Kemper's Seventh-Place Finish Leads U.S. Men at Beijing Olympic Games

by USA Triathlon

Just enjoying the Olympic Games experience and the beauty of the venue at the Ming Tombs Reservoir, Hunter Kemper produced a strong race to finish seventh, leading the three U.S. men in Beijing, China on August 19.  

Kemper (Longwood, Fla. / Colorado Springs, Colo.) finished in a time of 1:49:48, improving on his ninth place finish from Athens four years ago. Jarrod Shoemaker (Sudbury, Mass. / Maynard, Mass.) placed 18th with a time of 1:50:46, while Matt Reed (Boulder, Colo.) was 32nd in 1:52:30 in the first Olympics for each athlete.

Kemper, the only U.S. athlete to compete on all three
Olympic teams, tried not to place any extra pressure on himself by having expectations of a top finish. That plan had backfired in Sydney and Athens.

His only expectation this time around? To enjoy himself.

"It was a great day for me. I felt like I was soaring on wings like an eagle. The Lord carried me through. He blessed me so much today," said Kemper. "My run fitness wasn't quite there, where I wanted it to be. I think the maximum result would've been sixth. I laid it all out there today. I came off the bike in great position. I started the run well. It was a hot one, but I did all I could. That's all I had."

The gold went to Jan Frodeno of Germany, who posted a 1:48:53, using a strong sprint to overtake silver medalist Simon Whitfield of Canada down the final stretch. Bevan Docherty of New Zealand won the bronze medal with a time of 1:49:05. Whitfield returns to the medal stand after winning the event at the 2000 Sydney Games, while Docherty was the silver medalist in Athens.

Another hot day put the athletes to the test throughout the 1.5k swim, 40k bike, and 10k run event. Kemper came out of the water with the leaders with Shoemaker and Reed exiting near the back of a pack that made up more than half the 55-man field. Soon the main pack was circling the six-loop course with all breakaway attempts pulled back to the group. Reed was among those trying to pull away near the end of the second lap, but his legs just weren't cooperating.

"I got on the bike in good position, right where I needed to be. I tried to attack the bike as best as I could, but I didn't have good legs," Reed said.

Three athletes were able to break away late in the bike and had a 45 second lead as the run started, but that lead was gone by the time the first 2.5k run lap ended and the sport's top runners took over. Kemper was among the top 10 throughout the entire run and moved steadily toward the front. Reed, however, struggled.

"I struggled relaxing on the run and I didn't have the legs to have a good day today," said Reed, the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials champion. "It's something I had worked on and improved on this year. So to have such a bad run was a bit of a surprise."

Unlike Kemper, Reed had hoped for a much better performance, especially considering his recent races that had him finishing among the best in the world.

"It's definitely disappointing. I can't explain why I felt so bad out there today. But you have to play the cards you are dealt." Reed said. "I struggled all day. Even in the swim I had a lot of trouble, fighting the guys out there. I had to swim pretty hard in the end to catch back up to the lead group."

Competing in his first Olympic Games, Shoemaker tried not to set his expectations too high and was pleased with his experience.

"I pretty much hit my expectations. I wanted to be in the mix and see what would happen," said Shoemaker, who was the U23 World Champion in 2005. "My goal for finishing was between seventh and 20th place, so I'm very happy. I was coming on strong at the end, but I was a little too far back coming off the bike. When you're down 30 seconds, it's hard to make it up."

Five of the 55 athletes were unable to finish the race.

Beijing 2008 Olympic Games - Men's Triathlon

Gold - Jan Frodeno (GER) 1:48:53
Silver - Simon Whitfield (CAN) 1:48:58
Bronze - Bevan Docherty (NZL) 1:49:05
4th - Javier Gomez (ESP) 1:49:13
5th - Ivan Rana (ESP) 1:49:22
6th - Daniel Unger (GER) 1:49:43
7th - Hunter Kemper (Longwood, Fla. / Colorado Springs, Colo.) 1:49:48
8th - Rasmus Henning (DEN) 1:49:57
9th - Igor Sysoev (RUS) 1:49:59
10th - Frederic Belaubre (FRA) 1:50:00

Other U.S. athletes

18th - Jarrod Shoemaker (Sudbury, Mass. / Maynard, Mass) 1:50:46
32nd - Matt Reed (Boulder, Colo.) 1:52:30