Margaux Makes Her Mark
|Margaux Isaksen attends the U.S. Olympic Committee Benefit
Gala at USA House at the Royal College of Art on July 26,
2012 in London, England.
Margaux Isaksen’s historic World Cup modern pentathlon victory Friday delivered one gold medal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
And after finishing fourth at the London 2012 Olympic Games, she is determined to deliver another golden performance at the next Olympic Games which will be held, conveniently, in Rio in 2016.
Isaksen, who was recovering from a bout with mononucleosis last year, still placed fourth at the London 2012 Olympic Games. She missed a medal by just eight points. Competing against the Olympic medalists from London — and defeating them — was sweet satisfaction.
“I know I could have been on the podium in London,” she said after defeating all three 2012 Olympic medalists at the Rio World Cup. “But coulda, woulda, shoulda. All three of the girls that beat me truly deserved it. It wasn’t my day. But I have my sights set on gold in Rio and this proved to myself that I can do it.”
In the finals of the World Cup Series event in Rio Friday, Isaksen scored a perfect 1,200 points in equestrian show jumping, placed third in vaulting and then passed Olympic silver medalist Samantha Murray of Great Britain in the third 800-meter loop in the shooting and running combined event. Isaksen scored 5,268 points to win gold.
“Beating the Olympic medalists, to me that’s a little bit of a vindication,” said Rob Stull, a two-time Olympian and USA Pentathlon’s Managing Director.
Murray wound up in fifth place. Olympic gold medalist Laura Asadauskaite finished runner-up to Isaksen with 5,224 points. Olympic bronze medalist Yane Marques of Brazil was 13th.
The Rio competition marked the first time since London that the Olympic medalists and Isaksen had competed again in the same event.
The victory was so rare for an American pentathlete that Stull couldn’t remember the last time a U.S. athlete won a World Cup senior championship. The stunning victory hit home in the United States quickly.
“I got a note from (U.S. Olympic Committee CEO) Scott Blackmun within a couple of minutes of her crossing the finish line,” Stull said. “He clearly is following her.”
Sunday, Isaksen, a 21-year-old native of Fayetteville, Ark., was still enjoying the victory.
“I’m ecstatic,” she said, writing by email from her hotel room in Rio. “I’ve been on several World Cup podiums, but never earned a gold medal. I feel fantastic. After a rather disappointing Olympics, it’s nice to end up on top of the leader board.”
Stull is convinced it won’t be her last time on top of the medal podium. In September, Isaksen won gold at the Junior World Championships.
“There’ll be a period of time, and maybe this is the beginning of it, where she is going to dominate the sport,” Stull said. “She’s not going to win everything. You can’t be on all the time. You’re going to see her, I think, really earn her place in the history of the sport as one of the dominant females. This is her time.”
And she may not be the only Isaksen to succeed in the pentathlon. Her younger sister, Isabella, is already competing in the senior World Cup. Isabella also qualified for the finals in Rio and placed 21st in just her second World Cup. Together at the Junior World Championships, Isabella and Margaux won gold in the women’s relay and women’s team event, along with Samantha Achterberg.
“Isabella and I work together as a team,” Margaux Isaksen said. “We support and respect each other. On a side note, the world better watch out. She is amazing and will continue to be amazing.”
Combined with World Cup rookie Grace Kittle, whose time of 2:08.4 in the 200-meter swim in Rio was just two-tenths of a second short of tying a pentathlon world record, and Christine McGrath, Stull sees something developing with the national team. Janusz Peciak, a 1976 Olympic gold medalist when he competed for Poland, is the coach.
“We want to build a program that is sustainable,” said Stull, a two-time Olympian in pentathlon (1988 and ‘92) and fencing (1988). “It’s great to see her (Margaux) take a real leadership role.”
The reward was a big dinner in Rio. Stull told Peciak to take the team out for a “nice dinner.”
“I celebrated my win by talking to the people I love, eating a hearty meal and catching up on my sleep,” Margaux Isaksen said. “Too tired to do much of anything.”
She will be back at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs by Tuesday. Next up is the third World Cup of the season, beginning April 17 in Chengdu, China.