Chandler Smith’s first CrossFit Games Regional experience is also his rookie year as a competitor. And he thinks it’s awesome.
“The Vendor Village over there, it’s crazy. Everything’s crazy,” he said with a tone of disbelief and a jubilant smile while sitting on the floor of the athlete warm-up area at the Atlantic Regional.
When he arrived on Thursday at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta for the competition, he spotted Fittest Man on Earth Ben Smith with his two brothers, Alec and Dane, and father, Chuck. Chandler literally ran after them, introduced himself and asked to take a picture with the four of them.
“Promised myself I wouldn’t nerd out if I ran into the champ and the rest of the legendary Smith family. I lied,” read the caption that accompanied the Instagram picture he posted.
Once he got inside the center, Chandler Smith crossed paths with longtime CrossFit Inc. Seminar Staff member Chuck Carswell.
Smith was beside himself.
“Oh my God, Chuck Carswell,” he said he told him.
“Just call me ‘Chuck,'” Carswell replied.
Smith was sure the Head Judge thought he was nutty. The 22-year-old didn’t care.
“I’m the biggest CrossFit fanboy there is,” he said.
And at the start of Day 2, the 22-year-old was in fourth place overall—ahead of Games athletes such as Nathan Bramblett, Travis Mayer and 2016 Open winner Noah Ohlsen.
“I’m really having the time of my life,” he said.
This year marked the first that Smith competed in the entirety of the Open. He only recorded scores for three 2014 Open Workouts.
Smith grew up in Kansas and last year graduated from West Point, where he wrestled.
His dad, Cedric, was a running back for the Minnesota Vikings, the New Orleans Saints, the Washington Redskins and the Arizona Cardinals. Cedric went on to become a strength and conditioning coach for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans. In 2013, the NFL Strength and Conditioning Coaches named him coach of the year.
As Smith warmed up for Events 3 and 4 with sprint starts and karaoke, it was clear the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. At 5-foot-8 and 188 lb., his snatch is 282 lb., his clean and jerk is 345 lb., his back squat is 475 lb., his deadlift 605 lb. and he can do 61 pull-ups unbroken.
Smith is gifted, said his coach Perrin Behr.
“He’s easy to coach,” she said. “I’m monitoring his recovery and letting him be himself.”
As far as his goals for the weekend, Smith didn’t even think he’d make it this far. His list of “fitness goals” has a deadline of 2022, the year he expects to qualify for the Games.
Behr, however, has higher hopes after seeing Smith’s performance thus far.
“He thought the Games was impossible,” she said, adding that she thinks it’s well within reach.
“I really just want him to enjoy himself and be present.”
That was important on Event 3—104 wall-ball shots and 52 pull-ups—as he knew it would not be a good event for him.
While all the other men in his heat were chipping away at the pull-ups, Smith was on his final set of wall-ball shots. Only 4 reps remained. When he jumped up to the pull-up bar, Bramblett had already reached his finish mat. Smith ended the event in 23rd overall with a time of 5:16.86, but bounced back with a fifth-place finish in Event 4: 4 rounds of 28 pistols and 15 power cleans. He was in ninth place overall.
“He’ll do really well on Event 5,” Behr said afterward. “He’s just gotta run his own race.”
And so it was.
Event 5 called for 3 rounds of a 400-meter run, 40 GHD sit-ups and 7 deadlifts at 405 lb.
Smith crept up on early leaders Ohlsen and Ben Smith with snappy sit-ups and quick deadlifts, causing Ben Smith to run from the GHD machine to his final round of deadlifts as the crowd’s roar filled every corner of the venue. Ben Smith finished in 12:13.37. Chandler Smith finished in 12:16.40, bumping him up to sixth place overall at the end of Day 2.
“Try to beat Ben or whoever’s in front of me,” said a happy Smith minutes after a second-place finish in Event 5.
He didn’t, but he was close.
Close, Smith noted, doesn’t count.
“Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”