Today was the women's semi-final. Same format as yesterday; but with fewer women in the competition, there were only two groups. In each group, 18 make it into the final.
The sole women's competitor for the US was 17 year old Margaux Isaksen. Margaux, affectionately nicknamed Mango by teammates, represented the US in the 2008 Olympics. This year, she has really come on strong, completing the World Cup season ranked in the top 10. She also won a bronze medal at the 2009 Junior World Championships. Given the outstanding season she has had, we did not expect much drama to unfold today. And we were right.
Margaux destroyed the field in the first two thirds of the fence, leading the pack with 7 touches to go. Then, she struggled and only hit one of her last 7 opponents, but still finished in the top ten. Swimming was next, and Margaux posted a 2:19 on my watch (the score board was broken, so I am not exactly sure what her official time was). That's a bit slow for her, and I expect we will see a faster swim in the final. Finally, she entered the combined run/shoot in 6th place with a pretty large gap between her and 19th place. In shooting, Margaux had a really tough time, but her lead and strength in running were more than enough to overcome the damage done on the shooting range. In the end, she only ran hard the first two 1,000m laps and easily jogged her way into the final on Sunday.
Now back to my update from yesterday. Overall, it was a great day for the US Men's Team. While I have taken the year almost completely away from training, some other athletes have really stepped up their training and it showed.
Will Brady gets the award for the biggest standout performance of the competition so far. Will has been living in Colorado Springs and training at the OTC for somewhere between three and four years, but has never broken into the top tier of international pentathlon... until yesterday. Battling two training injuries, Will posted career bests in his fence (nearly 900 points) and swim (2:07). Then, starting in 9th place in what I picked as the toughest semi-final grouping, he posted a solid combined time and secured his slot in the final of his first ever World Championships.
Sam Sacksen was in my semi-final group. He had a solid fence at a bit over 800 points, but clocked a disappointing 2:13 swim time. However, he has picked up the combined event really well already and was able to move from around 20th before the event to 11th. His first place performance in the combined event was enough for a berth in the final. That is his first World Championships final as well.
Dennis Bowsher was in the last semi-final group of the day. Struggling, but staying alive in the fence, he ended the event with somewhere around 750 points. Next up was the swim. I had predicted that he could go around 2:02 given that he has been absolutely crushing me in practice the past few weeks. However, he was out slow and never recovered, ending in a 2:06. But he was still alive going into the final combined run/shoot event, starting in 18th place. After the first round, he was within about 10 seconds of 12th place. But a poor second and third round of shooting dropped him farther back, and he finished in 20th place. Had he finaled here, it would have been his second World Championships final, but he will have to wait another year.
All in all, it was a solid day for the US Team. In 2005, the year after the Athens Olympics, the US Team had no athletes in the finals at Worlds. This year, we have two men and one woman. For our program, this is a great way to start a new quad as we push toward the 2012 Olympics.