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WHERE R THEY NOW?: KEN CARPENTER

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By Patrick Lujanken carpenter

Cyclist Ken Shimizu Carpenter stole the sports spotlight in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when he represented the United States in the sprint cycling events in the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The gold medalist of the 1987 Pan American Games has been back to Guam occasionally over the years to visit his Shimizu family. GSPN catches up with the former Olympian to see what he’s been up to.

GSPN: What have been up to recently?
KC: After 15 years in the financial industry I’m taking some time off. On occasion I coach/mentor some of the Juniors (under 18) on Team Specialized, an organization that I’ve been involved with for 15 years.

I’ve taken up Jiu Jitsu and currently that is my hobby/passion. I really wish I’d taken it up earlier, but I’m glad I found it. Currently I’m a Ralph Gracie purple belt, when I’m in Guam I train at Purebred with Stephen Roberto and my cousin Steven Shimizu. It really is a small world, I remember Stephen Roberto back when I was riding, he used to hang with Steven Shimizu, now we all train BJJ together, odd that we all found the same sport.

Carpenter shares time with cousin Carlos Shimizu, Uncle Paul Shimizu and cousin TJ Shimizu. (courtesy photo)

Carpenter shares time with cousin Carlos Shimizu, Uncle Paul Shimizu and cousin TJ Shimizu. (courtesy photo)

GSPN: There’s a whole new generation of Guam athletes and fans. Why is it important for them to know who Ken Carpenter is?

KC: My hope is that in some small way I was able to inspire people to chase their dreams whatever they may be. I pride myself as being a hard worker, a grinder, someone willing to put the time in. That’s a tough lesson to learn, and something I try to explain/teach athletes I come in contact with. That said, It seems like this generation seems to have their stuff together, that includes not only the athlete but the parents and coaches as well.

GSPN: It’s been over 20 years since your Olympic days with USA on your chest. How has life been on and off the bike since then?

Carpenter while competing at the Open De Nations '92, just prior to the Barcelona Games. (courtesy photo)

Carpenter while competing at the Open De Nations ’92, just prior to the Barcelona Games. (courtesy photo)

KC: I really have a lot to be happy about. I got lucky and married the right girl 18 years ago. I had a great career on wall street due in large part to being an Olympian and a cyclist, I found that my athletic background opened a lot opportunities that would have never presented themselves otherwise. I still ride my bike 2 -3 times a week, with some old bike racers, and I’m in the BJJ studio 5-6 times a week. Life is good, though I would like to visit Guam more often.

GSPN: Will the nostalgia of being a USA Olympian ever wear off?

KC: In some ways no. I’ll always be an Olympian and have fond memories of those days.

GSPN: When was the last time you visited Guam and what did you do while here?

KC: I was in Guam in 2011, so it’s been too long. I spent most of my time hanging out with family, fishing, paddle boarding, a bit of BJJ. It seems simple but one of my favorite things to do is grab a couple of cold ones around sunset and look at the water. I’m a pretty simple guy.

GSPN: How do you give back to the sport that took you to the highest level of competition?

KC: I help out with the Juniors on Team Specialized. In fact one of the guys on the junior squad has roots in Guam. His name is Matt Valencia, he won the national championships for his age group last year. The biggest thing I can pass along to those kids is my experience. Maybe I can keep them from making some of the mistakes that I made.

Ken Carpenter with wife Morgan. (courtesy photo)

Ken Carpenter with wife Morgan. (courtesy photo)

GSPN: Looking back, what would you have done differently to possibly medal in those Games?

KC: That’s a great question. The biggest mistake I made was to focus too much on my strengths and not enough on my weaknesses. If I had it to do over again I would force myself out of my “game” (comfort zone) and develop other facets of the sport. It makes perfect sense now. Where is the most improvement in percentage terms going to be found? Not in the area that you are already 99% proficient in. Large percentage gains are made developing your shortcomings.

GSPN: Will we be seeing you back on Guam any time soon?

KC: I plan on coming back in September 2013 and November for my grandmother’s 95th birthday. I’d like to come in July as well.

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