"The guys who I'm competing against are my inspiration day in and day out."
Qualifying for the Games when he was just 20 years old, Brandon Swan, former rugby player and owner of CrossFit Western Front finished in third place at the Australia Regional. We chatted with Swan the week before the 2012 competition commenced. Here’s what he had to say about his performances at the Open and Regionals, his goals and game plan going into the Games, and his inspiration (and secret weapons).
Q: What were your expectations going into this year’s Open and Regionals?
Last year – my first major competition – I finished 10th in the Open and 31st in the Australia Regional. I was 19 years old, and with all the adrenaline I burned myself out after the first couple of events. So over the last year, I was really working on my strength, trying to get a lot stronger.
And so, going into the Open this year, I wanted to get in the top 10 again. I trained as I usually do, and I just threw the Open workouts on top of my training. I ended up placing second in the region, 44th in the world. That was a surprise, but then I knew from last year, the Open arena and the Regional arena are very different.
So going into Regionals, I didn’t get my hopes up. I was going to be happy with a top 10 placing. I went down there, I made sure I was calm, and I kept my head in it all weekend. I didn’t talk to too many people, and I just tried to stay relaxed and, above all, I made sure that I set reasonable goals and focused on each workout and not the end result.
My goal was to place in the top 10 in each workout and see where that would get me. And obviously I ended up placing in third quite comfortably.
Q: During the Open and Regionals, what were your strengths and weaknesses?
I’m pretty good with the barbell and I like to consider myself a well-rounded CrossFitter. I’m not overly outstanding at any one thing, but I think I’m pretty consistent and I work hard at trying to eliminate my weaknesses.
I had a knee injury earlier in the year. Workout 12.3 in the Open was by far the toughest for me; I struggled a lot with the box jumps. I wound up having to step down because jumping down off the boxes was giving me way too much pain. But I managed that and gradually improved going into Regionals.
In Regionals, I was most worried about Workout 4, just because it was longer and had a lot of pull-up volume. But, that was my best result out of the weekend, which means I’ve been targeting my weaknesses well.
I’m very aware there are things I need to work on and I need to improve. That’s just going to come with training age and it’s going to come with more time in the sport. I don’t have a particularly outstanding snatch or C&J like Aja Barto, or 100 pull-ups like Chris Spealler, but I like to think I’m fairly consistent.
Q: How have you prepped for the Games?
For the first time, I’ve taken on a coach, Rudy Nielsen of Outlaw CrossFit. I’ve been doing Outlaw programming as well as targeting my weaknesses, and I’ve found that’s been really good for me. My snatch has improved by 8 kg since Regionals. I had a 102 kg PR that I equaled at Regionals in the Snatch Ladder, but just last week, I hit 110 kilos. So that’s improved, my C&J has improved and my overhead squat has improved without even overhead squatting.
I’ve also been working on a lot more abstract gymnastics, like handstand walking, overhead pistol squats, muscle-up handstands, just to try some weird things we haven’t seen before that may come up. Yesterday I set up an obstacle course in the gym to work on movements like jumping over things and climbing things. I’ve also been swimming and road biking, too.
This is the time of year when you really want to hone those skills that you don’t usually test because you know the Games are going to throw a curve ball.
Q: What are your goals for the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games?
I want to do well. You can’t go into a competition like this without wanting to do well, without wanting to win. First and foremost, I want to have fun this year. I don’t want to get overwhelmed.
I’d love to make it to the final day this year. If I’m as well rounded as I think I am, and if the workouts fall the right way, then I’d love to make it to the final day and be there on Day 3 in the stadium with all the fans.
It’s all very surreal to me. Jason Khalipa, Rich Froning and Ben Smith, these guys have been my heroes for the past 18 months. These are the guys I’ve watched YouTube videos of day in and day out, and it hasn’t sunk in that I’m going to be actually competing with them. I need to block out that fact and have a lot of fun.
Q: Do you have a game plan?
My strategy is to do all the little things right outside the event – so making sure that meals are prepared, making sure I’m recovering properly, making sure I’m icing, making sure I’m rolling out and stretching. And not letting the event get the better of me.
When you’re out there and it’s time to move, you just have to go for it. Strategy isn’t going to come into play really too much. You’ve done the movements before, so you should be well prepared. When it’s time to do the workout, you know what to do. Strategy for me is going to rely on what I do outside the workouts.
Q: What’s your secret weapon?
A lot of almond butter and a lot of bacon. It’s my secret power food.
Q: Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
The guys who I’m competing against are my inspiration day in and day out.
Competing against Pat Barber in last year’s Regionals side by side was my biggest inspiration. I have a photo of Pat from Regionals last year in my office at work, and I walk past that every day. It’s the moment where he knew he knew he was going to the Games. He’s got a snatch bar overhead from the Amanda workout, and he’s screaming. We got a snapshot of that. I walk past that every day, and it’s been my biggest inspiration to get there.
But just watching the performances of guys like Khalipa and Froning, just crushing things like a 100 kilo Grace, I look at that and I know I can do it, I want to do it, and it’s a long road and it’s sometimes very tiring and it seems like I’m never going to get there. But watching those guys and knowing I have the capability to be there and do that is my inspiration.
Q: What do you do for fun?
CrossFit! I haven’t had a day where I haven’t completely enjoyed myself. There are those days when you get frustrated in the gym, but I haven’t had a day of CrossFit where I haven’t had a lot of fun with it. I run an affiliate, but I don’t really consider it a job. But aside from that, spending quality time with family and my partner, Cassie. Try to relax, and that’s about it.
Q: Any final words for the CrossFit community?
Come and say hi! I’m going to try and have as much fun as possible, and I’m going to make sure this is the first of many years at the Games for me.