Hunter Kemper Video Interview, U.S. Olympic Triathlete
U.S. triathlete Hunter Kemper, 36, served as one of the grizzled veterans at the London Olympics, having also competed in Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. And while Kemper did not achieve his goal of medaling in London, ultimately finishing in 14th place in the triathlon, he left his lasting mark on the sport he helped shape for his entire career.
Kemper alluded to the London Games as his final Olympic participation, but for the man who keeps on coming back, even he isn’t totally sure where he’ll be four years from now. “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be doing it. This easily could be my last go-around,” Kemper told Uinterview exclusively. “You never know, that’s the thing. That’s why, for me, I want to take it all in every time I go.”
Like most Olympians, Kemper, born in Charlotte, N.C., and raised in Longwood, Fla., was drawn to his sport at a young age. Kemper competed in his first triathlon at age 10 and won five straight IronKids titles by the time he was 14. He continued his athletic dominance in high school, where he attended Lake Brantley High School and amassed 12 varsity letters in cross country, swimming and track and field. At Wake Forest University, Kemper was named All-Academic Atlantic Coast Conference four straight years and earned All-ACC honors as a senior. In 2008 he was inducted into the Wake Forest Hall of Fame.
Kemper went on to dominate on the post-collegiate circuit, and in 2005 he was ranked No.1 both in the world and by the International Triathlon Union (ITU), the first male American to achieve the feat. In the same year he earned Male Sportsman of the Year honors by the United States Olympic Committee. But despite all of these accomplishments, Kemper might be best known as the first triathlete to grace the cover of a Wheaties box.
If Kemper elects to step away from the sport, all is not lost. The time off will give him the chance to enjoy his favorite treats. “I definitely love my share of Double-Stuffed Oreos, you name it, M&M’s. And that’s the thing. Your diet is so stringent beforehand, when you get done [with the race] you just want that [feeling] of, ‘Let me just have something that I wasn’t supposed to have.'”
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I can give you a typical work day, kind of what I do. A typical training day for me is that I would get up in the morning and swim from 7:30 to 9:00. I would swim about 5000 meters or three miles, so it's quite a bit of swimming each day. After that I might go and eat a big omelet, go to the omelet station at the Colorado training centre — Colorado is where I train. I'll go for a bike ride at around noon, for about a two-hour bike ride which would be about 40 miles of cycling. And then later on that day I'll go for a run of about nine to 10 miles, or an hour's worth of running, so I'm training four hours a day — four to five hours a day — and it's about a 30-hour work week. In the sport of triathlon, that's all you can really do. In the sport of triathlon, you can't have any other jobs because you're training too much.
I work with a sports psychologist back in Colorado Springs, and I try to focus on, while I'm in an event, I just try to focus on the process. Try to focus on the stroke of my swimming, certain details of my stroke. Cycling, the actual RPMs and the turnover of the cycling, the rhythm of the cycling, the pedalling stroke, pedalling motion. The running, the cadence for me is important during a race, and that quick beat and that quick turnover, but the lead up to it — I just feel like, as you get closer and closer, you get to the race, the preparation is already there, you just got to trust in your training and realize, hey, on race day, anything goes and it's a mile swim, 40 km of cycling or 24.8 miles, 10 km of running, 6.2 miles, and it's an hour and fifty minutes of all-out 170 heart rate the entire time. So it's pretty intense, almost like a sprint is what they call it, style of racing.
My diet is pretty intense. It's pretty focused. Before the games, it's a lot of pasta and carbohydrate-loading, a lot of fueling the body in the lead-up. Eating a lot of protein too, throughout the cycle, throughout the training and leading up to the games, just for that recovery aspect. I want to be training and recovering as quickly as possible, so for me I'll eat oatmeal before the race, some bagels before the race, Wheaties is a big sponsor of mine. Wheaties fuel is something that I have before every event. Also after the race, what I'll splurge on? I mean, you know, maybe a pop or a Mountain Dew, a Coca-Cola kind of thing. Also, Krispy Kreme donuts, I definitely love my fair share of double-stuffed Oreos, you name it, M&Ms, I'll splurge on a lot of things. And that's the thing, your diet is so stringent beforehand, when you get done with it you just get that [feeling] like, 'Let me just have something that I'm not supposed to have!'
I started at the age of 10, in 1986, back in Orlando, Florida. So I'm 36 years old — I'm a veteran at this sport. I grew up swimming, and some swimming buddy of mine said, 'Hey, do you want to do this race?' It was a half-mile swim, no excuse me, it was a 100 yard swim. It was a 3-mile bike and a half-hour run, and I did it in ten minutes, I beat two other 10-year-olds. It was just the three of us out there. I thought it was the coolest thing. I didn't realize that was not that many! I won my first race and I just got kind of got hooked ever since.
It's my fourth Olympic games. I was in Sydney in 2000, Athens in '04, Beijing in '08. I've gotten better every time. I finished 7th in Beijing. I'm just trying to win a medal. It's not so easy, there are only three medals given out in our sport and all sports, and we only do one event. So it's a one-shot deal. I want to keep on trying to go back. My goal, my dream, always as a little boy has been to win a medal in the Olympic games, so I feel like I'm trying to be persistent and I don't know how much longer I'm going to do it. I think this could very easily be my last go-around, you never know, that's the thing. That's why for me, I want to take it all in every time I go. I want to enjoy the Opening Ceremonies, and incorporate that into my training schedule and the lead-up to my race, which is on the 11th day of the games. So I can see myself in Rio, but I'll be 39, almost turning 40 years old — that's not really medal potential. I might be able to make another team, potentially, but I'm not probably — I don't think I can earn an actual medal. This is probably my last shot of saying, 'You know what, I honestly believe in my heart of hearts I can go there and win a medal and that's what I want to do.' So I'm not going to think about afterwards, but time is definitely running out for sure.
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