Gold Hunter

by Jeremy V. Jones

Hunter Kemper’s heart beat like a rabbit’s as he lined up for his first triathlon.

When the starting gun sounded, he plunged into a small lake in Clermont, Florida, for a 100-yard swim. Next came a 5-kilometer bike ride (that’s 3.1 miles) and a half-mile run.

The 10-year-old had never even thought about doing a triathlon before, but a couple of his swimming buddies invited him to compete. All three of them stood on the winner’s podium when the race was over. Hunter was on top. He claimed the gold medal and qualified for the IronKids National Championships.

Later that year at Florida’s Busch Gardens theme park, Hunter won the national championship for his age division. “I was like, Are you kidding me? I’m the national champion at something!” Hunter says. “It was the coolest thing ever.”

That was back in 1986. Today, Hunter has competed in the Olympics three times and has qualified for the 2012 Summer Games in London, England, which begin later this month.

Triathlons are popular now. But there weren’t many kids competing when Hunter got started. The Summer Olympics added triathlons in 2000, and Hunter was ready. He represented the United States in Sydney, Australia, and finished 17th overall but was the top American.

When the Olympics rolled around again in 2004, Hunter was once again the first American to finish. He placed ninth overall in Greece. The next year Hunter was ranked Number 1 in the world and was named the 2005 Male Sportsman of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee. He returned once again for the 2008 Olympics in China. That time he finished sixth. And he was—you guessed it—the top American.

Big Goals, Big Challenges

Hunter almost didn’t make it to China. He had an ongoing injury and didn’t qualify for the Olympic team until the last possible race. His faith in God grew stronger through that struggle, and he started to let more people know about his love for Jesus.

“I wanted to share my story and say, ‘It’s only because God has allowed me to get here and to be healthy,’ ” he says. “I want to give Him the credit and all the glory and put the spotlight directly on Him—not on me.”

Hunter had a similar uphill battle to make this year’s Olympics. During a freak collision on his bike in a race last fall, Hunter broke his elbow. Multiple surgeries followed. Once Hunter healed, he threw himself back into training.

That perseverance paid off in May when he made the U.S. Olympic team.

Few athletes have qualified for four Games, and you can be sure Hunter will put his heart into racing in London—just like he does with his relationship with God.

“Do something you love to do, and pursue it with a passion,” he advises Clubhouse readers. “Give 100 percent all the time. The same thing goes for your love for the Lord.”

Check out more Olympians for Jesus!

This article first appeared in the July 2012 issue of Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine. Copyright © 2012 by Focus on the Family. Used by permission. Photo © Elizabeth Lloyd/Flickr.com; used under Creative Commons license.