Name: Chuck Kasson
Day Job: Physical Therapist
From: Hallam in Nebraska, USA (small town with a population of 275)
Competing since: 2009
Favourite Event: I like them all, my favourite is usually the one I’m throwing the best at that time. I really enjoy the technical challenge of throwing the weights.
Greatest Achievement to Date: I was able to pull out a win in the 2017 US championships which, before winning the World Championships, was my proudest moment in the games.
Favourite Scottish Food: I’m not sure I have one. I’ve tried haggis and it was ok. I love a good scone with strawberries!
Fresh from victory at the Victoria Highland Games last weekend we caught up with Chuck to find out a bit more about life as a Highland Games and Heavy Events athlete. Standing 6ft4 tall, Orthopedic Physical Therapist by day and world record holder in the heavy weight for distance Chuck is quite a force to contend with.
So where did it all begin?
I first started throwing in 2009 at a Highlander competition made up of half highland games events and half strongman events. We had an axle clean and press, tire flip, yoke walk for the strongman events; and Braemar stone, 28# weight throw, and the 56# weight over bar. 2008 World Champion Sean Betz was there and highly recommended I compete in the games. I did my first full games in 2011 and started throwing professionally in 2014.
Any Scottish connections?
I don’t have any Scottish connection that I know of. I just really enjoy throwing. I also really appreciate the history of the games. It’s very cool to put my hands on the same implements that many great athletes have thrown in the past. The Highland Games are becoming more popular in the US and the following is growing thanks to the social media presence of many of the throwers.
What is your secret training recipe and how do you prepare for them? How many hours a week do you train and do you follow a strict diet?
The preparation for the Highland games is a mix of strength and speed in addition to good throwing technique. I spend between 10-20 hours per week divided amongst the throws and lifts. I have to eat a lot to stay at a good throwing weight so I try to eat between 4000-6000 calories per day depending on how hard I’m training in the gym.
And what about events that you are weaker at?
My weakest event by far is the open stone. I don’t come from a throwing background and it takes many reps to become proficient at it. I am getting better with practice, but still pretty far behind elite. I also struggle with the Caber toss as I don’t have a practice caber. The more cabers I get my hands on, the better I feel I do. I just have to hope I don’t bleed too many points in these events and that my stronger events can carry me through the competitions.
Apart from competing in the events what else do you enjoy about the Highland Games?
I love the camaraderie that the games brings. Some of my best friends on the planet are people that I throw with week in and week out during the season. I really hate the offseason for that reason. I get lonely.
During the summer there are so many Highland Games, do you have a favourite games to compete in?
I like them all, but there are a few that stick out. The Celtic Classic is the US championships and is held in Bethlehem, PA. It is a very prestigious games and the crowd really enjoys the athletics. Pleasanton, CA has a fantastic competition with a huge crowd, and Loon Mountain in New Hampshire is great as well.
It is compulsory to wear a kilt while competing in the games, was this difficult for you to get used to? Which tartan do you wear and why?
It is required for everyone but the novice class in the US. I have honestly never really given it a second thought aside from my first competition when it was a bit awkward. I spend so much time in a kilt during the season, it’s not something I really think about. It’s just part of the games! I wear a tartan called Irish Clover which I chose because my wife liked the colour.
Do you have a Highland Games hero?
Sean Betz got me into the games and took me under his wing during my first season as a Pro. He won a World Championship in 2008 and I have never heard anybody say a bad word about him. I’ve always tried to carry myself like he did during his competition days, and I hope I’ve lived up to even a little of his reputation.
Lastly, I quite fancy a go myself, how much training would I need before I could compete in Highland Games?
None! Find a competition that’s close by, contact the athletic director, and ask if there will be a novice or beginner’s class. This is a very inclusive sport and everyone is willing to help you with technique and training advice. The best way is to jump in and have fun! If you are concerned about looking like you know what you are doing, there are lots of throwing groups that can be found online with a quick search. Attend a group practice prior to the games to get accustomed to rules, basic techniques, etc.
A big thank you to Chuck for giving up his time to answer our questions and if you, like me, are a little bit tempted to have a go at tossing the caber we will see you at the next Highland Games!