"We're undefeated right now," O'Brien said. "That's how we look at it. We've gone to the regionals twice and we've won it twice."
Shogun CrossFit established a 7-point lead on Day 1 of the Asia Regional and never looked back.
The team finished in the top three in seven out of eight events and locked up the region’s single team slot to the CrossFit Games with a dominating 20-point lead.
Team captain Michael O’Brien described the team’s win as “a real emotional high.”
“The substantial gap bolstered our confidence that we were doing the right thing, training the right way … we just hit the ground running,” O’Brien said.
The team went back to their normal routine the next day: A 3-a.m. team training session at an outdoor space on Okinawa Island in southern Japan.
This will be Shogun’s second appearance at the CrossFit Games as it was crowned as Asia’s champions in 2012. Going into the 2014 season, Shogun had a team that had been training together for almost a year and was eager to repeat the 2012 victory.
"We’re undefeated right now,” O’Brien said. “That’s how we look at it. We’ve gone to the regionals twice and we’ve won it twice.”
Coached by Mike Lee at Optimum Performance Training, Shogun has an aggressive training schedule that consists of a two- to three-hour team training session in the morning, followed by the daily workout with other members in the afternoon. The morning sessions include many test-based workouts to experiment with different male and female pairings.
“The benefits of team training have started to pay off and they’re huge. We are so tight as a team. The challenge for the Games will be, can we do the same thing on a much shorter time schedule?” O’Brien said.
Team member Austin Hiracheta—who O'Brien refers to as the team’s Superman and the workhorse of the group—is looking forward to events that test how well the teams work together.
“Maybe a boat or paddleboard race,” he said. “I'm really hoping to see something new and fun.”
Whatever is thrown at them, team member Miki Mullen can be counted on to figure it out.
"Miki has very few if any weaknesses,” Hiracheta said. “She’s a little beast that puts it all out there.”
To navigate the rollercoaster of emotions that is sure to be the Games weekend, the team will undoubtedly lean on Jennifer Albee, who O’Brien fondly described as the team’s “mom,” keeping everyone together.
Albee identifies the team dynamics as Shogun’s greatest strengths.
“Our closeness makes us who we are as a team,” she said. “It’s how we got to the Games.”
The athletes depend on Alleem Humber to be “the soul” of the team.
“Alleem’s emotions really fire up the team,” O’Brien said. “Everyone wants to be around because he pulls out the best of everyone.”
Much of the Games preparation can be attributed to O'Brien, who is a self-described number cruncher.
"I’m always looking at the numbers and I’ve probably seen every CrossFit video created online,” he said. “I think about all the movements, the programming, and the strengths and weaknesses of each athlete, how to use to the best advantage of the team.”
The team is looking forward to working with twice-qualified individual athlete, Kaylee Martin, after regional team member Allison Snyder found out she is pregnant. Martin was invited to Seoul, South Korea, in 2013 and 2014 but had to withdraw both times due to military duties. While it felt strange for Martin to rejoin the team after they did “most of the legwork,” she said, there was no doubt in her mind when O’Brien called.
One might think Shogun is a group of seasoned competitors but O'Brien is actually the sole remaining member from the original 2012 team.
“It’s just the way that things are at Shogun,” he said. “As a military team, we have constant changeover but just as people are leaving, there’s a whole crew right behind them. There’s a lot of new faces all the time.”
O'Brien started Shogun CrossFit with former team captain Ashley Jensen three years ago, and has been manager for almost as long. Training at the box is free and the 25 coaches are all active-duty military volunteers.
“I always say that it’s CrossFit utopia, like what Coach Glassman had in mind,” O’Brien said. “He said that you don’t have to charge a lot of money if your program is solid, and I really feel like that’s Shogun’s best trait. During the past three years, thousands of athletes have come through our doors and branched out all over the world. … We have the World of Shogun—people all over the world that have been Shoguns with us in the past and are rooting for us. It’s really exciting that we have so much support.”