Granted you may need to look under the skin to see Hunter Kemper's badge of courage, but the triathlon veteran has no trouble showing off the indentations left on the outside. "Here," he says, "touch the elbow. Feel that, right along there. Those bumps are actually 13 screws." Fortunately, the three-time Olympian isn't the sort to have a screw loose. He's just very passionate about the sport that still keeps him hungry at 35. "It's the best feeling in the world to be out there," he says.
The feeling wasn't as good in October, when Kemper sustained a broken bone in his left elbow in a freak accident during the bike portion of the race at the U.S. Triathlon Elite Race Series finale in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Kemper was eight minutes ahead of a young athlete from Panama, who collided with Kemper while heading into the transition area. Kemper's bid to compete at his fourth Olympics in London this summer was in jeopardy.
With U.S. Olympic slots up for grabs at the ITU World Triathlon event in San Diego in May, Kemper was losing valuable training time. He had to wait two weeks for the swelling around the elbow to subside before having his first surgery, and to make matters worse, he sustained a staph infection several weeks into his rehab. He had an intravenous picc line device inserted into his opposite arm for medical intravenous access, but since the device cannot handle water, Kemper was unable to swim for six weeks. "In January I thought maybe it's not going to happen for me," he says. "I was at a pretty low point. This wasn't how my Olympic year was supposed to go." But Kemper has been through the recovery ringer before. He missed most of 2010 with a broken pelvis and fractured collarbone.
Kemper's career is marked by steady improvements. He has competed at the last three Olympics and has improved his position each time, finishing 17th at the Sydney Games and moving up to ninth and seventh in Athens and Beijing. The Wake Forest grad has three boys at home with his wife Val, a volleyball player he met at the U.S. Olympic Training center in Colorado Springs. "One more for a relay team," Kemper says. And now with some better training sessions behind him, Kemper is optimistic again about his prospects for a fourth Olympics. "I'm finally feeling the way I should," he says. "I don't have many more chances to be at my best, but I'm very positive about where I am."
And more from the injury list -- Speedskater Katherine Reutter, a two-time Olympic medalist, is set for hip surgery in Salt Lake City on March 22, the second procedure she's had to undergo in the past nine weeks for lingering ailments that have not gone away. Reutter, who won silver and bronze medals at the Vancouver Games, said she has been dealing with soreness throughout the season and initially tried to solve the problems with rest and rehabilitation. However, after doctors told her she had impingements on both hips and a torn labrum in one of them, she decided on surgery earlier this winter after placing fifth at the U.S. Short Track Championships. "It was a straight-up Hail Mary because nothing else has worked," she told SI this week in New York, where she was a finalist for the AAU Sullivan Award. Reutter, 23, won four medals at the World Short Track Championships in Sheffield last year and finished first overall during the World Cup season in 2010-11.
Kikkan Randall has the world in her hands -- or at the least the glass globe handed to the World Cup cross-country champions at the end of each season. With her season-long triumph in the world-cup sprint events, Randall became the first U.S. Nordic skier to win the World Cup sprint title since Bill Koch in 1982. She also finished fifth in the overall standings among Nordic skiers in other disciplines. "It's been an incredible season," Randall said after clinching the crown in Falun, Sweden over the weekend. "This is the perfect cap to end it."
It was a strong weekend for U.S. men's fencers, as Seth Kelsey and Soren Thompson qualified for the Games in epee following a World Cup in Paris over the weekend. The men's sabre team of Tim Morehouse, James Williams, Daryl Homer and Jeff Spear brought home the country's first World Cup medal in team sabre since 2005, taking third at a World Cup event in Moscow. The quartet finished behind teams from China and Russia. France, the defending champions, failed to qualify for the London Games.