January 6, 2012
Pushing Toward the Podium: Phillip Kniep
By Erich Roden

After a 26th place finish worldwide in the Open and 1st place finish at the North Central Regional, Phillip Kniep was headed to the CrossFit Games for the first time. With two grueling days of competition under his belt, he lost the tiebreaker that would have allowed him to make the first cut to continue onto Day 3. Finishing 37th, Phillip Kniep is making an aggressive push toward the podium in 2012.

Kniep, a Lincoln, Neb., firefighter, parallels this competitive ethos with that of the preparations needed going into his first fire. Perhaps that’s why there is no mistaking Kniep’s presence at post-Games competitions as he continues this push through hard work, perseverance, and determination.

Kniep said the 2011 Games were a learning experience in physical and mental preparedness. “Physically, I felt prepared for the Games,” he explained. “Mentally, I felt over-prepared in a sense. I felt burned out a little bit when I arrived in Carson.”

Many first-time Games athletes set high expectations going into the competition, and Kniep was no different. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and after day one, I had to gather myself and remind myself why I had to compete – to have fun,” he said. “I’m going into next year’s Games season for one reason: to have fun and let God take care of the rest. He will bless me with the wants of my heart. I am planning not to put as much pressure on myself and accept what the Lord has in store for me.”

In his preparation for the Games, Kniep said he programmed for himself. “I feel my programming prepared myself well for the Games,” he said. “There will always be things that you can’t prepare for. Something like the softball throw – you’re either good at it or you’re not.” 

Many, including Kniep, suspected swimming to appear at the Games. He tried to prepare for this by swimming twice a week. “However, I did not prepare for open water. It’s hard to find an ocean in Nebraska,” he said. “The Games also exposed some weaknesses I didn’t realize I had. When you’re competing against the world’s best athletes, you find you that you’re not quite as good as you thought. It’s a very humbling feeling. And I’m attacking those weaknesses.”

One of those weaknesses includes rope climbs – something he thought he was good at, but when put to the test didn’t live up to his expectations. “On the first day, I realized my rope climbs were not as solid as I thought,” Kniep explained. “I was really excited about that [workout]. My technique was lacking.” 

Rope climbs didn’t get him down though. On Day 2, he won his heat in the Triplet Sprint event, which gave him the boost he needed to keep pushing forward. “It felt great to win my heat. After a disappointing first day, I needed something to click. I told myself I had nothing to lose – just go out and do what I do, have fun,” he said. “I found out that I can fight my way back after struggling on Day 1. That my fortitude and drive will not hold me back.” 

That fortitude and drive will come in handy has he prepares for the 2012 season. Kniep said having one year of Games experience will make a huge difference in how he looks at the upcoming year. “I took something away from each athlete that was there,” he said. “Most of the athletes have coaches, so I’ve decided to work with Ricky Frausto from CrossFit Omaha twice a week. He’s helping me with programming, technique, etc. I need someone to keep me honest.”

Kniep is taking the lessons he learned and incorporating them into his training. “The biggest focus for me this year and next is to live my life, have some fun, and forget putting pressure on myself to perform well. The rest will take care of itself.”