Most people have a memorable introduction to CrossFit. Perhaps excitement, trepidation, or a frightening realization that CrossFit is the challenge you had been searching for, but on the other hand, you are scared to walk through the door of that box again tomorrow.
However, Russell Kapper, who qualified in 14th place in the 50-54 Masters for the 2012 Games, describes his introduction to CrossFit as embarrassing.
So embarrassing that he gave the head trainer of CrossFit 42 South, Drummond Williamson, his wife’s information so he wouldn’t be directly contactable. This is because Kapper has been the owner of the renown Bootcamp Tasmania for the past decade. In mid-2010, one of his clients mentioned something about CrossFit, and with hesitation, Kapper read CrossFit 42 South’s online waiver about rhabdo and thought, “Who the hell is going to sign up for this?”
The first workout Williamson inflicted on him was a classic: 30 muscle-ups for time. Never having attempted muscle-ups before, Kapper’s time was 16 minutes. He wanted more.
“You and I are going to the Games,” Williamson told Kapper. But Kapper was hesitant, mumbling something back to Williamson about not doing well in competition. After six months of sneaking away from his 6 a.m. boot camp class to train at 42 South, Williamson was proven right.
A Competitive Start
Having a young family himself, Kapper says he always has to be on the go. He describes sons Eden, 8 and Lochie, 6, as prospective CrossFitters, who beg him daily to go to the box he co-owns with Anna Smee (who has qualified for the Australia Regional in the women’s individual category) in Kingston, south of Hobart.
But the fire in Kapper’s eyes doesn’t come from a sporting background. Kapper is one of eight children. He was born in Calcutta, India and his family relocated to Piper’s River, Tasmania in 1969 due to his father’s failing health issues. His father passed away a year later from heart failure, at age 41, when all eight kids were under the age of 12.
“I always wanted to play sport, but we never had the opportunity, there was never anything like Auskick. That meant you needed to have the gear and there’s no way we could afford that,” he recalls. “If one of [us] played, all of us had to, so none of us did.”
He says his mental toughness comes from having such a big family and the influence of his mother. “My mother was extremely hard, she would not bend in any way shape or form. She was the absolute rock of our family – I get my mental strength and determination from her,” he says.
Kapper was a globo gym enthusiast from his late teens, working in the gym environment until forming Bootcamp Tasmania in the early 2000s. Hiis first brush with competitive sport was when he was 34 years old in the martial art of Hapkido. When he was a yellow-belt, he was encouraged to enter a black-belt tournament, to which he replied, “It’s only a belt, who gives a toss?”
For anyone who knows Kapper, they know this attitude. It’s one of fierce determination, but one, which Williamson notes, is open to new ideas and continuous learning. A characteristic that some may consider an uncommon trait for the general population of Kapper’s age.
2011 Games Experience
At last year’s Games, Kapper dominated the chipper event in style … cap backwards, sunglasses on. Kapper’s journey to the 2011 Games was one he didn’t expect. As his position on the Open Leaderboard rose each week, he just told himself to keep going, finishing 12th overall. He describes the Games as an invaluable experience. “I always want to win when I train, I always want to do my best,” he says. “The Games make you a better person, [and] coach. They make you a more humbled person – I came back with an experience you cannot get elsewhere. It’s like someone just shoved 12 months work down your throat. What an absolute eye-opener, and humbling! You couldn’t walk away thinking that you’re on the top of the world. You walk away thinking ‘Wow.’”
But he wasn’t happy with his final result.
“Until you get on that podium, 5th is nothing. I’m not proud of myself until I do better,” he explains. “I acknowledge what I’ve done, but I want to get better for me, Drum, my wife, that guy in the class that did his first RX. That’s what’s important.”
Kapper says he’s looking forward to seeing the guys he trained with at the Games last year. He’s not jealous of those who defeated him last year – he’s inspired by them.
Training Smarter and Aiming Higher
Kapper made a change after the Games. This was a hard task for a man who professes he always wants to win when he trains. He realizes that sometimes it’s not about winning, but training smarter, breaking it down and seeing where your weaknesses are. By incorporating skills, Kapper has begun grinding down what he calls his wish list.
Watching him jump every wall-ball rep in Open workout 12.4 simply to make the target height, was agonizing - his placing slipped accordingly from top 10th to 14th overall. “It’s what CrossFit tells you, work at what you’re shit at. Some things take longer than others,” he says.
His mantra is to eat right, train right and do what you can with what you’ve got. “I’m not going to bust my nuts on picking up a 200 kg barbell … there is a saying, ‘Know the difference between reality and fantasy and don’t get the two confused,’” he says.
Inspiration: Drummond and the Tassie Crew
Kapper pays credit to the person who watched him compete in every event in last year’s Games, even when a big-name CrossFit athlete like Rich Froning were competing on the other side of the arena. Williamson, as well as the Tasmanian coaching group and CrossFit community, have rallied around Kapper’s journey to the CrossFit stage.
“Drummond is my mentor, definitely, 100 percent. Every thing I do is with Drummond’s knowledge. It’s great to have him as a sounding board,” Kapper says. “Without Drummond there is no way that I would be the athlete I am today … to be a great athlete you have to like your coach and he is just the ultimate coach. I’m in awe of his coaching ability … I get nervous when Drummond’s in my box, even though I’m my own person. It’s just a great training scenario.”
As for 2012, “I don’t know if I’m better or worse than last year. Everyone else in the competition is fitter too. I just want to be on that podium at any cost,” he says. “My hope is to get on that podium. As for my next goal, I can’t say … that could be in 20 years time. Even now, I never think [solely about] competition, I think if you do your best, the rest will follow.”
Not a bad goal, and far from embarrassing.