Author: Gracie Singleton
On August 1-3, 2023 “The Hawaiian Brothers” took on the Teen Crossfit Games in Madison Wisconsin. After a hard weekend, Ka’eo, age 16, ended in 9th, and the youngest brother of the trio Kulani, age 15, took home 4th place. Their oldest brother Elijah, age 18, joined as a coach for the first time ever as he awaits the adult’s upcoming season. The three brothers currently reside in Austin, Texas, and work in their family gym “Ku Mana” along with their mom, dad, and two younger siblings who are already training for their future in CrossFit! Austin has quickly become a new home for them, but as their name suggests, they did not begin their journey on the mainland.
Before we begin, for those who may not know, the sport is a mix of varied workouts that prepare for all movements, including running, gymnastics, and weights as defined by Crossfit.com. These exercises are typically led by a coach and done within a group. Because of the encouraging environment and benefits to a person’s physical health, CrossFit has grown in popularity recently. Livestrong reports that in 2022, there were more than 5,000 CrossFit gyms across the US. They further explain that the sport is enjoyed by many people no matter what stage of life. The more competitive athletes within CrossFit are then invited to participate in the Crossfit Games. The teen division is composed of thousands of individuals competing, and the adult division, where Elijah competes, hosts hundreds of thousands.
Now that we understand what CrossFit and the CrossFit Games are, let me tell you about the Subionos, or “The Hawaiian Brothers” as they are lovingly referred to as at the games. The three boys grew up on the Hawaiian island of Oahu where their dad, Keoni, owned a CrossFit gym. It was at this gym that they fell in love with the sport, and while they had always known it, they each decided to take it seriously by age 10.
As competitors, each brother trains all year long for the CrossFit games. A day in their lives during their season includes waking up at 8 am and then training at 9 am for two and a half hours. After that, they take a break for their homeschooling led by their mom, Rose, from 12-3 pm before heading back for training session number two from 3-6:30 pm. As they get closer to the competition, their training increases including some 6-8 hour training days. All of this hard work pushes them closer to their ultimate goal of, you guessed it, winning the games!
All three of them want to compete as long as they can before retiring as an athlete and shifting their focus to their gym. Currently, at their family gym, Kulani is the accountant in training, Ka’eo is the general manager in training, and Elijah is the head coach in training. For them, CrossFit is their whole life, and they pursue it with a passion for the sport, not just winning or competing. Kulani says that the sport consumes his whole life, but at the end of the day, it’s all worth it. Ka’eo and Elijah share this sentiment saying that it gives them a purpose and has instilled a growth mindset in them and their family.
After competing in the games this year, they each agree that the hardest part is the mental game. Ka’eo states that it can be hard “to stay positive and willpower through the pain.” He mentions that it can be easy to be discouraged after a bad event, but you have to shake it off. Kulani and Elijah agree, taking a more mathematical perspective, they say that “the mental battle to keep pushing through is the hardest part” because sometimes you have to “let go of the idea of winning” when it no longer makes sense and “mathematically there’s no way you can win.” Despite the mental battle, this year was a great year for both Kulani and Ka’eo. Ka’eo stayed fully focused during the pulling power event, and Kulani hit a new PR of 275 for his clean jerk. Although Elijah did not compete in the teen division, he is more motivated than ever to come back stronger and faster for the upcoming adult season.
Throughout their journey in CrossFit, they have found that they are some of the few Hawaiian Pacific Islanders that compete. They each say that being Hawaiian is “something they want to represent well” and that they want to “make home proud.” Kulani mentioned that being “The Hawaiian Brothers” plays a big part in how they brand themselves, and he hopes to represent that title well too. The boys also described how their dad brings a flag to each of their competitions. For Elijah, this encourages him and immediately reminds him that the “entire state of Hawaii is backing” him. Being a member of such a supportive community helps the brothers focus and gives them a further purpose to do well.
Their best advice for anyone wanting to pursue their passion is to believe in yourself. They caution to “be ready for it not to be fun,” but if this is your passion, then “no one can stop you.” Ka’eo mentions that it’s important to “find other people that love to do what you do.” Finding a community of supportive individuals is always important no matter what your passion is, and we at Asian Student Achievement are here to support everyone in the AAPI community. If you want to join the community or help our mission to support AAPI students, click here!