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photo: Paul Phillips
Hunter Kemper Takes 14th to Pace U.S. in Olympic Games Triathlon
Four-time Olympian has led the Americans in each Games since 2000
LONDON — With a Team USA-best 14th-place effort in the London 2012 men’s triathlon Tuesday at Hyde Park, Hunter Kemper earned the distinction of ranking as the top American men’s finisher in all four Olympic Games since triathlon made its debut 12 years ago in Sydney.
Kemper (Colorado Springs, Colo.) covered the 1,500-meter swim, 43-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run course in 1 hour, 48 minutes, 46 seconds to lead the two-man U.S. squad. Manuel Huerta (Miami, Fla.) was 51st in 1:53:39.
The 14th-place finish was the third-best Olympic Games showing of Kemper’s decorated career. He was seventh in 2008 in Beijing, ninth in 2004 in Athens and 17th in 2000 in Sydney.
“There are not many athletes that have done four Olympic Games,” Kemper said. “It’s something that’s special to me and something that I’ll hold dear and take a lot of pride of in that.”
The pre-race medal favorites delivered to the delight of the thousands of fans lining Hyde Park, as brothers Alistair Brownlee and Jonathan Brownlee claimed gold and bronze in 1:46:25 and 1:46:56, respectively. Spain’s Javier Gomez raced to silver in 1:46:36.
Another cool morning led to a wetsuit swim in The Serpentine for the men. Kemper exited the water in 20th position and within 30 seconds of the leaders, while Huerta entered T1 two minutes off the pace.
A lead pack of five, including the eventual podium finishers, made an early break on the bike, but by the time the riders hit the third of the seven laps, the chase pack, which included Kemper, had caught the leaders. Over the final four laps, a handful of breaks were attempted but never came to fruition, and 22 riders hit T2 together. Kemper entered T2 toward the back of the lead group and hit the 10k run course in 19th position.
“I felt solid in the swim. I felt good on the bike. I was in good position most of the day,” Kemper said. “I had a poor T2. I really struggled coming in the last 400 meters. I was in good position with about a quarter mile to go and somehow ended up at the back coming off the bike, and that’s an important part of the race.”
Huerta, who battled a stomach illness throughout the race, came off the bike with the chase pack roughly a minute and a half off the pace of the lead group.
The Brownlees and Gomez charged onto the run and quickly opened up a gap on the rest of the field. At the midway point of the run, the lead trio was nearly 30 seconds clear of the field with Kemper sitting 14th and 1:20 off the torrid pace of the leaders. The medal positions were all but decided on the third lap when Jonathan Brownlee fell off the pace when he served a 15-second penalty for mounting his bike too quickly in the first transition.
Alistair Brownlee was victorious by 11 seconds over Gomez after finishing with a 29:07 10k split. Kemper held his 14th place position over the final 5k and finished with a 31:20 run effort.
“It was a quick pace. This sport is getting faster and faster,” Kemper said. “Alistair and Jonathan and Javier are the class of the sport. They’re really talented and they are amazing runners. I have to give it to them. I was expecting a fast pace, I just wasn’t expecting to run so slow myself.”
2012 Olympic Games Men’s Triathlon – Complete Results
(1,500m swim, 43k bike, 10k run)
1. Alistair Brownlee (GBR), 1:46:25
2. Javier Gomez (ESP), 1:46:36
3. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR), 1:46:56
4. David Hauss (FRA), 1:47:14
5. Laurent Vidal (FRA), 1:47:21
6. Jan Frodeno (GER), 1:47:26
7. Alexander Bryukhankov (RUS), 1:47:35
8. Sven Riederer (SUI), 1:47:46
9. Joao Silva (POR), 1:47:51
10. Alessandro Fabian (ITA), 1:48:03
14. Hunter Kemper (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:48:46
51. Manuel Huerta (Miami, Fla.), 1:53:39