He qualified from the CrossFit Games at the age of 19, and as a teenaged rookie, placed an impressive 16th. Since then, he has quietly logged two more top 20 finishes at the Games.
With a sparkling resume to his name, it shouldn’t be a surprise that 24-year-old Sam Kwant placed fourth in Stage one of the 2020 Games and qualified for the Finals in the Aromas, CA to be held from October 19-25. Yet, it kind of felt like it was.
One big thing: Kwant has been consistently overlooked throughout his career.
- In an interview with the Morning Chalk Up, Kwant mentioned he “didn’t have a great season” in 2017. He was suffering from both a back injury and knee injury, which eventually required surgery.
- However, even injured, not only did Kwant still qualify for the Games, he managed a top 20 finish. The following year, he was sidelined post-surgery, but proved himself to be on the rise in 2019 when he came back and placed 13th at the Games.
One more big thing: Five months ago, Kwant’s wife Alyse Kwant gave birth to their first child, a boy named Layton. Since his wife works, Kwant, who is a full-time athlete, has had the extra responsibility of caring for his baby.
- “It’s just a lot more stress. I think it’s harder watching him than it is training sometimes,” Kwant said. “But most of the time, he’s pretty good.” Luckily, Kwant trains at his home gym located in his parents’ workshop in Mt Vernon, WA, so he has been able to train largely uninterrupted, as his mom or sister looks after Layton, he explained.
Kwant’s stage one weekend: When he thought the Games were going to be held in Madison, WI, Kwant’s goal was top 8, “because top 10 didn’t sound good enough,” he said.
- “But when it was announced that only the top five would move on (from the online competition) then I changed my goal to top five,” he explained.
After day one, Kwant sat outside the top five in 13th place, but was not perturbed.
- “I honestly wasn’t too bummed because I knew the first day wasn’t going to be that great for me, and that day two would be a lot better,” he said.
He began the second day with Nasty Nancy, which helped him climb a bit into 12th overall. Then it came time for the Handstand Hold event, which he was “the most nervous for,” he said
- “I’m not a gymnast, and handstands have been something I have been working on, but not so much handstand holds,” he said. After logging two handstands over one minute long each, he kicked up at 18:07 for one last attempt and managed to pull off a one minute and thirty two second handstand, good enough for third place, his highest placing event of the entire weekend (he was also third on the 1,000 meter row).
- “I didn’t think it would be in the top three. I was hopeful it would be top 15, but I guess it was good enough. I do a lot of handstand push-up work, so my shoulders are strong and I guess it translated…My forearms were burning more than anything else,” he added.
Being in the pacific time zone meant Kwant watched himself jump from 12th to fourth on the leaderboard heading into the final event. He knew Awful Annie would be a great event for him and that it was his to lose, “but I also knew it would also be a good event for Chandler (Smith) and (Jeff) Adler),” he said.
- With the pressure on Kwant to maintain his position, he admitted it “was nerve-racking for sure…but I just went all gas, no brakes. ‘Just don’t slow down,’ I told myself. And that’s what I did, so at the end I didn’t feel like I could have done anything else,” he said.
The moment: After competing all weekend at his parents’ workshop, Kwant and a group of 15 supporters gathered around to watch the CrossFit Games Live Update Show.
- When it came on the screen that Kwant had done it, “I had a bucket of water dumped on my head and whipped cream,” he laughed. “It made for a pretty cool experience.”
The Finals: Kwant is clear about his expectations heading into the CrossFit Games Finals: Get to the podium. And if you’re a gambler, he would certainly be a wise bet.
Not only does his resume bode well for Kwant’s ability to step up at the Games, he has also been working with a new coach in the last year-and-a-half — CompTrain’s Harry Palley –who has made a big difference, he said. In the past, Kwant often crushed himself with each workout. Palley has helped him work smarter, instead of harder, Kwant explained.
- “My programming has changed a lot and it has been so much easier on my nervous system,” Kwant said. “And just having a coach to talk to before and after events has helped a lot too.”
Regardless of whether he finished on the podium at the Finals, Kwant said he’s also looking forward to the experience.
- “I’m just super excited about there only being five men and five women. I think it’ll mean they can do a lot of different things they haven’t been able to do before. So I’m really looking forward to seeing what they have in store for us,” he said.
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