Olympians: When Is It Time to Say Goodbye to a Dream?

Olympic triathlete Hunter Kemper always dreamed of winning a medal -- but now the 36-year-old might be ready to give up

Since Hunter Kemper, a four-time Olympic triathlete, was 8 years old, he’s dreamed of winning a medal at the Olympic Games. Tuesday night, after placing 14th here in London, he tweeted, "With tears in my eyes, that dream is no longer."

You don’t have to know anything about triathlons (or sports for that matter) to be moved by a tweet like that. It's a question we all have faced -- or will likely face at some point: When is it time to let the dream go?

Kemper spent the past 10 months recovering from an elbow injury after a bike fall and then battled a staph infection. At 36, he thought London would likely be his final Olympics. “I thought this was my last realistic chance of winning a medal, and I don’t know. It was hard for me to come to grips with that. Maybe it’s not dead all the way, but I think that door is getting close to being shut,” the father of three small boys told me during an interview at the P&G Family Home.

Kemper, who is married to a former volleyball player, an alternate to the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team, says he grew up loving the Olympics and dreaming about doing his best on the best possible stage. "I’ve tried four times, and I haven’t been able to do it. It’s not for lack of trying," he said. "It's not lack of effort, I just haven’t done so. I have a lot of things to be proud of, I am a four-time Olympian in a sport where there’s only two of us."

It’s time for new dreams, Kemper tweeted. And those could involve coaching kids and trying to get them active -- as child obesity, diabetes and sedentary lifestyles become far too common. But that’s down the road. Triathlons are so popular in the U.S. that Kemper can do what he loves and make a living doing it. He plans to keep competing for the next two to three years, and then the big 40 will be approaching.

"I’ll be ready to move along," he said. "I think it was just a reality that we have to face in life, and with all things and with all goals, it was hard for me to handle. There are other dreams out there for me."

There definitely are.

Kelly Wallace, chief correspondent of iVillage, is in London covering the Summer Games. You can follow all of her live blogs, photoblogs and interviews here and follow her Olympic tweets on Twitter (@kellywallacetv).

The cost of Kelly's travel to London was paid by Procter & Gamble.

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