Get to Know Samuel Kwant: The CrossFit Games Veteran-Rookie from the North West
By: Emily Beers
But as the big guns battled it out from the first snatch to the final rope climb, there was another man who quietly snuck his way into the mix. He wasn’t flashy, but he was was poised and consistent all weekend, and when the score were tallied, he discovered he had earned himself a CrossFit Games berth.
This man is 20-year-old Sam Kwant—the youngest man from any region who will be competing at the CrossFit Games this summer.
Kwant is so young, with so much potential, he admits he might not even have his full ‘man strength’ yet.
“I could feel that my body matured a lot between last year and this year—there was a big difference between 19 and 20,” said Kwant, who trains at Mt. Baker CrossFit in Washington with his training partners and coaches Kevin and Lindy Doyle. Kwant said the couple took him under their wing when he was just 16 years old.
“They’ve been with me every step of the way,” Kwant said.
32-year-old Doyle remembers when he and his wife first met Kwant.
“We would always see this skinny kid working really hard on his lifts on the platforms—(which were) wobbly sheets of plywood haphazardly thrown together,” Doyle said.
Pretty soon, Doyle realized the skinny kid had serious talent.
“Fast forward to the 2013 Open. I’m by no means a cutthroat competitor; however, I do remember thinking, ‘What the F?’ How is this 16 year-old kid getting the same scores as me on all of these Open workouts?’” Doyle said. “It was at that point that we kindled a special relationship. We immediately started training together daily, and nothing has changed since.”
Nothing has changed, except the fact that Doyle and his wife now act as Kwant’s coaches, too, which Doyle said has been an incredibly easy task.
“When it comes to his training, Sam is like a killer robot just waiting for input; he’s all logic and execution when it comes to approaching a workout…If you tell him to go faster, his inner monologue doesn’t tell you to go F yourself. He’ll actually go faster and harder…it’s easy to coach someone like that,” said Doyle, adding that he’s confident his pupil can be on the podium at the CrossFit Games in the next five years.
“He’s at where he is and he’s only 20. He’s got years of good hormones and prime training to take advantage of,” Doyle said.
For now, being as young as he is means Kwant can handle serious volume.
“Yesterday, I was there from 9 a.m. until noon, and then went back from 3 until 6 p.m.,” Kwant said. “That was a longer day, though. Today it’ll be 2:30 until 6 p.m. And probably another four-and-a-half hours tomorrow.”
Being 20 means he recovers well, and it also means Kwant is still getting to know what he’s truly capable of. And sometimes he misses the mark, he said.
Kwant didn't event realize the final two events in Portland were in his wheelhouse, he admitted.
“I didn’t necessarily know those events were going to be good for me. I was nervous about the legless rope climbs because I usually do them with Cole (Sager), said Kwant, who trains with the Games veteran, Sager, once a week.
“When I do legless rope climbs with Cole, he always beats me, so I thought my legless rope climbs weren’t great,” Kwant added. (Little did Kwant know, the man he had been up against all year in training happens to be one of the best in the world at legless rope climbs. Sager boasted the third best score in the world on event 7, behind only Khan Porter of Australia and Spencer Hendel of the North East region).
Kwant did more than hold his own on the final event. He placed 4th.
Then it was time to wait.
“I don’t remember much about what happened right after event 7. I just remember thinking, ‘Why is it taking them so long to announce this?’” Kwant remembered.
When the announcement finally came, Kwant was on the list. It was official: He would be going to Carson.
Kwant said the reason he thinks he was able to break through and qualify to the Games this year is because of what was able to learn as a teenager, both in his rookie regionals year in 2014—the year he missed his high school graduation to compete at regionals—and in 2015—his second regionals experience.
“And I learned about what I needed to eat before events. I ate way too much last year before Tommy V and threw up everywhere after—a whole bunch of yogurt,” he said. “Now I know I need to eat light meals before competing.”
Another lesson he learned from 2014 and 2015 was the importance of letting go of disappointments and staying in the moment.
“One of the bigs things I’ve learned is that you just have to take it one event at a time. Literally. When you have one that doesn’t go well, you have to stop thinking about it,” he said.
He had to use this lesson after Day 1 in Portland, he said, when he was sitting in 14th place after a disappointing second event.
“I didn’t do very well on Nate, or at least not as well as I did in practice. My handstand push-ups blew up for some reason,” he said. “I was pretty bummed out after Nate.”
But he didn’t let the disappointment overtake him the way it might have last year or the year before, he said.
“My coaches did a really good job of keeping my spirits up, too, after Day 1,” he added.
It paid off. The following day, Kwant came back and earned two top 10 finishes. Suddenly, he was back in contention. More than in contention: Kwant was sitting in 5th place with two events to go.
“Then I knew I still had a shot,” Kwant said.
Nearly two months have passed since that weekend, and Kwant said he’s still partially in disbelief that he was able to put it all together when it really counted.
“In some ways, it still hasn’t really hit me yet. It’s scary in a sense, but exciting, too. Scary and exciting. I’m sure it will hit me when I get there,” he said.
Kwant has less than two weeks left to wait, when he makes his debut at his first CrossFit Games.
“First of many,” he said.