July 8, 2013
Adapt and Overcome: Matt Chan
By Mandi Lo

"I did what I had to do to be smart and to be where I am right now, and it’s not even a thought or consideration that my injury is going to hold me back.”

Matt Chan’s journey to the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games has had a couple bumps along the way, but he is more determined than ever to finish in the top three this year. 

Chan finished last year’s Games in second place, behind two-time champ Rich Froning, with a confidence that he would be back on that podium in 2013. Since then, however, Chan has sustained a knee injury that halted his training.

It also made him rethink his end goal. Instead of returning to the podium at the Games, he said he simply wanted to qualify for Regionals.

Not only did Chan qualify for Regionals, coming in seventh place in the Open in the South West Region, he went on to take first place at the Regional, keeping his record in tact. Chan has won each Regional he’s ever competed in.

Chan says his knee injury did not affect his performance at the Regional and he does not anticipate it affecting his performance at the Games.

“The injury that I have is now at the very far end of the healing process,” Chan explains. “I did what I had to do to be smart and to be where I am right now, and it’s not even a thought or consideration that my injury is going to hold me back.”

With Regionals behind him, Chan’s mindset has shifted back to earning a top three spot at the Games.

“Your goals have to shift with your progress on certain things, and my goals shifted from making it past the Open to, ‘OK, you know what, I’m doing pretty well coming out of the Open, let’s see how the next few months go, and maybe I’ll shoot for a top-10 finish at Regionals,’” Chan says. “Then I started hitting some numbers that were much more consistent … I knew there was a potential that I could qualify for the Games.”

The turning point for Chan’s confidence came on the first day of the South West Regional, when he finished first in Jackie with a time of 5:13, beating out fellow competitors Matt Hathcock and Chris Spealler. 

“I won that one by a couple seconds. I kinda watched where my competition was falling, and it just gave me the confidence to push really hard all week,” Chan says.

As the competition went on, Chan continued to hold fast to his overall first-place position, finishing in the top four for every event except Event 5, the deadlift/box jump couplet. While the weight and height were not a problem, he received several no-reps that resulted in a 14th-place finish.

“I had to re-think on how to do the deadlifts to the judge’s standards,” Chan explains. “As a good competitor, that’s what you do. You don’t get worked up about the judge maybe calling some reps that aren’t bad. You just have to adapt and overcome.” 

“Adapt” and “overcome” are the two words that perfectly describe Chan’s journey this year. Even as he prepares for the Games, he and his wife, Cherie, continue on their “Eternal Pursuit of Excellence,” traveling around the country and living out of their Airstream pulled by a diesel truck. 

More recently, Chan made a stop in Park City, Utah to train with his buddies Eric O’Connor and Chris Spealler. Chan’s coach, Joe Alexander, a fellow Level 1 Seminar Staff member, has left programming in Chan’s hands with a template of what he should include in every workout.

“I’m relying on my training partners to program workouts with me based on what they see (as) my weaknesses,” he says. “That’s another element that I’ve never had before — working with high-level training partners. These two guys are pushing me hard, so it has been great.”

And his eye is on the prize.

“The training that I’ve been doing is consistent with last year, and I’ve even addressed some gaps that I had last year, so I can walk into this year with the same confidence as I had last year that a podium finish is definitely something I can accomplish. Of course, the ultimate goal is always spot No. 1.”