CrossFit Games

The Curious Case Of Samuel Kwant

November 4, 2020 by
Photo Credit: CrossFit LLC
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Samuel Kwant is the 2nd fittest man on the planet.

Not Noah Ohlsen, not Patrick Vellner, nor any of the previous runner-ups to Mat Fraser during his now five year reign at the top. 

Let’s be very clear on this, that is not a dig at any of those athletes whatsoever, but given the choice prior to stage one of the CrossFit Games and money on the line, 99.9% of the community would have chosen one of those athletes over Kwant to take home the silver medal. 

For that reason, Kwant deserves all the credit in the world for putting in the work and adapting to the environment in front of him en route to his rightful place on the podium. Considering that a global pandemic forced nearly every athlete outside of their comfort zones, and Kwant and his wife welcomed their first child in April, casual fans would understandably overlook him as a podium threat. In fact, we were the only major media outlet (that we’re aware of) that mentioned him as a threat for the final five. 

So how did everyone else miss him?

Run it back: Kwant initially burst onto the scene in 2016, qualifying out of the West Regional at just 20 years old, and he would go on to finish a respectable 16th place overall behind four top-10 event finishes at the Games final year in Carson, California.

  • Good company: By winning the Double DT event, Kwant joined the likes Annie Thorisdottir as the only other athlete in CrossFit Games history to win an event in their rookie year before their 21st birthday. 

Sophomore slump: A year later Kwant qualified for and entered the 2017 CrossFit Games as part of the conversation of new athletes that could crack the top-10 overall in the Games inaugural year in Madison, WI. Unbeknownst to most, he was dealing with knee and back injuries throughout and despite strong finishes in the 1RM Snatch, Strongman’s Fear, and 2223 Intervals, his overall placing on the leaderboard slipped down to 20th. 

  • Kwant: “The off-season for 2017 was awesome. I think I was the fittest I have ever been but then about 3 weeks before regionals I hurt my back. Got through regionals. Then due to compensating from my back injury I hurt my knee training for the Games so obviously the 2017 games didn’t go as well as I wanted.”

Following the 2017 season, Kwant managed to grit through the Open and qualify for Regionals despite the lingering issues with his back and knee. Unfortunately in the lead up to the West Coast Regional, Kwant opted for knee surgery to fix his injury, cutting his 2018 season short. 

  • Kwant on the injury: “Rehab definitely took longer than I hoped it would. I think I started feeling back to 100% around the open in 2019.”

Kwant came back strong in 2019 by earning his invite straight out of the gates with a 19th place finish worldwide, then in his only Sanctionals appearance to date he finished 2nd overall at the 2019 Mid-Atlantic CrossFIt Challenge.

  • At the Games, a healthy Kwant had a then career best finish of 13th, just narrowly missing the cut for the top-10 along with the chance for more time to shine in a heavily adjusted CrossFit Games format that only saw 10 men finish out the second half of the competition. 
  • Kwant: “Going into the 2019 games I knew I was pretty prepared but also knew I had only had 6 months of really good training after taking 2018 off, so I knew it was just a step in my comeback.”
  • Just a few months later, Kwant earned his fourth appearance at the CrossFit Games via the 2020 Open, finishing 13th, but then wasn’t able to step foot onto the competition floor again for over 10 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Let’s recap shall we: A promising rookie enters the eye of the community after a noteworthy event win, but then regresses in his second year due to injuries kept from the public eye, and before the community can physically watch him compete the following year, he goes under the knife to fix an injury that keeps him out of the public eye longer during a year of competition at the Games where attention and coverage was at a fever pitch. 

  • Then in his comeback year, we get a glimpse of what’s to come at Sanctionals, but the collective focus is spread amongst a new season format that the community is learning to navigate on the fly. Then on the biggest stage, an otherwise impressive placing at the halfway point that would set him up for a push into the top-10 by weekend’s end is literally cut short by an unprecedented trimming of the field that was shrouded in controversy. 

Translation: This was a recipe for attention to be diverted away from an athlete like Samuel Kwant, who doesn’t necessarily pine for the spotlight, but quietly and determinately put in the work to put himself back on track in stage one for the podium goal he set for himself as a 15 year-old high schooler.

  • Kwant: “I definitely felt fit and ready to go for stage one. I had a great coach in my corner helping me and was ready to show everyone how much progress I had made.”
  • “(In stage two) Honestly the whole time I expected I would get on the podium but I would say after day two of the games I knew I could get on the podium, I just had to hang in there.”

The bottom line: Now that he’s accomplished that goal, no one will underestimate him again, but it’s important to understand the journey that brought him to the title of 2nd fittest man on earth, and as fans of the sport, hopefully it reminds us to expand our scope of view when looking for the next generation of podium stars that are inevitably on the horizon. 

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