"It's all about the fun. Never take yourself too seriously. Give it everything you've got, but never forget to have fun."
Gian Smit is no stranger to the South African CrossFit community. The 22-year-old personal trainer and aspiring helicopter pilot began CrossFit in 2011 at CrossFit PBM in Pretoria. He placed sixth overall in the 2012 Open, and then went on to an eighth-place finish at Regionals.
“The Open was great fun. The burpee (workout) was my favorite,” he says.
However, Regionals were a vastly different experience for the young athlete.
“Regionals were very difficult because it was the first time I had to deal with such heavy loads in a workout. It was murder on my back, which really slowed me down a lot,” he recalls. “I felt that I did not perform to the best of my ability at all, and was quite disappointed with my performance at the 2012 Regionals. But I soon made peace with it, and got my head into fun mode for 2013.”
Smit says his main weakness in 2012 was the heavy lifts, like the 100 kg hang cleans in one of the Regional events. He sought the help of South African Olympic Weightlifting coach, Andrew Anthony, and has been training under him since October 2012. Smit discovered a new passion in Olympic lifting and has been focused almost solely on weightlifting since October.
“I was so focused on weightlifting that I only really started preparing for the Open in February. My main goal this year is to qualify for the South African Weightlifting team, so I have been very focused on that,” he says. “I have a different perspective on the Open this year. I am using it as a tool to get fit and to push myself harder and further. I do two training sessions a day now, a weightlifting session and a CrossFit session. Of course, I am still going to give the Open everything I’ve got to see how far I can go.”
Smit’s progress since the weightlifting focus has seen him gain some impressive stats. He came first in his division at a local weightlifting event hosted by BST CrossFit in December 2012 by successfully lifting a 103-kg snatch and 137-kg clean and jerk. Based on the Sinclair comparative formula, he was also named Best Lifter at the event.
Smit’s strengths go beyond the Olympic lifts. In February, he came first in the Junior Division at the South African Raw Powerlifting Championships and also qualified for the World Championships in Russia later this year. Without actually training any of the lifts, he managed an impressive 195-kg squat, 135-kg bench press and a 245-kg deadlift.
His met-con abilities are equally impressive. Most notably, he boasts a 2:37 King Kong time.
Coach and training partner Mark Lubbe says Smit has many years of competition ahead of him.
“He is exceptionally talented. He is also still very young so I look forward to seeing how far he will go with the amount of raw physical ability he has,” Lubbe says. “If he can keep his cool and stay consistent, he should do very well this year.”
As for Smit, “It’s all about the fun,” he says. “Never take yourself too seriously. Give it everything you’ve got, but never forget to have fun.”
Smit placed fourth on Open Workout 13.1 with 167 reps. As long as he keeps having fun, he may have a shot at a top three finish in the Open this year.