Interview with Strength in Depth Champion Bronislaw Olenkowicz

Bronislaw Olenkowicz at the 2019 CrossFit Strength in Depth Sanctional. Photo courtesy of WOD and PIX.

If you watched any of the CrossFit Strength in Depth Sanctional this past weekend you likely saw some amazing performances from Bronislaw Olenkowicz. On Saturday, the Regional athlete from Poland snatched 140kg (308 lbs) and a minute later demonstrated perfect pacing on the Assault Bike followed by a blazing Grace.

This execution throughout the weekend minimized his weaknesses (like running) so that his speed and power could excel. Once Sunday afternoon rolled around, Olenkowicz was able to vault himself from 4th into 1st place on the final event.

Olenkowicz won the 2019 CrossFit Strength in Depth Sanctional by just six points over Drew Wayman and David Shorunke. He is the first rookie to qualify for the 2019 CrossFit Games.

Between celebrating his victory, we caught up with Olenkowicz to find out how he found CrossFit and how he navigated through the competition this weekend.

The Barbell Spin: You ranked 2,211th in the world during the 2015 CrossFit Open. Four years later, and now you are going to the CrossFit Games. When did you start doing CrossFit and how did you find CrossFit?

Bronislaw Olenkowicz: I found CrossFit in 2013 by watching the movie from The Crossfit Games finals sent to me by friend from the gym where we did bodybuilding training. Since that time I started to learn about this method and slowly practiced new movements. By the end of 2013 I competed in my first CrossFit-style competition in Poland in scaled division and placed second there. After months of practice I was feeling better and better, started to win small competitions in Poland and decided to try myself in the Open.

TBBS: What was your athletic background prior to CrossFit?

BO: I always was interested in sport but don’t have any athletic background. I’m a farmer boy who lived and helped in work to my parents on their farm from young kid to almost 20 years old. After that time I left my parent’s house and started to study PE in Olsztyn, Poland where I learned the basics of coaching in different sports.

TBBS: What was your reaction to the format changes of the CrossFit Games this year? Have they changed since they were first announced?

BO: Frankly speaking the Open was always the hardest part of qualifications in the road to the Games for me so Sanctionals are a good way to skip this part now🙈😉. I love real face-to-face competition and I feel much stronger in an arena full of athletes and cheering spectators. In my opinion online qualifiers leave too much room for cheaters, especially when only one video was verified. In the old format hopefully we had Regionals where it could be verified before the Games. I hope in this new format all videos of the Open winners will be verified.

TBBS: You almost qualified for the CrossFit Games last year, finishing 6th at the Europe Regional. Have you trained differently this off-season to better prepare yourself for competition?

BO: The only thing we changed with my coach was much more running and less strength training for me. 2018 Regionals also helped me in finding some new sponsors thanks to whom I could manage little bit more time for training than work. But still I’m not and was never “full time job professional athlete”.

TBBS: Once the workouts were released for Strength In Depth, did you think these workouts would favor you?

BO: Not all of them. Events 3 & 4 I knew I could do them very well as they had my favorite movements – heavy snatch and barbell cycling. It was scary the most of Event 6 because my running skills are still not as good as they should be. Generally I liked all events because it was varied and smart programming. The pack of athletes was so strong that after almost each event there was significant flip flop on leaderboard.

View this post on Instagram

Day 1✔ @onpointathletics _________________ #Repost @strengthindepthuk (@get_repost) ・・・ How do you climb eight spots on the leaderboard and close out the day in 1st place? Do a @bronislawolenkowicz and win two events back-to-back! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Bron hit a 140kg snatch on his second lift in Event 3, forfeiting his subsequent lifts in favour of saving himself for Event 4. He was then the calmest man on the floor. Unfazed at being the last man off the assault bike, he went unbroken on his clean and jerks (well he basically strict pressed every lift) and cruised past the entire field who were then left in his wake. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The Elite mens standings at the end of Day 1 are: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 1st Bronislaw Olenkowicz (326pts) 🇵🇱 2nd Drew Wayman (300pts) 🇺🇸 3rd David Shorunke (284pts) 🇬🇧 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Watch archived day 1 action on our site (available soon) or grab a ticket and come join us tomorrow ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ @crossfitgames @noccouk @eleiko_uk @eleikosport @wheyduk @rxbar #uk @geometriktarget @reebokuk #CFSiD #crossfitgames #fittestonearth #sanctionals

A post shared by Bronisław Olenkowicz (@bronislawolenkowicz) on

TBBS: One of the most interesting events this weekend was Event 4 (30 cals on the Assault Bike followed by Grace). Your strategy was to go slow on the bike and then crush the clean and jerks. You won easily. How hard was it to stick to your strategy when all of your fellow competitors were sprinting on the bike?

BO: I know my body and I know how it works. I thought I would be able to complete 30 calories sub 25 seconds (some time ago i did 50 in 34 seconds) but it would be hard then to complete Grace as fast as I did. It was a simple strategy to not let my body go to red zone at the beginning of the race. I watched the guys smash the bike at the start…it was rather fun to watch them and stick to my plan. In my training I almost always try to work with strategy instead of going 100% from the beginning. I had a similar situation during Regionals last year with the heavy box steps over. I finished the bike last, but I ended the workout 2nd in my heat.

TBBS: After Event 7, everyone had to wait for a long time before the final results were announced. What was going through your head while waiting?

BO: I can’t remember 🙈 I was pretty sure I will finish 2nd but somewhere still had a little hope…maybe because of that my reaction was so emotional.

TBBS: Now that you have qualified for the CrossFit Games, what are your plans for the rest of the Open/Sanctional season?

BO: I will complete The Open with a “one and done” strategy. I will also compete a few times before Games because I love it and I need it 😉.

TBBS: How popular is CrossFit in Poland? Do you think the format changes will increase the popularity of CrossFit in Poland and the rest of the world?

BO: It’s starting to be more and more popular in Poland but we have already a lot of high-level athletes who compete abroad with success and had been going to Regionals since I started to train CrossFit. I think new format will increase popularity because right now every country will have their representation at the Games. Up to last year it was a much harder road to go there, more narrow group of people competed there. Now it will be a very big international celebration for this community.

Olenkowicz is now preparing for the CrossFit Games in August. Keep up with his training by following him on Instagram (@bronislawolenkowicz).