Brothers, Richard and Jason Smith, placed second and fifth, respectively, in the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open. Both will be serious competitors at this year’s Africa Regional.
At CrossFit Kyalami, the brothers are business partners and training partners. They have been competing in sport since their youth, from playing club football to competing nationally and internationally in motocross. Richard also competed in Muay Thai for three years.
Richard introduced Jason to CrossFit in 2008.
“I loved CrossFit from the very first workout I did,” Jason says. “It challenged me in every aspect and made me work harder than I ever have.”
Richard initially started CrossFit to condition for fighting, but after competing in his first Regional competition, he was hooked.
“I only recently started taking it seriously with a view of competing at the top level,” he says.
Jason says competing together and against each other from a young age has kept them very close.
“Training in CrossFit together is awesome. I push myself as hard as I can, and then we both push each other as much as possible,” Jason says.
Richard adds: “My brother and I are extremely competitive with each other, and I think that is why we make such good training partners. But as competitive as we are, we support each other even more.”
In 2012, Jason finished second in the Open and fourth at Regionals. Recently, however, he has battled injury and illness. In 2004, a traumatic motocross accident resulted in a lacerated liver and loss of a kidney. In September of 2012, scar tissue from the kidney operation caused his intestines to knot up, stopping anything from passing through his system. He was in the hospital for four weeks on a water-only diet. When he came out, he had lost 37 pounds.
“It wasn’t long until I started training again, but losing so much weight and strength really set me back,” he says.
Early this year, Jason suffered a back injury and was out of training yet again. He still managed a first-place finish in 13.4 in the Africa Region.
“Open Workout 13.1 was the first workout I did (in 2013),” Jason admits. “I wasn’t even going to compete this year because of my back. But I thought I would enter and just have fun with it. And if I qualified for Regionals, I would go to have fun. My fitness picked up very quickly and I was surprised to have qualified as well as I did.”
Jason’s approach to the Regional competition this year is relaxed.
“I decided that this year … would be a year to enjoy competing, to get more experience in competition and have fun. My goal is to finish top five at Regionals, but to have fun doing it and not put too much pressure on myself.”
The older Smith is also expecting tough competition at the Africa Regional.
“The events are well varied — there are short sprints, long endurance workouts and a technical strength ladder. If you have a weakness, it will definitely be exposed,” Richard says. “For me, rope climbs will be a focus until Regionals because I have never really trained them.”
Richard says he was surprised and pleased with his second-place finish in the Open.
“I had been following a strength-focused program and carried on with that throughout the Open. I had done practically no (metabolic) conditioning,” he admits. “One of the most memorable moments of the Open for me was the return of the wall ball/double-under/muscle-up workout. I got my fastest time for 150 wall balls (6:18), and that was the one moment I realized I am ready for this competition.”
Due to his dedicated strength training, Richard has made significant gains since last year. His snatch has improved from 70 kg (154 pounds) to 95 kg (209 pounds), his clean and jerk from 100 kg (220 pounds) to 125 kg (275 pounds) and his deadlift from 180 kg (397 pounds) to 210 kg (463 pounds). Richard says his benchmark scores have improved concomitantly.
“I am very excited for Regionals,” Richard says. “My goal is to win. I have been working hard for it, and I believe that it’s possible. I feel like I have a good balance between the strength and gymnastics, so I am confident about the competition.”
He adds: “I think whoever walks away with the title will be the one who wants it the most. Whatever happens, Regionals are an amazing experience where the most elite athletes come together to compete, and I am just blessed to be a part of it all.”