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How to Build Mental Grit, Like CrossFit Athlete Chandler Smith ’15

Category: Grad News
Class Years:

To look at him, you might think Chandler Smith ’15 was born to snatch a 135kg barbell or deadlift double his body weight. But while sport has always been a fixture in Smith’s life, his path to success hasn’t been without its setbacks.

‘I grew up playing a lot of [American] football,’ he says. ‘My dad was an NFL player, and he’s been a professional strength and conditioning coach for the past 20 years.’ Initially, Smith hoped to do the same, but ‘I was really tiny coming to high school… it didn’t work out’. Instead, he took up college wrestling – a sport that demands high levels of skill, strength, cardiovascular fitness and self-discipline. ‘I think I worked out more in college than I do now,’ he says. Like CrossFit, wrestling irons out your weak spots. ‘You can’t get by with a surplus of abilities in one area, to compensate for not having them in another.’

Smith absorbed CrossFit into his fitness routine at West Point Military Academy, before joining the US army. He qualified for his first CrossFit regionals in 2016, but military deployment and a related injury meant he didn’t reach the Games until 2019, where he was ultimately cut (when the field of athletes is reduced ahead of the finals).

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