After a year and a half of training, 15-year-old Chloe Smith won the title of Fittest Teen on Earth at the CrossFit Games in early August, but there were a few moments throughout the four-day competition when Smith and her team weren’t sure if the intense training she had done would be enough for her to pull out on top in the competition.
“A lot of the girls who go to the games have been doing CrossFit for years so they have developed skills that I didn’t have time to develop in the year and a half that I did the sport,” said Smith.
“My endurance was good and I was pretty fast, but my strength and gymnastic skills weren’t as strong as everyone else’s, so over the summer, before the games, that’s what I was really working on.”
Although the Iota teen had been pushing herself to the limit during all her summer workouts, a last-minute announcement that teens would have to swim at the games left Smith and her coach spinning.
At the time the most she could do was a doggy paddle in the water, so the race began to squeeze in enough training to get her prepared her for the competition.
“When they announced five weeks prior to the competition there would be a run-swim-run event, they didn’t even announce a distance,” said her coach, and part owner of CrossFit Unlimited gym in Crowley, Rebecca Chaisson. “We pulled a few strings to get her on a Jennings Swim Team for a week, where she took lessons with six and seven year olds. She came home with water in her goggles from crying, because the little kids were better swimmers than her.”
Smith also attended daily one-on-one private lessons and trained in Lake Arthur to prepare for the open water swim, where she swam 200 meters while her team followed her in a boat.
Before the swim part of the competition, Chaisson told Smith, “The goal is to just get through it.”
“During the Games, I couldn’t watch the swim, so people texted me updates from the water and after what seemed like an eternity, I finally saw Chloe turning the corner for the finish line,” said Chaisson. “I started screaming, ‘Sprint.’ Then I fought back tears as I watched her kick it in. It didn’t matter what place she finished in at that point, she didn’t quit, she didn’t drown.”
At the end of the first day, Smith landed in 11th place overall in the girl’s 14-15 year old age division, which consisted of 20 other people.
The second day of workouts brought an unexpected hiccup when Chaisson modified Smith’s workout at the last minute.
“I asked her not to do butterfly pull-ups because although they are faster, I was afraid they would kill her shoulders,” said Chaisson. “Basically, I asked her to lose the first half of her workout and to be the last to get to her barbell.”
Smith agreed to the change and although it initially slowed her down, her coach and supporters knew nothing could hold her back.
“She was one of the last kids to reach her barbell,” said Chaisson. “The commentators, the cameraman and the general audience all counted her out. Everyone counted her out except 30 of her friends, family members and coaches who had made the 18-hour drive to cheer Chloe on at CrossFit Games. We all gathered at the end of Lane 5, right in front of her face, and helped her judge count every rep at the end.”
When Smith reached her barbell, most kids were already 10 reps in, but Smith pressed through.
“When she got to 20 reps her family called her home,” said Chaisson. “She saw every one of our faces, heard our voices, and in that moment, she lived big enough for all of us. Everyone was either crying, screaming or visibly shaking. I was doing all three.”
Smith finished second place overall in that workout, only seconds behind the winner, and was ranked number four heading into the third day of workouts.
By the end of the third day she had moved up to first place and remained there at the end of the fourth day, beating the runner up by only two points.
Despite the high stakes nature of the competition, according to Chaisson, Smith showed nothing but determination and resolve throughout the entire competition.
“She never looked nervous, she just looked like she was on a mission,” said Chaisson. “Thirty people followed Chloe to CrossFit Games and none of us came home with voices. I’ve never been more nervous in my entire life, but I’ve also never been prouder.”
Chaisson attributes Smith’s success to her extreme discipline.
“I think of Chloe as the hardest worker and most disciplined person in the room,” said Chaisson. “I don’t know anyone who can outwork Chloe.”
During the summer leading up to the competition, Smith bummed a ride to the gym for 8:30 a.m. class, worked out all morning, ate lunch at the box and then got back on the gym floor to work on lifting, skills and mobility work by herself, until her mom showed up for her own 5:30 p.m. class.
Chaisson had to schedule rest days for Smith and time her breaks to make sure she was getting adequate rest between her workouts, and her mom had to force her to go home after she was done with her evening workout class.
Smith had set her sights on competing in the games during the summer of 2016, and it was clear that she planned to not only make it to the games but to come home a winner.
“For a 15-year-old to spend her entire summer at the gym, you know she was training for a purpose,” said Chaisson. “She never missed a day, never had an excuse and never cheated on her diet. The kid had zero sugar for an entire year because she didn’t want anything to stand in her way between her and that title.”
It’s clear to everyone in Smith’s life that her hard work will take her big places.
“Chloe has only been CrossFitting for a year and a half, and has already taken home the Fittest Teen in the World title,” said Chaisson. “The kid is still just getting warmed up, and I feel like she has a career in CrossFit. I have zero doubt that one day, she will take home the Fittest Woman on Earth title and will win the quarter of a million-dollar prize that goes with it.”
For a more in depth look on the Iota High sophomore’s start in CrossFit, check out the September print issue of Active Acadiana.