The 2017 Fittest Man and Woman on Earth established early leads during the 2018 CrossFit Games. Mat Fraser held onto first place starting on Day 1, and while Tia-Clair Toomey was in second place after Day 1 behind rookie Laura Horvath, by the end of Day 3 (Day 2 was a rest day), she had moved up the leaderboard. This happened after what was arguably the hardest first day of the CrossFit Games ever. If it’s a sport that boasts bringing together multiple fitness disciplines (and it does), the first day of the CrossFit Games this year proved it.
We all know by now being the fittest is about being good at everything — not an easy task to accomplish. How did Toomey and Fraser get to the top of the podium this year? Let’s look back at the strategy that helped them with the gold.
The glory of the crit is that Fraser wasn’t taken out. As he came around the final turn, his bike skidded and he almost went to the ground before he managed to correct his bike at the last minute and finished 4th. Toomey took 5th, but the top five women all fell within two seconds of each other.
30 muscle-ups for time:
Fraser completed 29 before getting a no-rep. He took a moment to collect himself, then got back up and cranked out his 30th rep. Toomey held on for the longest on the women’s side with the first 20 muscle-ups, before coming in 2nd (by one second) to Kristi Eramo.
Fraser’s total was 1,215, which was just enough to stay in the top 10, without wrecking his body for the following day. (Yes, maxing out means major muscle soreness the next day, which is why strategizing was key for Fraser during this event.) Toomey’s performance was nothing short of amazing, with a total of 875 — this in contrast to the 411-pound average total in 2011.
Both athletes placed the worst they did all weekend during the row. Was pacing on the marathon row the key to success this year? Considering that on the women’s side, 1st and 2nd place finishers Margaux Alvarez and Whitney Gelin finished the weekend in 22nd and 28th respectively, it might have been.
Fikowski hinted at how hard it is to recover from the marathon row in his blog post, where he wrote: “I was surprised at how little some of the athletes drank during the row. I’d be curious to see how that affects their recovery over the next few days. And I say curious, but what I really mean is, I don’t think it’s going to help them very much. Lol.”
After a rest day on Thursday, Toomey and Fraser came into Friday and Saturday ready to work.
Both athletes did about the same on the Battleground as they did during 2017’s Strong Man’s Fear, which involved moving a yoke, farmers log, and sled 150 feet across the field — which, while different, is one of those odd-object workouts athletes know to expect at the Games.
Clean and jerk speed ladder:
In 2014 when this event first made an appearance, Fraser took 3rd. But this year he missed a 310-pound clean and jerk not once but twice. This was the only time this weekend when we saw Fraser push his body without success, which is uncharacteristic of the Fraser we usually see on the field.
Not surprising that Olympic lifter Toomey finished this event in the top three. What was surprising was that rookie Amanda Barnhart took first and was able to power clean all the weights!
Both Fraser and Toomey placed better during the Fibonacci this year than they did in 2017. Fraser dropped a full one minute and seven seconds, while Toomey added only three seconds despite the fact that Dave Castro increased the deficit handstand push-up reps for females.
This ability to take a previous year’s event and improve on it exemplifies why Fraser and Toomey were able to win yet again. Castro said the 2018 Games would be about knowing your CrossFit history (which is why it was with such confusion that repeat athletes like Brooke Wells and Lauren Fisher struggled on the peg board — which we saw for the third time in 2018 after having seen it in 2015 and 2016).
Here are more of the repeats we saw on course this year:
- The half marathon row in 2013 was repeated as a full marathon row in 2018.
- The CrossFit Total in 2007 returned for 2018.
- The Fibonacci Final in 2017 repeated (with increased HSPU reps for women) in 2018.
- The clean and jerk ladder in 2013 and 2015 repeated (with heavier weights) this year.
- An obstacle course also happened in 2012 and 2015, and now 2018. (However, the courses themselves were quite different.)
On top of this, 2018 brought lots of random object carry events, such as the Battleground and Two-Stroke Pull, which at this point are a Dave Castro staple.
On all of these repeat events/movements, Fraser and Toomey showed not only improvement but comfort, mastery, and ease. When asked what she does that sets her apart from the other female athletes on the leaderboard, Toomey answered, “Just hard work and commitment.”
But this year she showed that it’s more than just hard work. It’s smart, hard work.
The men’s attack on this event was pretty epic with Dean Linder-Leighton, Brent Fikowski, James Newbury, Mat Fraser, and Khan Porter being the top five finishers. On the women’s side, despite claims that she doesn’t paddleboard often, Toomey smoked the paddleboard to take home 1st on this event. We’ll assume it’s her killer core strength.
Chaos was kept a secret until athletes took the field and that means one thing: it required mental toughness. Going rep by rep until a judge tells you to stop? That’s rough. Not to mention that the event involved the Slug, which is a new “apparatus” for the sport.
Grip: you either got it, or you don’t. And after Bicouplets 1 and 2, these athletes made it clear they do.
Both Fraser and Toomey went into the last day of this year’s Games 138 and 114 points ahead of second place, respectively. Going into the final day, with three events left before the close of the 2018 season, there were 300 points up for grabs. In typical Fraser fashion, he’d only have to average 12th in order to take home the “W” this year, while Tia needed to maintain an average of 9th.
During the first two events, the Two-Stroke Pull and handstand walk, Fraser and Toomey held onto their leads.
Fraser: 4th on Two-Stroke Pull, 3rd on handstand walk
Toomey: 7th on Two-Stroke Pull, 10th on handstand walk
What separated these athletes from their competitors during these two events was their mental focus. After her 2016 season, everyone knew managing her mental game was Toomey’s expertise. Her nonstop mental strength training showed especially during the handstand walk, when the obstacle course gave her trouble.
Similarly, she showed mental endurance on the Two-Stroke Pull — this in contrast to Katrin Davidsdottir who, in the last 20 seconds of the event, had a moment of “quit” when rookie Laura Horvath surpassed her on the sled pull, which caused Katrin to lose to Horvath by 20-ish seconds and take 3rd in the event, as opposed to a close second.
Going into the last event, Aeneas, unless something *incredibly* unexpected happened, we already knew who the first-place podium finishers were. As long as Fraser completed the minimum work requirement on Event 11, he would be crowned the Fittest Man On Earth for the third year in a row.
On the women’s side, in order for Tia-Clair Toomey to lose, Laura Horvath would have to win and Toomey would have to fall outside of the top 25. Considering Toomey hadn’t fallen outside the top 14 in any event since 2017, the odds were in Toomey’s favor.
Toomey fought head-to-head with Horvath during Aeneas and ended up coming in second to her after a yoke carry fumble two-ish feet away from the finish line. Again, Toomey didn’t let this fluster her. She took a breath, picked up the yoke, and proudly took 2nd for that event.
Fraser may have had first place on lock, but he went into Aeneas guns blazing. He completed all five pegboards unbroken, never allowing his feet to touch the mat before climbing back up for another rep. It’s the confidence that Fraser is known for. He moved through the thrusters and yolk carry seamlessly to take 1st in that event.
With a 120-point lead on 2nd Fittest Man on Earth Patrick Vellner, Mat Fraser left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is still the fittest. Toomey closed out the day with a 64-point lead on Laura Horvath, which is especially noteworthy after 2017, when there was the smallest point differential separating Toomey and Kara Saunders. This year, Toomey repeated the title with convincing command.
What did it come down to for them? Hard work. Commitment. Knowledge of the sport. And mental strength.
With those defining traits, Mat Fraser and Tia-Clair Toomey took home $285,000 for winning the 2017 CrossFit Games. And this year, they did it again — to the tune of $300,000.
Many of the competitors were capable of taking home the title, but Toomey and Fraser embody everything this sport is. After repeat wins, they’ve more than proven they are the masters of their sport.
Congratulations to ALL the athletes! It was a great season.
Main image: Mat Fraser/Instagram