By Oliver Lazenby
A Blaine athlete recently took home first place in the pentathlon event at U.S. Track and Field Masters Outdoor Championships at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Steve Kemp, a 63-year-old Blaine fitness coach, won the men’s outdoor pentathlon in the 60 – 64 age group with 3,281 points. The pentathlon consists of five events: long jump, javelin, 200-meter sprint, discus throw and 1,500-meter run. The tournament was held July 14 – 17.
Kemp has competed in track and field most of his life. He competed for Michigan State University as a student and continued to focus on the decathlon event in his early 20s.
The Canadian-born athlete won gold in 1980 in the Olympic trials for the Canadian team. He didn’t go to the Olympics because Canada was one of several countries to boycott the 1980 games in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
“The trials were held and at that point everyone knew we weren’t going to the Olympics but we still wanted to see how we’d do,” Kemp said. “I’d been training for it for three years at that point.”
Kemp took 15 years off from competitive track and field, but started again when he was 40.
He enters competitions to give himself a training goal, he said.
“Basically it gives me a goal in life: to remain in good health and to remain physically fit,” Kemp said. “I guess I’m one of those people who would have a hard time going to the gym and going through the motions without knowing why I’m doing it.”
Kemp moved to Blaine from San Jose in 2014 because of family connections and business opportunities, he said.
He runs a fitness coaching business called Born to Win fitness, and coaches athletes throughout Whatcom County. Many of his clients compete in Masters track competitions.
He focuses on identifying and improving athletes in their weakest areas.
The national masters event was a success for Kemp on several fronts. An athlete he coaches, 55-year-old Daphne Sluys of Bellingham, took home gold medals in the 400-meter dash, the 4X100-meter relay, and 4X400-meter relay in her age group.
Kemp also coaches two other gold medalists who live outside the area, Michael Kish of New Jersey and Derek Gaskin of Pennsylvania. Both athletes won gold medals in relay events. Kemp coaches them online through Skype.