Head to Head with an Olympian and Paralympian

“One of the pillars of the USA Triathlon Foundation is to encourage youth participation in sports and getting kids to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. I could not think of a better partner than Ready, Set, Gold! to work with to teach kids the importance of physical activity and the Olympic and Paralympic ideas,” said David Deschenes – Executive Director of the USA Triathlon Foundation.


Ready, Set, Gold! loves all the amazing Olympians and Paralympians we partner with on a day-to-day basis and admire them for their talents and accomplishments! But have you ever wondered about their childhood dreams or what they do in their spare time? Our first installment of Head-to-Head With an Olympian and Paralympian features Olympic triathlete Hunter Kemper and Paralympic triathlete and swimmer Melissa Stockwell as we ask each of them three head-to-head questions. Ready, set, get to know Hunter and Melissa!



Hunter Kemper

When did you know you were destined to be an Olympian/Paralympian, and how did that change you as a person?

I grew up as a swimmer in Orlando, Florida and began dreaming about the Olympic Games at the age of 8, when I got an autograph from Rowdy Gaines at a swim event in FL. I watched Rowdy represent the USA and win three Gold medals at the 1984 LA Olympics. After watching the ’84 Olympics, I fell in love with the Olympic Games. I’m excited to see L.A. host the Summer Olympic Games for the third time in 2028.

I didn’t make it to the Olympics in the sport of Swimming, although I was able to represent Team USA in the sport of Triathlon. When I was in college, in 1995, at Wake Forest University the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that the sport of triathlon was going to be a new sport at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The day I found out that triathlon was going to be a sport at the Sydney Games is the day my life changed. I was proud to represent my country in the 2000 Sydney Games in triathlon and then at the next three Olympics in Athens, Beijing, and London.

What are the most interesting things about you outside of your life as an athlete?

One interesting thing about me is that I met my wife, Valerie Sterk Kemper, at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. She was on the U.S. Women’s National Team in Volleyball and training to make the Olympic team in 2000. We met in the dining hall at the Olympic Training Center and our first ever date was on the day she got cut from the National Team in Volleyball. We now have five kids, four boys and a girl, ranging in age from 3 to 14 years old. The Olympic Training Center is not just for training and preparing for the Olympic Games, but also a place where you can find your spouse… a one stop-shop of sorts!

Our family currently resides in Colorado Springs, CO, also known as Olympic City USA, and I work for the brand new (opened in July 2020) U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum and Hall of Fame recently voted best new attraction in 2020 by USA Today.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?

The funniest thing that has happened to me recently is that when I rode 150 miles — from Houston to Austin — and raised enough money for the BP MS150 that I was able to get my name on my own porta-potty. I actually went to the bathroom in my own personalized porta-potty that had my name on it during my bike ride from Houston to Austin, TX!


Melissa Stockwell

When did you know you were destined to be an Olympian/Paralympian, and how did that change you as a person?

As soon as I heard about the Paralympics, I knew I wanted to be a Paralympian. I wanted to represent a country I defended over in Iraq and prove that losing a leg wasn't going to stop me. I put my life on hold to train for the 2008 Beijing Games, but it wasn't until Paralympic trials, when I had the swim of my life, that reality set in...I was going to be a Paralympian. I don't know if it changed me, but it reaffirmed the notion that hard work pays off and dreams really can come true!

What are the most interesting things about you outside of your life as an athlete?

I am a mom of two kids and a small business owner, so life is busy! It's rare to have any down moments between training, momming, running a business, and keeping up with speaking engagements while remaining active on various committees. But a busy life is a good life!

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?

Something with my kids, I’m sure. Probably turning around and seeing my son attempt to do the moonwalk. I didn’t even know he knew what the moonwalk was!


We hope you enjoyed getting to know a little bit about Hunter Kemper and Melissa Stockwell as much as we did. Keep an eye out on future Ready, Set, Gold! blogs because you never know when we might feature two more Olympians/Paralympians in Head-to-Head with an Olympian and Paralympian!

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