Mat Fraser just won the 2019 CrossFit Games in in the US, earning him the title Fittest Man on Earth. Again. He previously won it in 2016, 2017 and 2018 before defending it this year. And if you were following the action on our Instagram account, you’ll know that it was a helluva tough fight to the podium. So what kind of guy gets to call himself Fittest on Earth four years in a row? We chatted to Fraser ahead of the competition and were pretty surprised by some of the things we learnt.
1. He gets crazy nervous before competitions.
Fraser often dry heaves or even throws up from pre-competition tension. He reminds himself of what is within his control and says a prayer like the one tattooed on his shoulder: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
The moment Mat Fraser won the 2019 CrossFit Games…
2. He used to suck at rowing.
Look, the guy was a three-time junior national weight-lifting champ in the US and nearly went to the Olympics. So he can lift. But the same short arms and legs that made Fraser good at lifting were his kryptonite on the rowing machine. So he focused on perfecting his technique: “Extend your legs, extend your hips, then follow through with the arms,” he previous told us. He rowed five KMs per day (wowzers!) until he’d finally mastered the machine. “It’s an unnatural feeling, but after a million metres you get the hang of it,” he says.
3. He was big into drugs and booze.
Ja, we were blown away by that one, too. But turns out, even the legendary “Mat Fraser, Fittest Man on Earth” went a bit off the rails as a laaitie. He and his friends started experimenting with drinks and drugs at the age of 10. As a teen with a promising future in various sports, he was hungover three out of four training days and thought it was normal to drink until passing out. When he was 17 his dad encouraged him to hang out with an older role model who was sober. Listening to his mentor speak about addiction, Fraser broke down and realised that he, too, was an alcoholic. It was the step on a long road to recovery.
4. He wasn’t always the best at CrossFit.
Back in 2014 Fraser came second at his first CrossFit Games, beaten by legendary Rich Froning, the only other guy to win the Fittest Man on Earth title four times. Froning retired that year, so you’d think 2015 title would’ve been Fraser’s for the taking. Instead, he came second again after spending the year chasing his training with half a litre of ice-cream every night, little sleep and other unhealthy lifestyle choices. That second silver medal was the motivation he needed to get his act together. Now he eats clean and gets a minimum nine hours’ solid sleep a night.
Breakfast of (CrossFit) champions…
5. He once broke his back.
As a 19-year-old enthusiastic weight lifter, Fraser broke his L5 vertebra in two place during a lift. He was told his sporting career was over and made to spend four months in a turtle-shell torso brace that pinched when he sat. It did nothing. He rejected the recommended spinal fusion surgery for a more experimental treatment that involved re-breaking his back, power tools, two metal plates and a year of rehab during which he needed help getting out of bed. His attempt to go back to weight lifting didn’t work out, but it led to him trying his hand at CrossFit. And that’s worked pretty well.
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health South Africa