Photo Credit: Eric Castaños (IG: @Eric_castanos)
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Mat Fraser and the HWPO Training team announced a major addition to their crew, adding 18-year-old phenom and seventh fittest woman on earth Mal O’Brien to their ranks as an athlete and planting their flag towards the top of the women’s division at the CrossFit Games.
One big thing: For the 2022 season, the Iowa native will be coached under the tutelage of Jake Marconi and Fraser, alongside Jayson Hopper, tapping into the knowledge and expertise of the five-time Fittest Man on Earth, whose preparation and attention to detail helped re-write the record books.
Some background: O’Brien took the CrossFit world by storm in 2021, finishing 5th worldwide in the CrossFit Open, before eventually qualifying for the Games through the Granite Games Semifinal at just 17-years-old.
- Alongside fellow teenager Emma Cary, she became the first teenage athlete since the advent of the teenage competition to qualify for the Games as an individual.
- Battling her way back from burnout and complications from Lyme disease, O’Brien rediscovered her passion for the sport under former coach James Townsend, and it carried her to a 7th place finish and rookie of the year honors at the Games on the back of a scintillating event win under the lights of the coliseum in Event 4.
- She also became the youngest athlete ever to win an individual event at the CrossFit Games.
The backdrop: Over the past month, O’Brien has been seen on social training and spending time alongside Fraser and the HWPO team, including training sessions with Hopper, men’s champion Justin Medeiros and The Buttery Bros in Vermont.
- “Immediately I was blown away by her maturity level and ability to adapt,” says Fraser, recounting his first impressions of O’Brien, “when she came to Vermont to hang out and train she was organized, very self-sufficient, and every time I gave her some feedback or an adjustment, within a few minutes she’d already apply it seamlessly.”
- The trip to Vermont gave birth to the possibility of O’Brien joining the HWPO crew, but a recent trip to Salt Lake City solidified the compatibility of the two sides working together formally.
- “We were in Salt Lake for two weeks, and I casually tossed the invite out to come train,” recalls Fraser, “She showed up for two weeks, and we got a better sense of how each of us operates, and everything clicked.”
The big picture: In her sophomore campaign, O’Brien figures to be in the podium conversation as she looks to take the next step under Fraser’s guidance and become the youngest individual podium finisher ever at the CrossFit Games, a record she has two full seasons to break.
- History seems to be in her favor, the last three athletes that won rookie of the year – Laura Horvath, Haley Adams, and Justin Medeiros – have all matched or bested their rookie performance in the years since their breakthrough at the Games.
“I told her as long as she gives her full effort, I’ll give her my full effort, and that’s what we’ll do,” Fraser said.
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