CrossFit Games

Mat Fraser’s Top 5 Moments — 2019 Clean

February 5, 2021 by
Image Credit: Michael Valentin
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The 2019 season brought change on all fronts. A new system, a slew of new qualification paths, and a new approach by CrossFit that generated uncertainties about what the future of the sport might hold. 

Mat Fraser’s place as the fittest man on earth was a key binding agent that kept a sport suddenly cast into a state of flux centered around something that was certain. After three consecutive titles won in record setting fashion, it seemed inevitable that once the full scope of the new season system was known, Fraser would be well on his way to making history yet again. 

#2 – 2019 Clean

The road to Madison unfolded as most people expected with Fraser winning at Dubai, Rogue, and winning a record setting fourth career Open worldwide. Things carried over into day one of the CrossFit Games where Fraser got off to a perfect start, winning First Cut and Second Cut to become the first athlete to sweep day one in the Open era. 

  • Day two was a different story and in a strange turn of events, Fraser would lose the overall lead on the heels of a fluke penalty in the Ruck, and Noah Ohslen’s two best event performances to date. A shifting points table also added a layer of complexity to the situation.

Suddenly Fraser was staring at a 55-point deficit heading into the final event of Saturday night, needing desperately to pick up some points on Ohlsen, the overall leader. Ohlsen made an exit on the clean event after the 355-lb barbell, meaning a 5th place finish, and an opportunity for Fraser to make up serious ground. 

  • Fraser and Scott Panchik were the final two athletes left having cleared every bar on the path to the 380-lb mark. With only two bars left in the ladder, a palpable energy filled the coliseum in anticipation of who would be the first to falter.

An event format style never-before-seen at the Games resulted in an all-time clutch performance from Fraser. When the lights were brightest, and all eyes were on him at a time when he needed it most, the champ delivered.

  • Sammy Moniz, Mat’s Fiance: “2019 was a tense year. It seemed like no matter what amazing feat Mat overcame, he was still down in points. I’m always a nervous wreck when Mat’s on the floor, I’m helpless in the stands. All I have is the trust that he’s put in the work and no one will out-work him. That event was electric. The whole place was buzzing. I was so tunnel visioned on Mat, watching him lurk back and forth along that Plexiglas wall like a tiger in a zoo. At one point I looked at the whole stadium cheering and thought “They want him to stand that bar up just as much as I do. They want it too!””
  • Heber Cannon, Filmmaker: “Mat has won a lot of events. Each victory celebration from Mat is a little different, but only one comes to mind, where he shocked even himself, the 2019 clean. For the first time in years, Mat isn’t wearing the leader’s jersey. He had been given a penalty the day before and Noah had jumped him in the points by a significant margin. That paired with the fact that the field had been whittled down to only 10 athletes, meant that Mat needed help from the other competitors, he couldn’t just win events, he needed others to separate him and Noah in the points.”
    • For the clean event, he looked to the wolf pack. The Panchik brothers are known for their strength. Noah and Saxon ended up in a tie on the weight lifted, and went head to head in an epic tie break where Noah edged Saxon out by a hair. The rest of the field continued going up in weight, until finally only two remained. Scott Panchik and Mat Fraser. With each lift they hit the energy in the stadium was unparalleled and electric.
  • “Scott would go first, and crush a solid 370, and 375. When Mat was walking up to the barbell for 370 and 375 he could be seen yelling to himself for hype. Two wizards of weightlifting going pound for pound, hunting each other down. Finally Scott missed 380. Mat smelled blood in the water. He needed this, a win going into the final day of competition would boost his energy and also stack more points to a lead he was hunting down. Stalking his prey, Mat walked up to the barbell, executed a picture perfect clean, and stood up the weight. 
    • “A lot of Mat’s celebrations are him pounding his chest and cursing at some unknown entity, but this was different. His hands went straight, high in the air, with a giant smile on his face. Pure elation, as he realized he won the event.”
  • “I love this moment for Mat. I think in some ways it epitomized how he competed. He didn’t see himself as a returning champ coming to the games, but as an underdog who had to scrap for every point and earn back the leader’s jersey.”

Ask anyone who has been around the sport what is the single most electrifying moment in CrossFit Games history, and chances are Mat Fraser’s final clean on Saturday night of the 2019 Games is on their list. 

What makes its magnitude even more significant is the fact that even with the win, Fraser was not in the overall lead going into the final day, but if you had polled every person walking out of the coliseum that evening you would have been hard pressed to find very many people who did not believe that Fraser was going to end up on top. 

That is the beauty of momentum in the arena of sport. It is as indistinct as it is prescient, but when you feel it, you know. It did not matter how many events were on tap for Sunday, or when the inevitable “other shoe,” would finally drop, everyone just knew it would.

The final moments of “The Standard” event may have been the last nail in the coffin, but Fraser’s final lift in the Clean event built the coffin. 

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