Exclusive: Mayhem Freedom Talks Games, Going for a Three-peat
It’s 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, two days before the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games officially commence.
Into the Alliant Energy Center, the new home of the Games, walk the six members of CrossFit Mayhem Freedom. They’re here to register for their third consecutive year in the team competition.
And they're here to win.
One would expect the reigning Affiliate Cup Champions to exhibit more seriousness and focus than others in the field (they’re the champs, after all). But, as they make their way through product fittings, they’re laughing and cracking jokes at one another. Their leader, Rich Froning Jr., is even showing the staff a video of his daughter Lakelynn singing.
“With the Games two weeks later this year than normal, we just have all this built up energy,” say team member Elly Kabboord, nodding to her male teammates who are goofing off in the corner of the room. “We’ve all been getting a little delirious the last two weeks, just pumped up and ready to go.”
A New Member Who's Not So New
While many in the CrossFit community have been fixated on the Games’ location change from Los Angeles to Madison, Wis., (which the Mayhem team admits to loving since Madison is on the same time zone as their home base in Cookeville, Tenn.), for Mayhem Freedom, 2017 brings a bigger change: a new team member.
As the teammates get geared up, noticeably missing from the group is James Hobart. The man in his place, however, is anything but a new face.
The Nano 7 Weave 38501 Pack takes its name from the Cookeville, Tenn., postal code where CrossFit Mayhem resides. It is the first CrossFit shoe inspired by a team.
When Hobart opted not to compete this season, Froning admits it was the obvious decision to add Darren Hunsucker to the team’s roster.
“Darren’s been with me, with us, since the beginning,” says Froning. “He trains with us all the time anyway, so it just made sense. Making him our sixth teammate wasn’t a hard decision whatsoever."
Darren’s been with me, with us, since the beginning,” says Froning. “He trains with us all the time anyway, so it just made sense. Making him our sixth teammate wasn’t a hard decision whatsoever.
“Well, maybe it was a hard decision for him,” adds Froning as Hunsucker shakes his head beside him, “but not for the rest of us.”
“When Rich first asked me, I thought that it was a joke,” says Hunsucker which throws the full group into a laugh.
“But like he said, I’ve been training with them for years already so it’s like I was competing with them already, except then I would just come and hang out at the Games while they suffered.”
The first time he took the floor as formally part of the team was at Regionals in May. And while Hunsucker competed on a team at Regionals and the Games in 2012, he admits taking the floor as part of this specific team is a whole different ball game.
“Regionals was definitely a big eye opener,” he says. “When you step out there and you’re in front of the crowd, all the noise this team gets, it’s like you almost black out.”
Thriving on the Unknown
But Regionals are now part of the past, and the six members of this team are fixated on the present week—Games week.
With four days of competition ahead, still, merely a handful of the team workouts have been announced. And while this has been a point of chatter – and nerves – for many of the groups also going through registration today, the unknown is a point of excitement for Mayhem.
“It’s better for us to not know anything,” says Lindy Barber. “We’re good at adapting on the fly. It’s what we do in training every single day.”
It’s better for us to not know anything. We’re good at adapting on the fly. It’s what we do in training every single day.
“We walk into the gym every day not knowing what we’re doing until we get in there. We figure it out and immediately do it,” she continues, noting this as a reason the team is able to remain so calm at the Games even when events are kept secret.
Elevating the Team Competition
For Froning, 2017 marks the third year since he made the jump from the individual competition to the team competition.
Since, the team competition has unquestionably received more viewership than it did in years prior, and we’re seeing an influx of other longstanding, well-known Games athletes – from Barber herself to Spencer Hendel, Austin Malleolo and Christy Adkins – electing to compete on teams.
With that, more “super teams” are being formed, elevating the level of competition each year. And every team has their sights set on Mayhem.
Several in the field have even gone far enough to make social media claims that they’re looking to ‘#stopthemayhem.’
When asked about this target on their back, Froning immediately grins.
“It’s a bit of motivation.”
After a pause, he continues.
“People in the community have more of a connection with a team.” he says. “If there’s a team at your gym, you see them working together day in and day out and so it’s hard not to have that connection and want to watch them. New teams will help get new eyes on the Games,” he concludes, noting this as something that will only attract more attention to and awareness around CrossFit.
People in the community have more of a connection with a team. If there’s a team at your gym, you see them working together day in and day out and so it’s hard not to have that connection and want to watch them. New teams will help get new eyes on the Games.
In it to Win It
But even with this elevated level of competition, Mayhem is steady.
When asked if they’re fitter than last year, the response is a unanimous “yes.”
“We each looked at what we individually needed to work on,” says Barber. "None of us want to be a weak link or hold the others back, so we spent a lot of time independently working on our weaknesses hoping to make the full team that much stronger in the process.”
Matt Hewett is quick to agree.
“The girls have improved so much year to year,” he says. “I feel like the first year we were pushing them, but now it’s changed. They push us every workout.”
“We men are getting old,” chimes in Froning. “We’re 30 now,” he laughs.
While clearly joking, his remark does beg the question: Is there an end in sight for Mayhem Freedom?
“As long as we can walk without a walker, we’ll be here,” teases Hunsucker.
As long as we can walk without a walker, we’ll be here.
“There will be a Mayhem team around for a long time,” adds Froning.
“We do have a 17-year-old over there,” he says, pointing to Angelo DiCicco who is sitting nearby. DiCicco trains alongside Mayhem Freedom and will be competing for the title of Fittest Teen on Earth this week.
“Angelo may be taking a spot or two sometime soon,” Froning continues. “That’s the future of Mayhem right there.”
“This is definitely a legacy in the making,” says Barber. “That’s what makes it so special to be part of.”
This is definitely a legacy in the making,” says Barber. “That’s what makes it so special to be part of.
The Nano 7 Weave 38501 Pack takes its name from the Cookeville, Tenn., postal code where CrossFit Mayhem resides. It is the first CrossFit shoe inspired by a team. The members of Mayhem Freedom will be competing in the shoe this week, but fans cheering them on from home can purchase it on Reebok.com.