"I wanted to do better, but I'd never trade the experience. It was incredible."
After this year’s Games, Matthew Lefave tried to take some time off to reflect. "My coach told me to take two full weeks off," he says. "I lasted about four days. Some ice cream, some beer and then right back at it. I was too excited."
Lefave was disappointed with his 39th place finish this year. Despite it being his first go at the Games, he has a very competitive nature and hoped for a better outcome. “I wanted to do better, but I'd never trade the experience,” he says. “It was incredible.”
The announcement of the Pendleton Events on Monday caught him by surprise, although he had suspicions of an additional event. "I thought, ‘Why would we be here on Monday if there isn't an event before Friday?’ So I wasn’t shocked, but at the same time I didn't expect a triathlon on Wednesday," Lefave says. "I caught the hint on the main site a few weeks before, when there was a sprint triathlon posted, but I didn't think they'd actually get us bikes."
Being one of the bigger competitors at 210 pounds could have posed a challenge at the Pendleton Event, but Lefave says the outcome was great. “I was very pleased. I had a lot of fun,” he recalls. “I enjoyed myself in the ocean; it was very freeing. The bike was fun. It was like being a kid again.”
Lefave was only a few minutes out of a top-10 finish, and placed in front of many of the strongest athletes. Rich Froning passed him between the last checkpoint and the finish. "It was good for me mentally to say, ‘Hey, I'm hanging with these guys!’” Lefave says. “It started the week off well.”
The second day didn't go as well for Lefave. He got stuck in traffic and missed the orientation for the Ball Toss and Broad Jump events. Fellow Canadian Angie Pye gave him some advice on setting up his GHD, but Lefave still set up too close to the launcher. "When I went to throw my first two or three balls, I got rejected by the machine,” he explains. “It was mentally devastating.”
Lefave had one goal for the weekend – finish every event. At Regionals, he almost missed the cut due to his poor Diane finish. His shoulders have a long history of injury and poor mobility, and this haunted him at the Games. “I was in excruciating pain on the deficit handstand push-ups,” Lefave says. “But Albert [-Dominic Larouche] smashed it. I was so happy for him and proud that he came in and did something like that.”
His last event before elimination was the Clean Ladder. "I knew I was on the verge of getting cut,” he says. “I thought, 'I'm not going to be strategic. I'm just going to make as many attempts at the lift as possible.’”
He hit 315 lb., tying his previous best. "I got one leg under 325, but I was stuck there. I couldn't get up. I should have dropped it and deadlifted it, because a lot of guys got stuck there," he says.
“That really highlighted the caliber of athletes there,” Lefave says. “I'm one of the bigger guys, and I'm cleaning the average weight. Guys at 180 are getting significantly more, and then killing the Track Triplet. That's what's so great about this sport. The best athletes adapt and do well at unfamiliar tasks.”
On Sunday, Lefave was a spectator. He had a chance to see the other side, with his brother beside him. “On the way home, I sat beside a guy who flew out as a fan, all the way from Ontario, all by himself,” Lefave says. “That would have shocked me two years ago, but when you're sitting in the stands, you really get it."
Lefave co-owns Reebok CrossFit Liberty Village with his coach Nick Martin and Jordan Simons. “Nick was instrumental in getting me to L.A.,” Lefave says. “They programmed and coached me through Regionals, and they both made the trip out.”