The 2020 Reebok CrossFit Games start on Friday with the first-ever virtual event. Mathew Fraser is the four-time reigning champion, and he is on the cusp of making history. If he performs well during the two-day opening stage and books a trip to the finals in October as one of the remaining five men, he will have the opportunity to become the first-ever five-time champion in CrossFit history.
Speaking exclusively with PopCulture.com, Fraser spoke about his approach to this unique virtual format. He is someone who prefers competing with several people in the same room, in front of a roaring crowd, but he is also accustomed to moments of quiet. Fraser previously drew attention with the revelation that he worked out for hours at a time in his parents' basement, as well as in empty gyms. Now he will take a similar approach during the virtual CrossFit Games' opening stage.
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"I like the format. I liked that, okay, you have to do the workouts in order. You have to do the workouts in this time slot, but it's based off everyone's local time zone and they gave a window so you don't have to coordinate with everyone," Fraser told PopCulture. "So it makes it, I think grand scheme, it should be pretty simple. I'm sure there'll be things in the heat of the moment that are stressful, but I think it will be good."
Heading into the weekend, Fraser knows the majority of the events following Thursday's reveal. What he noticed is that the named events — Friendly Fran, Damn Diane and Nasty Nancy — are all very fast. There won't be any concerns about pacing or taking rest periods between reps. Instead, Fraser is just going to hit the gas and go even without other competitors around to provide a context of time.
"For me, I really do enjoy the competitive atmosphere of competing next to other people," Fraser said. "And I think that's more just for game plan and pacing probably because like it gives me comfort of like, 'All right, I'm a minute ahead I can throttle back.' With this format, there's no option. It's just pedal to the floor and go because I don't know how far back or how far ahead other competitors will be, so It will be 100% effort for all of the events."
"It's going to be fun. There's not going to be much pacing, it's just going to, 'Three, two, one, go!' And then just burn it down. Like, we were talking about it, some of [the events] it's like, 'We don't know the pacing, but once you figure out that you've gone out too hot, you're almost done.' So just give her hell."
Fraser expects some pain during the events, but this is nothing new. He has put his body through hell throughout his CrossFit Games career, resulting in four gold and two silver medals. Finding motivation could be difficult, but Fraser has a variety of reasons for continuing to push himself on a daily basis.
"Some days I want to make myself proud. I want to have that sense of gratification of like I gave everything I had today," Fraser said. "And then other days it's like, 'All right, what's a story I want to tell when I'm 40 years old or 60 years old of what my career was? How do I want to be remembered?' All that type of stuff. And then there's the classic — you pick a little resentment from what someone else said two years ago in an interview about you. and you use that as motivation."
Following the online stage on Friday and Saturday, the final five men and women will prepare for their trips to Dave Castro's family's ranch in Northern California, where the Games originally took place in 2007. This in-person event will run from Oct. 19-25 and will air courtesy of CBS. All of the athletes will partner with an experienced judge from the CrossFit Seminar Staff.