American Hunter Kemper is one of three athletes who will have competed in all four Olympic triathlons after tomorrow’s race. We caught up with Kemper the day before the big race to find out how he’s soaking up the Olympic experience, what he sees as success on race day and what he thought of the thrilling women’s race.
Triathlete.com: How was the Olympic experience different for you this time around as a true veteran of the Games?
Kemper: I think I have a much greater appreciation for the Games. When I was a kid in Sydney and was just 24 years old, I was just so excited to be there. It just happens so fast. This time around in London I’m taking the time to take it all in because it’s not always all about the race result for me. You know, the race result is huge and I want to do the best I can, but if I define myself by winning medals, I haven’t done so well so far. So I’m just trying to enjoy the process and the journey, which means going to Opening Ceremonies, watching a lot of events on TV, taking my family and going to the P&G house, that kind of stuff. Just trying to enjoy it all because this easily could be my last Games. I’m 36.
Triathlete.com: What has been your favorite outside event you’ve experienced so far?
Kemper: The coolest thing for me was hanging out with the swimmers in the Athlete’s Village in the warm-up pool. There are three 50-meter pools all just outside the Athlete’s Village, a synchronized swimming pool and a water polo pool, so there are five pools in one building right by the Athlete’s Village. Just hanging out with these amazing swimmers. Ryan Lochte was right in front of me, I’m getting pictures with Dana Vollmer, I’m meeting people and swimming with them at the pool and it just felt really, really cool and very special to me. Also, Opening Ceremonies. Just going around and taking pictures with a lot of my friends. Meeting LeBron and Kobe, getting pictures with them. It’s fun to meet these athletes before you all walk in.
Triathlete.com: What has to happen during the race for you to consider it a successful day?
Kemper: Leaving it all out there. Maximizing my potential, maximizing my result. I don’t think a successful day is based upon necessarily placing, it’s based on what you know internally when you cross that finish line. Being able to say, “Wow, on that day I did the best I could.” For me, if that’s a silver medal or a ninthplace finish, that’s what I want to say to myself. For me it means not shying away from the pain of race day, because it’s going to hurt. I felt I did that in Beijing. I was really happy with that, finishing seventh. That was it. I gave it all I had that day. I wasn’t going to win on that day. I want to say the same thing, whatever place it is.
Triathlete.com: Have you been totally healthy since ITU WTS San Diego? (Kemper qualified at that race in May.)
Kemper: I have, I’ve been totally healthy and training is going really well. I’ve done two non-drafting races, not really indicators of draft-legal racing but I think they are indicators of fitness and honestly I think I’m in the best fitness of my life in regards to my overall conditioning. I look forward to hopefully showcasing that on race day.
Triathlete.com: What did you take away from the women’s race?
Kemper: That the women are amazing and they’re exciting. And they can sprint just like the men. Our American women, I’m so proud of them. Sarah Groff, that-never-give up attitude. She was always dangling off the back and then coming back on the run, she should be so proud. Even though it’s fourth place and maybe some people might say that’s the worst position to be in, I think it’s great for her. She got beat by three better girls and she left it all on the racecourse. Amazing what she did. And Laura too, she gave it all she had that day and left it out there. And I’m proud to see the overall women. Lisa Norden and Nicola Spirig, they’re great overall athletes and I’m sure they’d do well in the non-drafting races over in the US. And I learned to watch that corner around Buckingham Palace. I also learned that [the fans] could be crazy out there. They all talked about how loud it was out there.