If you are reading this article, I’ll bet dollars to donuts you know that Rich Froning won the 2014 CrossFit Games this past weekend. You probably also know that this was Froning’s fourth consecutive win at the Games. But did you know that he couldn’t have done it without his buddy, Jason Khalipa?
No, they don’t train together (they don’t even live in the same time zone) and it doesn’t have anything to do with the rumor that Froning has “What is Khalipa doing today?” on a sign in his training garage.
Froning uses Khalipa as his pace-partner during any events where the two of them compete against each other.
In an interview for CrossFit’s “Behind the Games: 2013”, Froning talked about facing off with Khalipa in the Sprint Chipper (21 medball GHD sit-ups, 15 snatches 165/100, 9 wall burpees for time). Froning walked you through his mindset for this event. He talked about how he knew Khalipa would be his lead competition and how Forning had a strategy to use this to his advantage. Froning said that he busted through the GHDs as quickly as possible and then met Khalipa at the snatch. With his eye on Khalipa, Froning kept pace with him snatch for snatch and, when Khalipa put the bar down, Froning did one more rep before resting his own bar in the grass. When Khalipa picked his bar up, Froning picked his up, knowing he was already a rep ahead of his closest competition and continued this strategy. Every time Khalipa put his bar down, Froning gained one more rep before putting his down as well. After that, Froning knew he just couldn’t let Khalipa pass him on the wall and the event was his.
This year, as in previous years, Froning has had to come from behind to get his win. This means, that when stacked in the heat-shuffle, Froning was not in the top heat of men until Sunday, the last day of competition. This was a clear disadvantage to him in the Clean Speed Ladder. Froning was not in the top heat for this event, and so he had no one to push himself against. He was noticeably dogging his finish and took his time stepping up to the finishing podium. This lack of competition in his heat, cost him the chance to advance to the final portion of this event – the top eight finishers went on to complete an additional clean ladder and Froning, in ninth place by mere seconds, missed out.
But this is why I was able to proclaim, loudly and proudly, that there was NO WAY Froning was going to come in anything but first on the final event of Double Grace. Not only was he going head to head with his buddy Khalipa, he was going to be able to go rep for rep with him. In the last twenty reps of Double Grace, you can actually see Froning look over at Khalipa time and time again, watching and pacing, keeping himself no more than one rep in front of Khalipa. Doing this allowed Froning to move as quickly as he needed to in order to maintain his lead, but not so fast that he would burn out early and allow himself to be overtaken.
Froning isn’t just the Fittest Man on Earth, he is an incredible athletic strategist. Try his theory out the next time you are in the Box. We all have those athletes that we know are our friendly competitors. When you are in a WOD with them, use them as your pace-partner and see if you can Froning your way to a faster WOD time or a few extra reps in the AMRAP. If we can’t lift like Froning, maybe we can at least strategize like the Fittest Man on Earth.