Susan Clarke: Preparing to Fight for a Fifth CrossFit Games Title this Summer

May 24, 2021 by
Credit: Kate Webster (instagram.com/katewebsterphotography/)
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After winning the CrossFit Games for the fourth time in 2019, Susan Clarke swore she was finished competing. Retired, and ready to travel the world, she explained. 

  • Clarke, now 62, booked a trip to Europe, but then COVID hit, “and pretty soon I found myself going crazy,” said Clarke, who still works full-time as an audiologist in West Vancouver, British Columbia. 
  • “I wasn’t seeing friends or socializing much and I needed something to work toward,” she explained. So the automatic thing to do was to put her time and energy back into training for the CrossFit Games.
  • Her work more than paid off: Clarke recently easily won the Women’s 60-64 year-old division in the Age Group Online Qualifier, winning four of the five events in the process.

Remind me: Clarke, a long-time member of CrossFit West Vancouver, will be returning to the Games this summer and will attempt to win her fifth CrossFit Games title. 

  • She took her first title in 2014 in the Women’s 55-59 year-old division, a feat she repeated in 2015 and 2017. She went on to win the Women’s 60-plus division in 2019.

Humble mindset for the win: Though Clarke is undefeated at the Games, she said she still has a hard time thinking of herself as one of the fittest women her age on earth. In fact, every time she wins, she’s somewhat surprised. 

  • This has been the case since her first year in 2014 when she felt like it was a fluke that she even qualified for the Games. “After the last event, I thought I dropped the ball and the interviewer said, ‘How are you feeling?…You have just won.’ And I said, ‘Are you serious? Are you kidding?’ I thought I had just dropped the ball on that last event,” she said, laughing. 
  • When Clarke returned to the Games in 2015, she didn’t feel like she had a target on her back, as she just wanted “to prove 2014 wasn’t a fluke,” she explained. 
  • And even though her skills are constantly getting better today and she’s undefeated at the Games, Clarke has approached this season with the same humble mindset. 
  • “I was surprised I won (the AGOQ), to be honest because I wasn’t sure where I was at. Before COVID, I would workout against people who were significantly younger than me and I’d be able to gauge my fitness off them, but we couldn’t do that this year and I have been training on my own so I wasn’t sure where I was at,” she said. 
  • She added: “I’m not a great competitor. I just get so nervous I lose my brains. My coach Kate (Webster) has gone to the Games with me the last couple times, and the joke is at the start of the competition I hand her my wallet, my phone and my brain.”
Courtesy of Susan Clarke

One big thing: Unlike many Games athletes, Clarke has deliberately taken a year off more than once to prioritize work and give her body and mind a rest, and said this could be one of the keys to her success, and her ability to remain uninjured and healthy.

  • “When you train for the Games, it occupies all your time. You’re training, eating and sleeping. All your free time is taken up,” she said. This is why she declined her invite to the online qualifier in 2016 even after she won the Open, and why she took the entire year off from competition in 2018. Both times, she returned to the Games the following year and won.

The bottom line: Clarke admits she feels some pressure to remain undefeated at the Games this summer, but then she reminds herself of why she’s doing CrossFit in the first place: For her the love of the sport and of human performance. 

  • “I just love to see the capability of people, of what we can actually do with our bodies,” Clarke said. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re 22 or 62, this is something to celebrate, she added.
  • “It’s never too late to get fit. And I urge people not to make decisions based on their age. Don’t disqualify yourself because you’re turning x age. Don’t wake up and say, ‘I’m 60,’ so I can’t do this anymore, because people prove it time and time again that age doesn’t have to limit what you can do,” she said. 

And leading the way is Clarke  herself.

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