Rogan Dean: Standing Tall After Facing Adversity

Rogan Dean was playing semi-professional Rugby in Brisbane in 2020. It was his 20th year playing the sport since starting as a kid. 2020 was a weird year for most. In Rogan’s case, the left turn started when his rugby season was cancelled after one match due to lockdowns and restrictions. After that, nothing would ever be the same again.

“It was just a Sunday bike ride with a mate. I’d been around motorbikes since I could walk so I was really comfortable with them,” recalled Rogan. “I was travelling along when a guy came from a side road, he was trying to cross over to the other side and claimed he didn’t see me. He hit me on my left side and it sent me flying. I summersaulted probably twenty times before landing on my back. I looked at my arms and thought I’d gotten away lightly. Then, I tried to stand up and knew something was wrong.”

When Rogan tried to stand up he couldn’t and, looking down, he realized why. His foot was hanging on by a thread, quite literally. Essentially, it was attached to his body by skin and only by skin.

Luckily the next car after him, who had seen it all happen, was a fast acting paramedic on her way to work. She phoned an ambulance and went to Rogan’s side calming him down and laying him back until help arrived.

As he waited, Rogan wondered at what point he would go into shock. Rogan said, “the pain was pretty intense, I kept waiting to just go into shock, black out and wake up in the hospital but it never happened”. The ambulance arrived and they bandaged his wound and brought him in.

Rogan was given pain killers which had basically no effect on his suffering. “I asked for more and they told me I had been given enough to knock ten people out but was still sitting up in agony, they couldn’t legally give me more”. He was brought for emergency surgery soon after with the (incredibly unlikely) aim of reattaching the foot. As the surgeon had predicted, the operation didn’t have the desired outcome and he was left with no foot and a decision to make.

“They told me my foot was gone and I had to choose do they seal it off where it is now, just above the ankle and leave me with a prosthetic foot and the ability to walk and not much else, or, they could amputate more of my leg, below the knee and give me a prosthetic with more potential. I’d be able to lift, run, cycle, and train. It was a no brainer. I told them to cut more off.”

The option to amputate more meant that Rogan would have greater stability, greater range of motion and a greater range of options closer to the ‘normal’ he was used to. Rugby was out, but, training was in.

Not long after his surgery he met his now fiancé and soon to be mother of his first child, Kody House. Kody was a professional rugby player who used CrossFit to supplement her training, with the Open approaching in 2021 she told Rogan about the addition of the adaptive divisions and encouraged him to have a go.

“My first CrossFit experience was doing the Open. I’d never done it before. Strict muscle ups and bloody hands. I finished 12th in the world and realized if I applied myself and shored up some weaknesses and learned some skills I could make a go of it,” said Rogan.

Rogan and Kody set about making a list of things to work on and learn “it was a pretty long list.” Rogan began with the basics, building on his incredible base of strength and fitness from his rugby days and adding in the bells and whistles of gymnastics and skill work. Soon after, he met Brandon Swan who wanted to help him achieve his goal of going to the Games. Rogan speaking of Swan, “He basically took over all my programming. Then, when I qualified he wrote workouts for affiliates to program for fundraising to help me get to Madison, he was brilliant.”

He did qualify for the Games and, thanks to the generosity of the CrossFit community around him and LSKD, the Australian based clothing brand, Rogan was able to go to Madison and finish second fittest in the world.

“Maybe it’s my competitive nature but finishing second doesn’t cut it, I want to win.”

As well as training and focusing on the Games, Rogan is also competing in competitions in Australia in the open divisions taking on elite athletes. “The Down Under Championship was the first time there’s been an adaptive division at an Australian competition. It was a showcase. I think they’re hoping that it gains traction and they can add more athletes in other years. There isn’t a lot of opportunity around so I compete in open division competitions. I think I surprise people, when they see me arrive but then I can hold my own against them.”

Now, he’s aiming to go one better. He has his sights set on the top spot in the final year of The CrossFit Games in Madison.

“No matter how bad you have it there’s always someone who’d swap their best day for your worst. Although the accident had changed me physically, if anything it made me stronger. I’m never satisfied with where I’m at. I’m always pushing to be one percent better every single day.”

You can follow Rogan’s journey on Instagram, @rogied_.

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