Sam Kwant Reveals Years Long Battle with Chronic Illness, Explains his Disappointing Showing at the MACC

June 1, 2021 by
Enjoying Morning Chalk Up? Access additional exclusive interviews, analyses, and stories with an Rx membership.

While the biggest question fans were asking last weekend at the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge in Knoxville, TN was “Who is Jayson Hopper,” the second most asked question might just have been, “What happened to Sam Kwant?”

Remind me: Kwant, last year’s second fittest man in the world, was a clear cut favorite heading into the MACC. More recently, he placed a solid 16th overall in Quarterfinals, suggesting he was nearly a shoe-in to qualify to Madison, WI this summer.

Last weekend’s details: To those who have watched Kwant compete since he first qualified to the CrossFit Games in 2016, it was easy to see he didn’t look like himself.

  • His best two events were the first two on Day 1, where he placed 10th and 8th respectively, but after that Kwant — who ended up 14th overall — was never really even in contention to qualify.
  • It was hard not to speculate what was going on: “Maybe his priorities have shifted since becoming a dad last year?” Or, “Maybe his move to Boston this season to train with the CompTrain crew and his coach Harry Palley wasn’t the best move, after all.”
Credit: Sam Kwant:

Kwant reveals: The day after the competition ended, Kwant took to social media and revealed he has been suffering from chronic illness for years, has been experiencing breathing problems lately, and even wound up in the hospital when he arrived in Tennessee.

  • “This weekend didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. I know that many people have been asking why and as hard as it may be, I do feel like I owe an explanation,” he said.
  • In a follow up interview with the Morning Chalk Up, Kwant elaborated that his chronic symptoms that started in 2017 include extreme fatigue, weight fluctuations and stomach pain “that gets worse during competition,” he said, adding that they vary in intensity. “The flair ups come without any apparent cause and have been a pretty big hurdle for me over the past five years,” he said.
  • “Chronic illness can be very difficult to properly diagnose and treat, which is why I have had difficulty identifying the issue,” he added.
  • To make matters worse, the breathing problems Kwant started having recently during training and after have frequently led to “coughing fits and feeling tightness in my chest,” he said. And then, when he got to Tennessee last week, Kwant broke into “pretty severe” hives that landed him in urgent care just two days before the competition.
  • Kwant said he debated withdrawing from the competition each day, but didn’t want to go down without a fight, and seeing as he has been dealing with these health issues for years, he figured he could still perform, he explained.
  • Since last weekend, Kwant said he’s still battling with hives and has been having a hard time sleeping. “I’m hoping they will fade in a few days…Other than that I am feeling OK,” he said. 

One big thing: Kwant is already starting to see not qualifying to the Games as an opportunity to heal. 

  • “As my coach Harry Palley has said to me, this may have been the best thing that could have happened to allow me some real time to heal rather than pushing through another season not feeling my best. If I can take some time to really focus on resolving this I can come back stronger than ever and finally be able to perform to my potential,” said Kwant, who hid his symptoms, even from his coach, for a long time because he hates excuses. “However, I’ve realized that I’ve been holding myself back from my true potential for years by not fully acknowledging this,” he said. 
  • Kwant added: “I think the fact that I did so poorly made it clear that I have been fighting through this for long enough and it’s time to finally do something about it.”

The big picture: Kwant will be taking some time off to work with specialists and get some answers to his ailments, and he’s hopeful he’ll get back in top shape soon.

  • “I turned 25 at the end of January, so I have lots of prime years left to get out there and show people what I’m capable of. Hoping for a year of recovery followed by a strong comeback,” he said. 

Get the Newsletter

For a daily digest of all things CrossFit. Community, Competitions, Athletes, Tips, Recipes, Deals and more.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.