"I don't want to have a competition that is made for me. I'll do whatever comes. If you are going to beat the best, you need to be good at everything."
Lukas Högberg is ready to compete with the fittest men on Earth. In this year’s Open, he took second in Europe, behind 2010 champion Mikko Salo, and ahead of a host of other veteran Games competitors including Frederik Aegidius, Numi Katrinarson and Mikko Aronpää.
He finished in the top 100 worldwide on all but one Open workout. At the end of the five-week competition, he settled into 13th place worldwide.
Högberg is used to fighting through discomfort. Before CrossFit, he participated in various martial arts. He started in kung fu, and worked through boxing, Muay Thai and MMA before eventually returning to boxing.
He discovered CrossFit through boxing in 2011.
“After my first workout, I was struck. I just fell in love with it,” he says. “I quickly realized that this was something I really wanted to do. I wanted to be the best in this sport.”
Just one year into CrossFit, he participated in the 2012 Open and ended up advancing to the Europe Regional, surprising himself along the way.
“I had very little prep for the Regional. There was never any direct training for it. But when the WODS were released, me and my training buddy Julia Carlsson did them together, and tried to find how to make it all work.”
Diane was the first Regional Event that year. It was a battle for him.
“My handstand push-ups were so bad, I had zero technique. I did not have a gymnastics coach, so I’d become stuck with the technique. The deadlifts were never a problem.”
Still, he fought his way through. Never believing he would make it to the final event, he only practiced the earlier workouts. However, after the Snatch Ladder, he found himself in the final, where he would face muscle-ups and toes-to-bars.
“The final event in the 2012 Europe Regional was very difficult for me. Again, this was down to my gymnastics. I had incredibly bad skills in the gymnastics elements,” Högberg says.
Still, he took eighth place at the end of the weekend.
Knowing he needed help with gymnastics, he accepted an invitation to attend a training camp at CrossFit Thames in London. Carl Paoli, Chad Vaughn and Jami Tikkanen were on hand at the event to help athletes improve their skills.
“There I received great help from all these three amazing coaches. Especially gymnastics coach Carl Paoli,” Högberg says. “The most difficult part for me is knowing exactly how to perform the skills. I find it is usually my technique that limits me, not my physique. So I have to work hard on skills in all areas. This is what will make me a better athlete.”
He has not let up on his desire to be the best. Having trained and worked as a sailor, he has made CrossFit his whole life, pushing old hobbies like hunting, fishing and diving to the side for now.
“I will do everything I can to try to win it one day … it is my great dream, and if one does not dare to go all the way, then one will never be able to become the best at something,” Högberg says about his aspirations to go to the Games.
His parents are exceptionally supportive, Högberg says.
"I have really good parents who let me stay at home even though I am 22 years old. I also saved up money so I can live like this for a while.”
He believes that if he puts in the work, he can make a living as a CrossFit athlete.
A typical training day is an all-day endeavour for Högberg.
"Usually it’s strength or technique in mornings. Then my training partner Rikard Lanner and I eat and then nap. Six hours later, we hit some WODs. I love it," he says.
“I exercise at several boxes because it’s good to have variety. You learn a lot by training with many talented people. I have become a better athlete through it. When you spend most of your time at one box, it’s so easy to tire of it.”
He adds: "I think my strength is that I'm having fun, and my weakness is that I want to be the best in everything before I even know anything about it.”
He’s hoping the 2013 Regional Events will challenge him, and not play to his strengths.
"I don't want to have a competition that is made for me. I'll do whatever comes. If you are going to beat the best, you need to be good at everything. But of course, there are movements and workouts that I'm better at and I will always do my best,” he says.
While he relishes the challenge, he wants to end up on the podium.
"The only thing I need to focus on right now and at the Regionals is to feel good, have a lot of fun and work hard. And if this goes how I have planned, I will be at the Games."