Chad Blanchard, 30, is headed to the 2016 Atlantic Regional after putting drugs and prison behind him.

Blanchard—a member of Nepa CrossFit in Plains, Pennsylvania—spent five years in jail for selling and using cocaine. He says the conviction was tough on his family, but they always remained supportive. While in prison, Blanchard saw the CrossFit Games on ESPN, and the competition piqued his interest.

“I remember going to the gym the next day and I was like, ‘I’m going to do CrossFit.’ … I tried to walk on my hands, the entire gym floor—and I did it until my arms were about to fall off,” he remembers.

Blanchard says CrossFit training helped him cope with his sentence.

“I was in hell, and I was forgetting I was there because for the moment I was getting better,” he says.

Blanchard now works as a personal trainer, and he’s in awe of the rivals—including 2015 Games champ Ben Smith—he’ll face at the upcoming regional, set for May 20-22 in Atlanta, Georgia.

“When I started the Open, I did not expect to make regionals. … I’m still in disbelief now. I can’t even fathom being around the people I’m about to be around in a few weeks. These guys are just awesome.”

Video by Mike Koslap.

11min 36sec

Additional reading: “Sweat and Sobriety” by Hilary Achauer, published March 7, 2014.

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