Going the Distance

Sam Readies Himself for Competition


The last time Sam Dancer competed in Madison didn’t end with a spot on the podium. Instead, he would withdraw from the competition completely.

A bicep injury that occurred days before left him at a disadvantage going into the 2022 CrossFit Games. He completed only the beginning run of the event “Three Ways Down” before dropping out.

A former collegiate football player, Dancer is no stranger to injury—and no stranger to pushing through them. In fact, he’d suffered several during previous Games with little detriment. But this one was different, and he knew it. Sam had torn his bicep completely, rupturing the tendon, and needed surgery.

Not that it stopped him.

Less than a year later, Dancer has made his way back to CrossFit’s ultimate proving ground. The sport is something he’s inexplicably drawn to.

“I’m just a small-town kid. I never really traveled before and never excelled at anything athletically. When I found this, it was like, ‘Oh, this is what I was meant for.’ I was literally full. I was made, as I say, to move things and people.”

In 2016, Dancer made his Games debut on the individual circuit. In 2018, he led the CrossFit Invictus team to a 2nd place victory. He’s since made the transition to the 35–39 Division.

Sam is quick to acknowledge his privilege in having made a career out of competing. At the same time, he says, CrossFit has always been more than the sport itself. Rather, it’s about showing people what’s possible with their physical bodies. Post-injury, he has more appreciation for his own body and wants to celebrate that.

“I love the grind. I love creating. I say it to my wife all the time. I look down at my hands [and say] ‘Can you believe we get to control this?’…It blows my mind that I live in [this body] and that I'm able to do the things I'm able to do. I'm incredibly grateful for that.”

That’s not to say he isn’t still fully gunning for the crown.

“I’ve always kind of lived by the idea that full effort is full of victory and that's partially true. Being able to go out there every event and give it everything I have is going to allow me to sleep at night. But I'm here to win. I'm here to dominate. I'm here to be the fittest Masters Athlete on the planet.”

This week, Dancer made his fifth appearance at the CrossFit Games—his second in the Masters Division. He’s fitter than he’s ever been, his arm is fine, and—spoiler—he’s crushing it.

“I have this mantra that I live by: ‘Find out what happens when you don't give up. I was eager to discover what was going to be on the other side of it.”

The 36-year-old is an admittedly fierce competitor. “Sometimes I worry that it's damning because I crave it so much,” he reveals. He credits his success to the people around him, both those he knows and those he goes head-to-head against. It’s the community, the pure act of witnessing someone compete, that’s integral to making CrossFit what it is.

“The experience of doing something with other people is magical. We're able to truly find what our abilities are and what our limits are when we team up…I think that just elevates everyone's potential.”

And he’d do it all again. And again. And again.

“[This is] something I would be doing with or without CrossFit ever existing, with or without there being money on the line, with or without there being people to watch, with or without just any notoriety, with or without sponsors. Remove all of the glamorous aspects of what it means to be a CrossFit Games athlete, and I would still be doing that.”

All this to say: Sam’s future looks bright no matter the outcome. And he agrees. A crown won’t erase the fact that he’s, well, still figuring out this whole life thing.

“[I look forward to] getting older, knowing there's levels to this stuff and there's depth to it. I'm still finding that out for myself at 36. I want to know what happens if I continue to push myself, if I continue to nurture myself…I just think I can continue to get better. Even when the day comes that I no longer can run faster or lift heavier and beat my old scores, I'm going to continue to go on and see what's available out there.”

Forever learning.

Forever striving.

Forever moving people and things.