CrossFitter Mal O’Brien Is the Newest Member of Mat Fraser’s HWPO Training Team

The 2021 CrossFit Games Rookie of the Year is teaming up with the five-time Fittest Man on Earth®.

Tectonic shifts in the competitive CrossFit landscape continue to take shape as the 2022 CrossFit Open fast approaches, with Workout 22.1 scheduled for Feb. 24, 2022. On Jan. 3, 2022, Morning Chalkup reported that 2021 CrossFit Games Rookie of the Year Mal O’Brien is training under the guidance of five-time Fittest Man on Earth® Mat Fraser and his HWPO (Hard Work Pays Off) programming.

O’Brien qualified for her debut CrossFit Games through a second-place finish at the Granite Games Semifinal in 2021 at age 17. She finished seventh overall at the Games and made history as the youngest CrossFit Games event winner by placing first in event four — she bested five-time Fittest Woman on Earth Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr to achieve that historic feat. With her sights now set on becoming the youngest athlete ever to stand on the Games podium in 2022, she is training under Fraser’s tutelage alongside Jake Marconi, Jayson Hopper, and 2021 Fittest Man on Earth® Justin Medeiros, as well as Fraser’s Podium Supplements partners, The Buttery Bros in Vermont.


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Per Morning Chalkup, O’Brien joining the HWPO Team came after a floated her an invitation to train with him in Vermont. O’Brien accepted and after training for two weeks together, they fell neatly into the roles of trainer and trainee. Fraser commended O’Brien’s ability to quickly apply his feedback in the gym.

O’Brien has shared glimpses into the HWPO training on her Instagram page and while it does not appear easy, the work is rewarding:

It’s been all about hitting each piece with PURPOSE & every ounce of effort.

Fraser has done the same on his social media, even offering some tips on when using lifting straps is appropriate — correct if removing the variable of grip is desirable, incorrect when barbell cycling.


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[Related: 2021 Rogue Invitational CrossFit Results — Medeiros, Toomey-Orr Take Home Top Spots]

Competitive Resumes of O’Brien and Fraser

Fraser is the all-time winningest male athlete in individual CrossFit Games history with five consecutive victories. He stood atop the podium every year from 2016 to 2020, earning 29 CrossFit Games event wins along the way — the second most of any individual athlete in history (Toomey-Orr has the most with 33). In 2014 and 2015, Fraser stood in the silver position on the Games podium, both times with four-time Fittest Man on Earth® Rich Froning next to him with the gold. In addition to his dominance at the Games, Fraser has also won the CrossFit Open four times (2015, 2017-19) and ranked second worldwide in his final season in 2020.

O’Brien made her competitive CrossFit debut in the Girls 14-15 division in the 2018 Open, where she ranked second worldwide. She ranked fourth globally in that division in 2019, and then second overall again in 2021 in the Girls 16-17 division — Emma Cary ranked first as well as second worldwide in the Women’s division. O’Brien’s effort was enough for fifth worldwide in the Women’s division. She went on to finish third overall in the North American Quarterfinal, bested only by Dani Speegle and Amanda Barnhart, who claimed second and first, respectively.

O’Brien continued her stellar run with a silver-medal performance at the Granite Games behind Arielle Loewen. She ultimately ranked seventh overall in her CrossFit Games debut, earning the Rookie of the Year title.

[Related: Roman Khrennikov, Laura Horvath Win 2021 Dubai CrossFit Championship]

Other Big Moves For the 2022 CrossFit Games Season

O’Brien isn’t the only young CrossFit athlete making moves onto teams led by CrossFit greats. The winner of the Most Improved Athlete award in 2021 following his seventh-place overall finish at the CrossFit Games, Guilherme Malheiros of Brazil joined CrossFit Mayhem to train under the guidance of Rich Froning. Malheiros scored three event wins at the 2021 Games and put on a clinic in the max snatch event that captured the imagination of the CrossFit world regarding his future potential.

Two-time Fittest Woman on Earth® Katrin Davíðsdóttir has left team CompTrain and coach Ben Bergeron to train with coach Jami Tikkanen alongside two-time Fittest Woman on Earth Annie Thorisdottir, two-time CrossFit Games bronze medalist Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson, and Henrik Haapalainen. CompTrain still has a fair share of elite CrossFit athletes, including 2020 CrossFit Games runner-up Samuel Kwant.

Fraser and Froning aren’t the only CrossFit Games legends putting their coaching prowess to work with rising stars in the sport. 2009 CrossFit Games runner-up and three-time CrossFit Games Team champion Tommy Hackenbruck joined Underdogs Athletics as a coach alongside Justin Cotler for the 2022 season. Underdogs Athletics was home to Kari Pearce during her run to a third-place finish at the 2020 CrossFit Games, and currently has the likes of Bethany Shadburne, Tola Morakinyo, and Danielle Brandon in its ranks.

2022 CrossFit Games Season Schedule

Below is the full schedule for the 2022 CrossFit Games season:

2022 CrossFit Open

  • Workout 22.1 — Feb. 24-28, 2022
  • Workout 22.2 — March 3-7, 2022
  • Workout 22.3 — March 10-14, 2022

Thus far, CrossFit Games Director Dave Castro has teased that the 2022 Open will include two new elements not seen before, though has kept details about them secret.

2022 Quarterfinals

  • Individuals — March 24-27, 2022
  • Teams — April 7-10, 2022
  • Age Groups — April 21-24, 2022

The 2022 Occupational Games will take place May 20-22, 2022.

2022 Semifinals

  • Week One
    • Individuals & Teams — May 20-22, 2022
    • Age Group One (14-15, 16-17, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49) — May 26-29, 2022
  • Week Two
    • Individuals & Teams — May 27-29, 2022
    • Age Group Two (50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65+) — June 2-5, 2022
  • Week Three
    • Individuals & Teams — June 3-5, 2022
  • Week Four
    • Individuals & Teams — June 10-12, 2022
  • Last-Chance Qualifier — June 29-July 1, 2022

2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games

The 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games will be held Aug. 4-7, 2022, in Madison, WI. We’ll see if O’Brien’s move to train with Fraser pays off with a podium finish or perhaps challenges reigning Games champion Toomey-Orr for the title.

Featured image: @malobrien_ on Instagram