Samuel Kwant’s rise through the CrossFit ranks might look impressive to an outsider, from 13th to the final, but the American is not resting on his laurels. As he heads into the five-athlete final of the CrossFit Games 2020, Kwant will settle for nothing less than third.

“This year I’m gunning for a podium spot. Whether that’s first, whether that’s third, I’ll be satisfied. Then next year, I’m gunning for that first place spot,” Kwant, 24, said. “That’s not to say I’m not gunning for it this year, but I’ll be satisfied with third and the year after I’m coming for that top spot.”

The Games has been broken into two legs this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The first leg, which finished on September 20, was competed between 30 men and 30 women. The top five of each have earned a spot at the in-person finals on October 19-25, in Aromas, California, the site of the original Games.

Kwant finished 13th at last year’s Games.

“I had a little bit of a goal shift when they announced it would be online and the top five would go through,” Kwant said. “Previously, I was targeting top eight. I know that sounds weird, as it would make more sense to do top 10, but top 10 did not sound good enough after 13th last year. So I changed my goal to top five.”

It came as no surprise to him that he made the final, but it was touch and go towards the end. With one round to go, Kwant was in fourth. As the athletes were spread out over the world, they completed their workouts and then had to wait for the announcement to hear how they’d done.

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“That point was definitely interesting,” Kwant said. “If you’re going against athletes, if you’re in the lead by a good margin, you’re not going to kill yourself, so you can save something for the next workout. But online, you have no idea where everyone else is, so you are 100 per cent the whole time.

“The only frustrating part was being done with the events and then I’d have to wait for two hours to hear how everyone else had done, which wasn’t even that long compared to some other athletes.”

“I’d spend my time with my family, my wife, playing cards, chilling. I was just trying to keep my mind of it,” he said. “Apart from the last announcement, when we just waited for the news.

“It would have been a lot worse, but I knew I was fourth in the last event so it was mine to lose,” Kwant said. “It should have been a good event for me and it was. I knew I’d done well. I wasn’t as nervous. I was super excited, I kept it in pretty well, but I was stoked. I keep my emotions pretty close.”

After the stress of the workouts and the competition, Kwant took a few days to recover but the final (starting on October 19) is looming large.

“I gave everything and my body and central nervous system were fried. And to go from that and know that after a couple of days you have to get back on it to compete again in a few weeks. I took a week, not off, but lighter intensity and volume. It’s just rest that is going to get you back and help you recover.

“But every day I go in and think I want that podium spot and that’s what drives me,” he said.

Kwant made his CrossFit Games debut in 2016, and despite his youth and inexperience he came 16th. He overworked his body, injured his back and then damaged his meniscus when compensating, so hobbled through the 2017 Games but still managed 20th. With surgery in 2018, he took a year off.

“I fully recovered for the 2019 Games, but I did not quite have a full year. But I came 13th. I had full year of training, a new coach, who is great and so much easier on my body, leading up to the 2020 season, so I expected a top five finish,” he said.

“I’d have a tonne of stress going into events. Every year, it’s got a little better. It’s a case of experience and managing it. I was just using energy on stress when I could be using that energy on the next event. I do everything to improve my performance and that’s just one little thing I can do that adds up.”