It’s been two decades since WA has had a Stawell Gift winner. Recently we had the pleasure of catching up with Western Australia’s last Stawell Gift winner Dean Capobianco (pictured above, far right in 200m World Championship Final) who now resides in Sydney, NSW.

Capobianco was easily WA”s richest professional prize money winner having won Stawell (VIC), Bay Sheffield (SA), Burnie (TAS), Austin Robertson (WA), Northam (WA), Midland (WA) & dual Mazanod (WA) Gifts plus countless other local and interstate backmarkers races in the 1990’s. Along with that Capo won several national 100m, 200m & 4x100m titles as well as being the first Aussie to hand Commonwealth Gold medallist and Australian sprinting legend Darren Clarke his first defeat by an Aussie in the 400m.

In 1993, he became the fastest white man in the world in the World Athletics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, when he set a new personal best of 20.18 seconds over 200 metres.

“One thing that was very noticeable about Capo was not only his incredible natural talent, but his tremendous work ethic. He was easily one of the hardest workers in the training group which rubbed off on some of his peers, and he had the natural smarts to go with it! He was always willing to help his fellow athlete with encouragement and tips, this is what made him an outstanding athlete” – Interview by WCAL Chairman Paul Edmiston.

Q. It’s been 21years since you won Stawell in 1991, do you still remember it well?

A.  I remember it like it was yesterday – and it was a moment that changed me forever.  It gave me a huge amount of self-belief and made me grateful to the people around me who were there at the beginning.

Q. What was your preparation like for that race, given that you were only 19yo? There was rumours you were in the bar until late the night before?

A.  To be honest, just like every other race – I prepared as best I could and limited the distractions that a weekend at Stawell often has on offer!  And yes, I was at the pub til late the night before, but I was drinking lemon squash and relaxing with friends.

Q. And to follow up with wins at Bay Sheffield & Burnie gift straight after that (you are the only one in Aust pro history to do that), it must have felt like you were unstoppable?

A.  Not quite unstoppable, but certainly good form.  All good things must come to an end – so I was enjoying it while it lasted.

Q. Did you take a different ‘mind-set’ into your pro races? Or was it the same process for Amateurs & Pro’s?

A.  I’d say it was the same preparation – but a slightly different mind-set on the day of racing.  The staggered starts can be a challenge if you don’t consider the competitors around you – it’s like you have to study their form more than you do in the amateurs.

Q. How did it feel to finish 5th at the 1993 World Championships in the 200m (photo above, with 20.18sec), behind the likes of Frankie Fredericks, John Regis, Carl Lewis and Mike Marsh?

A.  Awesome!  I had a red-hot crack at them on the day and I know I left everything I could on the track.  I won’t die wondering if I could’ve given any more!

Q. What was it like to compete at the Olympics in 1992 & 1996?

A.  1992 was great – I was 22 years old, racing as hard as I could and just enjoying life.  1996 was over-shadowed by the drug controversy – so I couldn’t really get into the spirit of the Olympics that year.  I just went through the motions of running and went home.

Q. Winning several national titles in the 100m & 200m brought in the sponsors like Adidas and some others, how important was this assistance to your Athletics career?

A.  Sponsors were enormously important – particularly to carry you though the tougher periods when you weren’t winning.  It was easy to make money when you were winning – but the sponsors were always there supporting when you needed them.  And it is important to find sponsors that you have a good relationship with – a brand or product that you love and believe in is easier to endorse.

Q. What is your opinion of your coach Matt Barber and the training group at Curtin University in that period (1990’s)

A.  Matt’s a legend – he taught me some tough life lessons that got me through some shitty times as an athlete and still today in business.  It all boils down to attitude and hard work – Matt was one of few people outside of my family that drove that into me.  And as for the training group – I think we all inspired and pushed each other to be the best we could.  It was a great era with many great experiences and memories – but more importantly, good people.

Q. Do you still follow Athletics now?

A.  Not really – I follow athlete’s, but not athletics.  I’m sure I will when/if my kids start running-jumping-throwing-hurdling…..

Q. What do you think of the Stawell Gift winners of the past few years?

A.  They were all fast!?  (was that a trick question?)

Q. Why do you think it has been so long since WA has had a major gift winner?

A.  Good coaches need just as much support as the good athletes – and I’m not sure I ever witnessed enough support for coaches in my era.  And I believe WA had some of the best coaches in the country.

Q. Will you get your kids involved in Athletics?

A.  Only if they want to do it.

Q. What do you believe is your greatest achievement/s?

A.  Stawell, Stuttgart, 2002 SFA premiership…..

Q. Did you enjoy going back to play footy after you finished with Athletics?

A.  Of course – I played for the Doggies in the SFA with a great bunch of guys and capped of a sporting career with a premiership. It was a nice way to sign off!

Q. Do you have any advice for young athletes these days who wish to follow in your footsteps?

A.  The enjoyment I got from running was the real reason I ran for so long.  I loved it – and when I stopped loving it, I moved on.  If you love it – you will never see it as hard work.

Q. What are you doing with yourself these days?

A.  I’ve been working in Digital Media for the past 12 years – at Yahoo!, ninemsn and am currently the CEO of CareerOne (a joint venture between News Limited and Monster Worldwide)

Q. What does the future hold for arguably Australia’s Greatest ever professional runner?

A.  I won’t argue with that….. seriously (and philisophically), just keep trying my best.

 

Dean CAPOBIANCO (WA)       Male       11 May 1970

Competition Event Position Result
International Competition
1988 World Junior 200 metres 14/58 Ht2 1st 21.67(+1.37); SF1 5th 21.57(+2.38)
4 x 100 metres Did not compete
4 x 400 metres 2 Ran heat only, apendicitis prior to final Ht1 3rd 3:08.41; Final 2nd 3:07.60
1991 World Championships 200 metres 18/61 Ht6 3rd 20.93(-0.3); QF3 5th 20.77(+0.8)
4 x 400 metres 10 Ht3 4th 3:02.42
1992 Olympic Games 200 metres 17/81 Ht8 1st 20.86(-0.4); QF3 4th 20.61(+1.2)
1993 World Championships 200 metres 5/71 Ht2 1st 20.52(-0.2); QF4 2nd 20.44(-1.0); SF1 4th 20.21(+0.6); Final 5th 20.18(+0.3)
4 x 100 metres 5 Ht3 2nd 39.04; SF1 4th 38.46; Final 5th 38.69
1994 Commonwealth Games 100 metres Did not compete
200 metres Did not compete
4 x 100 metres Did not compete
4 x 400 metres Did not compete
1995 World Championships 200 metres 36/72 Ht3 5th 20.88(-0.3)
4 x 100 metres Did not compete
1996 Olympic Games 200 metres 81/81 Disq (Perf. was Ht8 4th 20.76(+0.8); QF2 7th 21.03(-0.7), 35th overall)
4 x 100 metres Did not compete
4 x 400 metres Did not compete
1999 World Championships 200 metres 61/73 Ht5 5th 21.48(+0.1)
4 x 100 metres 22 Ht2 Disqualified
4 x 400 metres Did not compete
National Competition
1987-88 Aust. Junior T & F 200 metres 2 22.06
1988-89 Aust. Junior T & F 110 metres Hurdles 1 14.15
1988-89 Aust. T & F 110 metres Hurdles 3 14.51(-1.9)
1989-90 Aust. T & F 200 metres 2 21.02(-1.5)
1990-91 Aust. T & F 100 yards 1 9.7
100 metres 1 10.36(+0.1)
200 metres 1 20.64(-1.2)
1991-92 Aust. T & F 200 metres 1 20.57(-0.8)
1992-93 Aust. T & F 100 metres 1 10.17(+4.7)
1993-94 Aust. T & F 100 metres 3 (2nd Aust.) 10.54(-2.9)
200 metres 2 20.85(-4.1)
1994-95 Aust. T & F 100 metres 3 10.65(-2.3)
1995-96 Aust. T & F 100 yards 2
100 metres 3 10.54(-1.7)
200 metres 1 20.79(-0.7)
1998-99 Aust. T & F 100 yards 3 10.3(-1.6)