Interview: American Triathlete Hunter Kemper Talks the Summer 2012 Olympics and Competing at the Age of 36

Interview: American Triathlete Hunter Kemper Talks the Summer 2012 Olympics and Competing at the Age of 36

Training to successfully make it to the Olympics is difficult no matter the sport but it's especially trying to make four consecutive games like American triathlete Hunter Kemper. From the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney to the this year's Games in London, Kemper has been representing the US to the the best of his abilities. Before the Olympics closed this past Sunday, we got a chance to chop it up with Kemper while he was still in London participating in the Games, enjoying the Olympic festivities, and watching the best athletes in the world compete. But at the age of 36 is he considering calling it quits? Nope. In fact he's considering attempting to qualify for the 2016 Games in Rio. Find out what keeps him going, what he's learned in his 12-year Olympic journey and more.

Interview by David Whitely (@davidwhitely)

With this being your fourth Olympics, how does this one compare to the previous three?

You know, I think it's a little different with the fact that I'm trying to soak it all in, not thinking that it might be my last. They've done a great job. It's been fantastic. The opening ceremonies were amazing. Just being a part of that and walking in with some of the basketball guys, and some of the volleyball players that I know. I'm hanging out here at the Procter & Gamble house getting ready to watch the American girls in beach volleyball go live here on TV. Misty May and Kerri Walsh are friends of mine and it's great to be watching it in a family environment that P&G set up here.

What's the house and atmosphere like in the place provided by P&G?

Man, it's crazy. I wish you could experience it. It's great. They got everything. The dining experience is great, kind of a buffet format. They got all the foods you want; if you want anything off of the grill, you can get food off of the grill, if you want drinks, they have drinks. They've got a bar for family members if you want to have a drink with your family. To have a place in London in a foreign city, and to have friends and family relax and get a little taste of home, but also watch the best American athletes with TVs everywhere. I mean, if you can't be at an Olympic venue, you've got the next best place to be to watch the best athletes in the world compete.

We also heard that you’re sponsored by Duracell. How did you get involved with them?

It started off at the end of last year when we came together and partnered up. Duracell committed to a team and they run their whole project called Duracell Virtual Stadium. What they're doing is just showing how to be at the forefront and give support for all Olympians, not just me, but Diana Lopez, who's a part of it, and Dwight Howard who's on the team as well. It’s a great thing to be a part of.

Who are some of your favorite competitors to watch out there?

I love watching beach volleyball, it's just been awesome. I'm getting ready to watch Kerri and Misty go on right now. I love track and field. I love watching those athletes compete. I saw Usain Bolt in the arena on TV and he's just amazing.

Having participated in three different Olympics before London, how do the experiences compare from each location?

I think this experience has been pretty crazy as far as the Olympic race experience. We were right there down in High Park. It was amazing. The whole course was lined. We biked right past Buckingham Palace. We went from High Park to Buckingham Palace and back again, we did it like seven times. It was lined with people in the streets the whole time screaming the entire way. It was amazing. It was probably the biggest race we've ever been at as far as crowd support and fan support. I felt like they were all cheering for me, although they were definitely cheering for the British athletes that went 1 and 3, winning the gold and the bronze. [Laughs.]

Specifically, how does this one compare to Sydney's games?

The Sydney games were quite a bit shorter, and as far as London, Sydney was different because it was my first games. I was kinda wide-eyed. I was 24 years old, I was enjoying the moment, I got to experience all the things I could as possible. I didn't do the opening, but I walked in the closing ceremonies. I went to as many events as possible. I'm doing the same thing here, but I think my mindset is different; I didn't have that appreciation as I do now knowing that this could be my last games. This is my fourth, I am 36, I definitely don't have many more elite level of years left in me, I don't know about Rio, but I don't want to eliminate that possibility.

Back in 2000, you competed in the first ever Olympic triathlon. Looking back now, what comes to mind when you think about being in the first one and still participating 12 years later?

Sydney was special because it was my first games, and it was also pre-9/11 back in 2000. It didn't have all the security that we have now. I think Athens was different because it was the first Olympics post-9/11, and it was a different format. Then Beijing was great too because it was so over the top with what they did there. Everything was huge and just crazy big. London didn't go in that direction, I think they're going for more of a personal feel and the venues are like that, it's great, and the British fans are coming out in droves, and they love it. It reminds me a lot of the Sydney games in the parallels with the weather being quite nice like it was with Sydney, and the country really supports their athletes. It's great to see.

The competition level has changed drastically from starting in 2000 to 2012. What effect has that had on you?

Yeah, the competition has changed dramatically, that's the thing, and I'm proud of that. I kinda rode that wave along with it. I've been up against the best in the world. I've been the top guy in the U.S for so long, but I had to keep up with the world. I was ranked No.1 in the world in 2005. I finished 7th in Beijing. As the world’s been getting faster, I've been getting faster along with it.

It's disappointing that I finished 14th here, and it’s not where I wanted to finish at all. I had to make those changes and adapt with the sports. I'm a way better athlete than what I was at 24 because I didn't need to be that fast. As the sport evolves, you gotta evolve with it, and I've been able to do that. I haven't gotten to that point where it comes to a screeching halt right where you get to be too old and say “Man its past me by.” I'm, still right there going along with the sport and I'm looking to go as long as I can.

Lastly, seeing as you feel that you're a better athlete now than you were at 24, is competing in Rio in 2016 out of the question?

No. It still gives me confidence. People say as I get closer to 40 I shouldn't be able to go to Rio, but I have been getting better, and have been getting better at my Olympic performance from Beijing. I've been getting better every time. I finished 14th this time and it is disappointing, but it was just a bad race in the run part for me. I'm in the best fitness of my life at 36, so why can't I keep on going?

Why can't I be a guy who's 40 and going to Rio and still establishing myself as the top guy in the US? I'm gonna continue to do this until somebody comes to me and says no you're not. 40's the new 30 right. [Laughs.]

Tags: 2012-summer-olympics, hunter-kemper
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