Gooo Hunter Kemper

With just 176 days left until Aug. 7 when the 2012 Olympics kick off in London, Hunter Kemper still has work to do.

Kemper, a triathlete for the United States and a 1998 Wake Forest graduate, is attempting to compete in his fourth Olympic Games this summer.

Hunter Kemper was a four-year member of both the track and cross country teams while at Wake Forest. During his senior campaign, Kemper placed second, with a time of 30:16, in the 10,000 meters at the ACC Track and Field Championships, earning him All-ACC Honors. He also ran a personal-best time of 14:24 in the 5,000 meters that same season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today

In each of his four years as a Deacon, Kemper was an ACC All-Academic team selection and received Wake Forest’s Athletic Academic Excellence Award.

Additionally, he was a member of the Golden Key National Honor Society and Omicron Delta Kappa, an honorary leadership fraternity.

Hunter Kemper graduated from Wake Forest in 1998 cum laude with a B.A. degree in business administration.

“I loved my time at Wake, I had a great time,” Kemper said.

“I wouldn’t trade the world for my experiences at Wake Forest.”

In 2009, Hunter Kemper joined an elite class of former Wake Forest athletes when he was inducted into the Wake Forest Athletics Hall of Fame.

“I was pretty shocked,” Kemper said.

“The running joke at the ceremony was that nobody knew who I was during my time at Wake, but rather what I have done since then.”

Joining Kemper as inductees were San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (‘97), former head basketball coach Dave Odom, Wake Forest Assistant Athletic Director and former basketball star Randolph Childress (‘95), PGA golfer Len Mattiace (‘90) and former New York Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi (‘63).

Kemper is currently one of 118 individuals in the Wake Forest Athletics Hall of Fame.

Professionally, the 35-year old is coming off of a seventh place finish at Beijing in 2008, the highest finish by any American male.

“Finishing seventh, some people saw that as a disappointment,” Kemper said. “I was happy because I overcame obstacles [he was dealing with a sports hernia at the time] and it made me appreciate making the team and made those accomplishments even sweeter.”

Since the Beijing Olympics, Kemper has been unable to avoid injuries. A stress fracture of his pelvis and a broken left collarbone kept him from competing in most of the 2010 campaign. In addition, Kemper was plagued by stomach cramps during the initial Olympic qualifying event in Aug. 2011, preventing him from earning a spot on the U.S. triathlon team.

No American athletes placed in the top-nine of the event, meaning that all spots remain open.

Throughout Kemper’s Olympic career, which began in 2000 at the Sydney Games, the United States has sent a three-man team to compete in the triathlon. However, Kemper fears that the team may shrink to two members for the London Games. As for his own chances to represent America in the London Olympics, Kemper is confident, although he is struggling to return from yet another injury.

In a race at Myrtle Beach last Oct., Kemper was run off the course and crashed, suffering a broken elbow which required surgery. Just five weeks ago, Kemper’s elbow required another surgery after he contracted a staph infection during the healing process.

“It has been a big process, [one that has been] hard to believe,” Kemper said.

His injury has prevented him from swimming for a long time and he doesn’t believe his fitness level will be good until the end of April.

“I believe that I will be at 100 percent for the second qualifying race in May and the goal is to qualify there then run strategically until our race August 7 in London,” Kemper said.

The second qualifying race of which he speaks will be held the weekend of May 12-13 in Sand Diego, Calif. Depending on how his recovery process progresses, it could be the first race of 2012 for Kemper.

It will also be the most important because the entire American Olympic team will be determined that day. Only the top 60-65 triathletes in the world qualify for the race and it currently looks like four American males will be able to compete.

If any of these Americans cross the finish line in the top nine, they automatically make the U.S. team.

If no American crosses in the top nine places, the first American to finish the race will be guaranteed a slot on the team.

The other one or two competitors would then either be decided by who crosses the line second or by a selection committee. “With the top athletes in the world competing, this event allows for the best competition to simulate what it is like in the Olympic Games,” Kemper said.

This could be the last Olympic Games for the thirty five year-old, but it does not mean his expectations are any lower than before.

Ultimately, Kemper is focused on a goal that he has had since childhood: returning home to America from London this summer with a medal in hand. “If I don’t make the team, I won’t be upset, but ultimately I look forward to the challenge and the upcoming Olympics,” said Kemper. “I still feel I can earn a medal and if I didn’t feel that way, I wouldn’t be out there.”

The day circled on Kemper’s calendar, when his dreams could finally become a reality is August 7, 2012.

  • Mike

    In order to learn more about all the Olympic Athletes, visit NBCOlympics.com and TeamUSA.org

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