With a fourth-place finish at the 2013 Australia Regional, Matt Healey's sights were firmly set on stepping up to the regional podium and earning a place at the CrossFit Games in 2014.
Then, a knee injury forced him to make the difficult decision to not compete in this year's Open.
Just two months ago, the coach and co-owner of CrossFit Cronulla was diagnosed with a tear in the tendon that runs from his right quadricep into his knee.
"The sports doctor and the physio said I'd probably be able to get through the Open if I could just deal with a bit of pain and that type of thing, but then they said I wouldn't be able to train too hard for regionals," Healey said.
"I basically decided that I'd give it a rest this year. I came fourth last year. I didn't really want to just go into regionals having not prepared and (not) been training at 100 percent, so I thought being 23, I'd just have the year off and try and fix my knees and do a lot of rehab and get stronger that way."
The cause of the injury is unknown. Healey suffered from tendonitis in his other knee during 2013 and it was suggested that his current injury might be due to compensation. His doctor also suggested Healey’s tendons may not be as strong as his surrounding muscles, creating the tear.
"It's one of those things that's got to heal itself depending on how lucky you are and how much rehab you do. So they said it could be a couple of months, it could be six months. It just depends," Healey said.
"I'm just trying to work on my mobility and just do a lot of the rehab exercises and hopefully I'm just lucky with how it heals," he added.
Although Healey is confident he’s made a smart choice by putting his body first, he admits the decision has taken its toll mentally.
"I'm generally a really happy person, and I was probably in the worst mood I have been for a while just because I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to compete or not," he said. "I had people saying 'You'll be alright' and that sort of thing ... 'Just push through it.' And then I'd see the physio or the doctor and they said, 'You're not going to be able to train too hard,' so I was kind of in two minds."
"That was playing with my head a little bit, and obviously seeing people you compete against doing well and making gains and I was barely doing any training or squatting at all, so it was a little bit frustrating," he added. "So as soon as I made a 100 percent decision, (I felt better). I feel a bit better now and I suppose it's kind of a different goal. I've got to just work towards getting it better for next year now."
Although he is known for his sense of humor (Healey captured the attention of the Australia Region last year when he arrived for the Overhead Squat and Burpee/Muscle-up events in a weightlifting singlet), he delivers results when it matters. Healey claimed second place in the Burpee/Muscle-up Event and didn’t finish outside the top 20 in any event at the 2013 Australia Regional.
Healey’s solid results have grown his public profile over the past year, but he said it hasn’t impacted his performance.
"It doesn't worry me too much. I guess it's just a little bit more pressure but I don't mind it,” Healey said. “It gives you a bit more of an adrenalin rush, that type of thing, but once the clock starts, it's just about what you can do. It doesn't really matter if anyone else is there or not."
Despite his injury, Healey still has a lot to focus on during the Open with CrossFit Cronulla fielding one of the largest teams in the Australia Region.
"The guy I work with, Nick Evans, was really enthusiastic, so he took the time to get everyone at the gym involved and just explained that they'd be doing the workout anyway during that time so they may as well sign up and see where they're at," Healey said.
"It's going pretty good,” he continued. “I think we've got about 75 approximately that are registered, so the classes are pretty busy when we run the Open workouts."
In addition to developing a new training template around his injury, Healey has spent a lot of time over the past couple of weeks judging.
"It's good to get involved and see other people improving and having a go," he said.
While he won’t be competing at the 2014 Australia Regional, Healey says he will make the trip to Wollongong in May as a spectator.
"I'll come down and have a look. It will be hard to watch but I'll be down there, definitely," he said. "Hopefully I've got the opportunity to coach a couple of people (with the potential to make) it down there so ... that would be good to watch them."
Healey said the podium finishers from last year (Rob Forte, Chad Mackay and Brandon Swan) will be dominant male competitors again, but believes there will be a few new names breathing down their necks.
"Those guys are definitely hard to beat, but this year, having Ben Garard back and Khan Porter ... guys like that ... I guess it just depends on the workouts that come out," Healey said.
Although the next few months will be difficult for Healey, spectating as he focuses on training and recovery, he’s adamant he made the right decision and holds no regrets in 2014.
"Like I said, you get carried away with what other people are doing but you've got to understand your own body ... worry about that.”