of the gym, allowing Mat to concentrate solely on his training. Her instagram account, Feeding the Frasers, has seen a meteoric rise in recent times, as she documents the nutrition habits of the world’s fittest man. With such a maniacal focus on his success, Fraser has cited his time with Sammy as a key contributor to his decision to retire. In his announcement via his social media platforms, Fraser stated, “From now on, decisions I make won’t be solely based off how they affect my performance, but how they affect my family, friends, health and happiness.”
His attention turning to the recent launch of his YouTube channel; Fra5er, along with partnership with IKONICK artwork has demonstrated Fraser’s mindset away from the sport. Crossfit documentaries of the Games such as ‘The Fittest on Earth’ and ‘The Redeemed and The Dominant’ provide an insight into Frasers’ dominance at the elite end of the sport and the void that will undoubtedly be present now he has retired from the competition floor.