By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Modern Pentathlon has been an Olympic sport since 1912. Counting more than 100 years, no American has ever won gold in the event.
This summer in Tokyo, two and possibly three Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) athletes will look to change that.
Of course, the U.S. Olympic team has yet to be selected; so there’s the first hurdle. Avoiding the coronavirus, either through casual contact or through worldwide travel, is the second. If all goes well, however, both Sgt. Amro Elgeziry and Sgt. Samantha Schultz stand a good chance of competing in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Sgt. Isabella Isaksen remains a hopeful addition to make the U.S. team as well. She’s been performing well and will compete in a world-championship in hopes of qualifying.
If the sport’s name doesn’t ring a bell, you’re not alone. Most casual Olympic fans can’t guess more than a couple of the sport’s five events — fencing, swimming, equestrian jumping, pistol-shooting and running. Fairly recent sport changes have included combining the shooting and running portions as well.
Although most people know little about the sport, it actually dates back to 708 B.C. The original Pentathlon consisted of Soldier-type activities such as running, jumping, wrestling and throwing a spear and a discus. The Modern Pentathlon was introduced in 1912 and was intended to embrace the spirit of the ancient Soldier-type event.
“(Modern Pentathlon) is a military-style event,” Isaksen said. “The idea is to sort of mimic the activities of a cavalry Soldier.”
Event organizers even go so far as mixing up the order of events and forcing athletes to randomly draw from a stable of horses rather than allowing them to ride their own.
It seems Olympic organizers have created a sport tailored specifically for Soldier athletes.
That idea is not lost on today’s Army WCAP athletes and it does present a slight Olympic connection to the military, although these Modern Pentathlon athletes make it clear they are Soldiers first.
“We didn’t join the Army to be in WCAP, we joined the Army to serve our country,” Isaksen said. “WCAP allows us to serve our country as athletes as well. Being in the Army also allows us to better our own futures.”
Schultz sees the training aspect of the Army as beneficial, and she recognizes the career opportunities presented by military service.
“To be able to serve my country and give back is important,” she said. “My coach, Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Bowsher, was competing in the sport when I was first starting, so to now train with the coaches here is inspiring to me, just seeing
how they grew up and their experience with the military and the support they’ve had I think is admirable. It’s special for me to now be a part of that.”
The WCAP team entered 2021 with high hopes. Elgeziry is a heavily accomplished pentathlete, having competed in three Olympic Games — 2008, 2012 and 2016. He’s been ranked No. 1 in the world, and earned a gold medal at the 2019 Pan American Games (mixed relay). He was also the individual silver medalist at the 2019 Pan American Games and was the 2019 U.S. National Champion.
Currently, Elgeziry has qualified for this year’s Olympic Games through previous competitions and world rankings. Since the U.S. Olympic Team has not selected its athletes, he’ll play the waiting game as he continues to compete in events this spring.
Schultz, a Littleton native, has also qualified to be an Olympian through previous competitions and world rankings. She’s a six-time U.S. Modern Pentathlon National Champion, dating back to 2014 and won silver at the 2019 Pan American Games. She’ll look to earn her first trip to the Olympics after serving as an alternate in 2016.
Isaksen recently took third place at a world-cup qualifying event and will compete in a Modern Pentathlon world-cup event in Hungary this week in hopes of earning her Olympic bid. She’s familiar with Elgeziry since the couple train together, and they’re also married.
“Modern Pentathlon is quite different from most other Olympic sports because of the five events,” Isaksen said. “Your goal is to be a complete athlete all around. For me, maybe swimming isn’t my strongest event, so I could put so much effort into swimming and only gain a fraction of time. So you have to manage your training. You have to ask yourself if increasing your effort in swimming is going to help your overall gain. You have to be smart about it, and you only have so much time and energy throughout a given day. You have to be able to balance that out and be honest with yourself and figure out where you’re going to make the most gains for your effort.”
Considering the past year most athletes endured due to the worldwide pandemic and shutdown, WCAP athletes are happy just to be able to compete. So their excitement level has grown tenfold in the last few months as Olympic organizers announced that the 2020 postponed Olympic games would be held July 23, 2021 to Aug. 8, 2021.