CrossFit's reigning king, Rich Froning

Rich Froning has been an undeniably dominant force at the CrossFit Games for the past four years....

Rich Froning has been an undeniably dominant force at the CrossFit Games for the past four years. (Brian Sullivan/Competition Photographer CrossFit Games)

Cary Castagna, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:53 PM ET

He’s the undisputed king of CrossFit.

But Rich Froning is quitting while he’s ahead.

Sorta.

Fresh off a hard-earned victory in the men’s division at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games late last month, the 27-year-old Tennessean says he won’t be competing as an individual in 2015.

Instead, he plans to compete on a team.

In fact, Froning has already signed on to captain a team of CrossFit superstars to compete in the first-ever CrossFit Team Series slated to start later this month.

“I grew up a team-sport guy,” he explains at the post-Games press conference at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

“Being part of a team, it’s just fun; it’s a different stress. I’m looking forward to being back on a team.”

The annual CrossFit Games, which began in 2007, are dubbed as “the ultimate proving grounds of the fittest athletes on Earth.”

Based on the CrossFit strength and conditioning program that’s been trending worldwide in recent years, the Games test the elite fitness levels of athletes from around the globe through a wide range of physical exploits over five days — including swimming, running, rowing, Olympic weightlifting, rope climbing and gymnastics.

Froning, an uber-fit 195 pounds at five-foot-nine, has been an undeniably dominant force at the Games for the past four years.

He first won them in 2011, earning the trademarked moniker of “Fittest Man on Earth.” It’s a title he has firmly grasped ever since.

So why walk away from individual competition now?

“I have a beautiful baby daughter now and I need to switch gears a little bit,” explains the Michigan native who started CrossFit in June 2009 while studying exercise science at Tennessee Tech University. “I need to be a good dad.”

For Froning, a baseball star in high school and a former firefighter, CrossFit has very much been a full-time job.

In the lead-up to the Games, he was “doing something every couple hours” each day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“It’s a lot of sacrifice, a lot of hard work. There’s no secret to it,” he explains of his journey to the top of the sport. “It’s doing CrossFit and it’s sacrificing things that normal and sane people wouldn’t sacrifice. It’s having a great support group that will let you sacrifice those things and not hold it against you too much. It’s just great people behind me. I can’t thank them enough.”

All that sacrifice, hard work and support has paid off. Handsomely.

Froning’s most recent Games triumph came with a $275,000 payday.

He also just signed what has been described as a lucrative, long-term endorsement deal with Reebok, the CrossFit Games’ title sponsor.

Including other sponsorship deals, Froning is “making as much as NFL players,” according to Dave Castro, CrossFit Games director and former Navy SEAL.

Castro characterizes Froning as the mostwell-rounded CrossFitter on the planet at the moment.

“When you test for fitness, it doesn’t matter what the tests are, if they’re fair and balanced, the fittest guys are always going to come out on top,” he explains. “And that’s what we’ve seen with Rich over the past four years. We haven’t made programming that favoured him. He has no chinks (in his armour). That’s basically what it is.”

And so, Castro was understandably disappointed when he first learned of Froning’s decision.

“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bum me out,” Castro adds. “But because he’s also such a close friend and someone I respect, I understand why he’s doing it and I respect that. And I’m not going to try to say, ‘Hey, we really need you,’ or anything like that. I believe there’s plenty of stars and plenty of other people to take his role.”

Of course, Froning won’t be disappearing from the CrossFit landscape.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he notes.

And Froning insists that even after he’s done competing, he won’t stop following what he considers to be the best fitness program available.

“I’ll keep doing CrossFit,” he vows. “I’ll be doing it for the rest of my life.”

Visit teamseries.crossfit.com for more on the upcoming Team Series competition.


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