Ben Smith was 16 when he started CrossFit.
“He had no coach. He watched CrossFit videos,” said his dad, Chuck.
Smith, now 26, taught himself all the movements, including the Olympic lifts, and then taught his younger brothers, Alec and Dane.
“They’re just lucky. Lucky to have each other,” Chuck said from the sidelines of the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games Atlantic Regional. There, all three Smith brothers were competing.
The trio train together at CrossFit Krypton, Ben’s affiliate in Virginia.
If the workout is fast and lightweight, Dane will win. If it’s gymnastics heavy, Alec, a former gymnast, will take it.
“And anything else, Ben will beat us,” Alec said.
For all intents and purposes, Ben has been a coach to his siblings.
“Ben’s taught us everything. He’s been a really great help to me,” said 19-year-old Dane, the youngest of the three.
This is the teenager’s first regional competition. He said he hopes to finish in the top 10.
Although Dane admitted feeling nervous, he said having his brothers with him made him feel a bit more at ease. As for preparing for the events themselves, Dane noted he had a training advantage.
“Ben’s the fittest man on Earth, so it makes it easier,” he said with a smile.
As Chuck watched his youngest in Friday’s snatch-ladder event, he noted the former baseball player’s three labrum surgeries over the years.
“He’s gonna have a little bit of trouble with this one.”
Dane’s “a good kid,” he continued. “He’ll do well. He’ll do well for a while.”
Chuck added: “I tell ya what, he’s the fastest kid out there.”
After a quick pause, he smiled and said, “Alec might argue with that.”
This year marks Alec’s fourth regional competition; in 2014, he competed on CrossFit Krypton’s team.
Having both of his brothers at the regional with him has been “awesome,” he said on Saturday morning.
Because they haven’t been in the same heats, the Smith brothers have been able to watch each other during events. Among the three, attitudes have been supportive and “not super competitive,” Alec said. And there hasn’t been any brotherly ribbing.
“Not when it comes to CrossFit,” Alec said with a wide smile, “but with other stuff.”
Alec’s goal is to finish the weekend in the top five, qualifying for the Games alongside Ben.
“That would be really cool—to stand on the podium together.”
For Ben, Alec’s and Dane’s presence just makes things more fun.
“It’s what we do everyday,” he said as he casually sat in the athlete warm-up area before the men’s individual events had started on Day 1.
Ben started Day 2 in first place overall. He’s competed at the Games since 2009. Alec started the day in 13th place overall and Dane in 32nd place.
“It’s super exciting,” said the brothers’ mom, Kim.
She said she felt like her heart was beating out of her chest each time she watched one of her sons on the competition floor.
“I’ll have it back tomorrow,” she quipped on Friday afternoon, her hand on her chest.
Just like the Smiths, the Anderson brothers, too, find calm in familiarity.
“It’s pretty normal,” said 27-year-old ZA Anderson, shrugging. “We’ve been together our whole lives.”
He added: “I love having him here, for sure.”
A few feet away, his 23-year-old brother Jacob changed T-shirts after a fourth-place finish in Friday’s first event, the snatch ladder.
ZA finished 10th at the 2013 Games. He started Day 2 of the Atlantic Regional in 17th place overall, while Jacob started in third place overall. The two men train at different affiliates in Georgia. Their 26-year-old brother Alex, who will compete at the Central Regional next weekend, placed 13th at last year’s Games.
Despite the support system, Jacob said he felt more stress simply because of the pressure of competing.
“Before I go, I’m watchin’ the TV, scared about him,” he said, laughing.
Jacob continued: “As a brother, I’d rather him go (to the Games) than me.”