“The competitiveness that I have on the floor carries over to athletics, which is an area I usually reign supreme in,” Craig Capurso, an options and derivatives trader at the New York Mercantile Exchange, told The Observer. “It is man versus man out here, and the better man will win.”
It was Sunday morning, and we’d arrived at Columbia University’s Wien Stadium to watch financial professionals trade Gucci loafers for Nike cross-trainers and challenge each other to physical feats. These weren’t the London Olympic games, but the vibe at the RBC Wall Street Decathlon, an annual competition to benefit the Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, was nearly as intense. “The adrenaline here is definitely pushing me over the edge,” Vinnie Illiano, a vice president at Fortress Investment Group, told us.
Participants racked up points for their performance in 10 events—the 40-yard dash, 400- and 800-yard runs, bench press, agility drill, vertical leap, rowing, dips, pull-ups, and football toss—with the high-scorer earning the title of best athlete in the financial services industry.
Competitors sought sponsorships from colleagues and friends, or asked donors to engage in something Decathlon founders Marc Hodulich and Dave Maloney call charity betting, in which donors determine how much to give based on an athlete’s performance or the outcome of a given competition. That might mean challenging a friend to complete 25 pull-ups, or betting that the equities analyst at Morgan Stanley can outrun his counterpart from Merrill Lynch.
“I have a bet with a friend over at Deutsche Bank to beat him by at least three places,” said Mr. Illiano, as he stretched, reaching his long arms towards the ground. “So there is some Fortress-Deutsche rivalry out there.”
A shot went off, and a JPMorgan brokerage sales analyst and former All-American college sprinter named Jason Price ran the 400 meters in 51.1 seconds, breaking a Decathlon record and prompting Sageview Capital co-founder Scott Stuart to donate $100,000. Mr. Carpuso, the NYMEX trader, lifted a 175-pound bench press bar 39 times, one more rep than he managed last year, and good enough to best Douglas Schlack of BCG Cantor Fitzgerald for the title of strongest man on the Street.
At the end of the day, the worn out athletes had raised $1,247,813, with Goldman Sachs analyst Brian Kuritzky raising $90,798 alone. Caleb Allen, Chris Heinrich and Steve Zieminski won top team honors for RBC, while Clinton Biondo, a managing director at Fir Tree Partners claimed the executive division trophy. Mark Rubin, who played football for Penn State University and the St. Louis Rams, and now works in Barclays’ fixed income unit, took home the overall crown. Impressed by Mr. Rubin’s all-around efforts, we asked if we’d see him in Rio de Janeiro for 2016 Olympics. “I’m fine with just running around the track occasionally,” he told us.