Susan Clarke Comes Out of “Retirement” at 64 to Win Sixth CrossFit Games Title

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ortega

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After winning her fifth age-group title at the 2021 CrossFit Games, Susan Clarke thought she was done competing. 

  • “I said it out loud. This is going to be my last year. I’m not going to do it again,” said the 64-year-old Clarke, who has been training at CrossFit West Vancouver in British Columbia for the last decade.

She stuck to her retirement plan.

For a little bit anyway.

But after watching the 2022 CrossFit Games from home, Clarke was “so impressed by the programming and the upping of the skill level for masters athletes” that she started to feel the itch to throw down again.

That being said, the woman who had never placed lower than first at the CrossFit Games wasn’t so sure winning this year was realistic, as she would be the oldest age in the 60-64-year-old division.

What happened next: After taking a year off competition, Clarke finished second in the Open and second in Semifinals, but put it all together at the Games, winning by 50 points over Betsy Vanderburgh. Her performance also included earning six of eight test wins along the way. 

A former gymnast, Clarke said she was most proud of the fact that she won the Olympic Total event, as lifting is one area of her game she doesn’t feel has traditionally been as strong as the others. 

As she finished the final test of the week, the strongest emotion she felt was “utter relief,” Clarke said, as she had put a lot of pressure on herself to win again, not necessarily for her sake, but for the sake of those who had been part of her journey.

  • “We did it. This team did it. There were a lot of people helping me get there. So it was an absolute relief,” said Clarke, who works full-time as an audiologist.

Since returning home, the relief has turned to joy and she has been able to appreciate what she accomplished two weeks ago in Madison, WI: She became only the second person in history—after Tia-Clair Toomey—to win six individual titles, a comparison Clarke is too humble to accept.

  • “The masters group is an extraordinary group, but we’re a different animal to the elites. Does it put a smile on my face when someone puts (me and Toomey) together? Yes. It’s very sweet and makes me feel happy, but it’s also a little embarrassing,” she said.

Further, for Clarke, competing at the age of 64 is less about winning the title and more about the enjoyment of fitness.

  • “I’m so incredibly grateful that I get to do this, that my body lets me do this. For me working out is the high point of the day. This is what I love to do,” she said. 

It’s a love she doesn’t think will ever die, and a love that is allowing her to continue to improve physically in her 60s. 

  • “I’m still learning new skills,” Clarke said, adding that her all-time strength numbers are still pretty much the same, even after 10 years in the sport.

After her win, Clarke wasted no time getting back to learning new skills. She took three days off to watch the individuals in Madison, and returned to regular training the following Tuesday. Not because she needed to, but because there’s nothing else she’d rather do. 

The big picture: Is six titles enough for Clarke, or will she be back to compete in the 65-plus division next season?

  • “I’m not going to say anything this time,” she said, laughing. “I learned my lesson last time.”

Regardless of whether or not she goes for her seventh title in 2024, Clarke will continue to CrossFit, because it’s about so much more than the Games.

  • “It’s so inspirational to watch the elites, but the main focus is to get people to move, to be healthy, to improve your lifestyle, to increase your lifespan. That’s pretty major. And if we can influence that, if we can inspire someone to do that, then we’re really lucky,” she said.

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