In this episode we continue our conversation with Lee Kemp, a three time World Champion in Wrestling (1978, 1979 and 1982 all in the 74 kg weight class) and held the record for being the youngest World Champion. In addition to being a champion wrestler, Lee is a father, a wrestling coach, a public speaker, and an author. He learned many of the skill sets needed to navigate his life on the mat. A child of the 60’s, he was adopted at the age of 5, before adoption learned how to find his own contentment in the situation he was in. From a young age Lee learned how to focus on what’s important and tackle whatever he needed to get done.
Our conversation with Lee Kemp resumes with Chris asking Lee a question about representation. Lee shares that there were other Black wrestlers that were successful before him and while Dan Gable was a direct inspiration he saw additional championship inspiration in Black wrestlers. Lee found representation and inspiration to one day own his own business working for Tom Burrell of Burrow Communications. He shares tremendous insight about race relations in the USA being further complicated by suppression of stories, like that of the mathematicians from Hidden Figures.
When Lee’s family left Cleveland in 1968 they moved to Chardon, Ohio; this was almost an entirely White community. Growing up there Lee saw his family being accepted into this community and learned that mutual respect was possible. We ask Lee about what someone who wants to be a champion needs. Lee explains that putting your focus on someone else that is successful can help and that finding inspiration is a truly important thing. Listening is important, if someone like Lee tells you the steps that you need to take to truly become a champion it’s important to take the advice as a whole.
Being the best isn’t the only measure of achievement, for Lee going for something with all your heart is meaningful. After winning World Championships and global competitions two years running Lee was on track mentally and physically to become an Olympic champion, but in March of 1980 President Jimmy Carter announced that the USA would not be participating at the Olympics. Lee explains how that opportunity being taken away impacts him even now. 40 years later the 2020 Summer Games have been delayed and Lee speaks a bit about that showing how the grit to be world champion endures.
Impactful Moments During The Episode
00:00 — Intro
01:00 — Welcome back to Part 2 our conversation with Lee Kemp.
01:33 — Looking at what types of representation mattered to Lee.
03:49 — Representation making a difference on a professional level.
05:50 — Lee speaks about Tom Burrell, advertising and race.
06:59 — Seeing your own value and everyone seeing each other’s humanity.
07:53 — We’re all the same race.
08:39 — The examples that parents set.
10:10 — Leaving Cleveland and moving to Chardon in 1968.
12:09 — The respect Lee’s father received from his community.
13:24 — Lee speaks about the importance of listening and empathy.
15:22 — Putting yourself in the right environment to be a champion.
17:07 — Taking advice and finding motivations.
18:31 — Going for something with all your heart.
19:50 — A story of “Things not happening.”
21:04 — Resiliency and the Tokyo Olympics, lessons learned.
22:25 — Thanks to Lee Kemp and for listening to Part 2 of the Grit of Being World Champion
Watch the great documentary Watch Wrestled Away: The Lee Kemp Story | Prime Video.
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