“Into each life a little rain must fall.” And in the case of the 53rd World Championships of Modern Pentathlon just completed in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, it came in the form of a tropical typhoon. So strong was the force of the wind and the volume of water pouring from the skies that the organizers were forced to adjust the schedule of events and turn outdoor venues into indoor ones. The combined event was most affected with athletes now running up two sets of steps and into the fencing hall for the shooting discipline and of course the riding event was made somewhat dangerous by the slickness of the grass footing now soaked with rain. Credit should be paid to the LOC for performing extraordinarily well under very adverse conditions. The same should be said for Team USA.
2013 Senior World Championships Roster : Margaux Isaksen, Isabella Isaksen, Samantha Achterburg, Grace Kittle, Dennis Bowsher, Nathan Schrimsher, Will Brady, Logan Storie; Janusz Peciak Head Coach.
In the Women’s semi final events Margaux and Isabella Isaksen of Fayettville Arkansas, 21 and 19 years old respectively, led the overall effort with Margaux winning her semi-final group qualifying easily to the final and Isabella missing qualification by only one place and four seconds in the combined. Margaux performed like the champion she is dominating the fencing event, swimming well and then vaulting to the lead after the first lap of the combined.
24 year old Grace Kittle of Dallas, Texas and Samantha Achterburg of Denver, Colorado age 20 also performed very well. Samantha coming off of hip surgery proved she can return to her old form by running herself close to finals qualification in the combined; while Grace, in her rookie season, made a name for herself by recording the fastest swim of the competition and narrowly missing the Pentathlon world record with a 2.08.8 in the 200 meter freestyle.
The weather conditions made the competition difficult as the women did not know from one moment to the next if they would be competing and in which event they would be competing due to the nature of the typhoon. That said, Team USA performed particularly well when you consider that two of our girls are juniors and one was competing in her rookie year in the sport.
Highlights were Margaux’s fence and combined, Isabella’s second-half fence, Sammy’s combined and swim and Grace’s swim and fence.
In the men’s division, Team USA had a major break-through. Army Private Nathan Schrimsher ( Roswell, N.M 20 years old) broke the 1000 point barrier in fencing and easily qualified to the final by winning his semi-final group with outstanding swimming and shooting results; while Sgt. Dennis Bowsher, Dallas, Texas also performed very well in the combined and qualified for the final.
Army Private Logan Storie, age 24 Portland, Oregon, recorded the fastest swim of the competition with a 1:55 in the 200 freestyle giving Team USA the win in both men’s and women’s swimming under very tepid conditions. Will Brady, 27 of Michigan rounded out the men’s team with Will seeing a return to international competition.
Highlights for our men were Nathan’s entire competition, Dennis’s combined, Logan’s swim and Will’s swim.
The finals for women provided a stage for Margaux Isaksen to show how she stacks up against the best in the world. It was clear watching Margaux fence that she has as much or more talent in this event as anyone else in the sport. That said, she struggled in many cases to get the final touch after controlling the match. It was not easy for her but she stayed in the hunt or the gold until the very end. She rode brilliantly over a course which was made treacherous by weather conditions and started the combined in 9th place amongst a tightly packed field. Knowing Margaux’s particular skill at the combined event, many coaches believed that the gold medal was Margaux’s for the taking. Sadly, that was not to be in Kaohsiung. In her first shooting series, Margaux timed out at 50 seconds. At this level such a performance is disastrous. Then, the real Margaux Isaksen appeared. She ran down much of the field which had passed her and then averaged about 11 seconds each for her remaining 3 shooting series ultimately placing 8th overall behind 2012 Olympic Champion Laura Askaudite from Lithuania who took home the gold. While Margaux no doubt was disappointed it was clear that she is a force to be reckoned with and that she is a champion who will not give up.
The final for men was particularly exciting in that we had two athletes qualified for the World Championships final for the first time in a number of years. Army PFC Nathan Schrimsher was a pleasure to watch compete. Still a junior and only a few months out of boot-camp and in his first year as a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, Nathan performed admirably. He fenced and swam solidly and joined 2012 Olympian teammate Sgt. Dennis Bowsher in the combined placed in 11th and 8th respectively.
The combined event was where the athletes rose to the occasion. Dennis shot and ran himself into 11th place against the best field in the world while Nathan received a lesson in how much more work he needs to do to be competitive in the running discipline falling to 27th place. However we need to underscore the fact the men competed to the best level in years and showed us that our men’s program may have a future as bright as our women’s.
The first relay was the Mixed relay event consisting of 20 nations qualified and which is still under consideration to be an Olympic event in 2016. Team USA consisted of US senior national champions Margaux Isaksen paired with Nathan Schrimsher. Again, these fine athletes showed the world just how far the USA has come in recent years. Their fencing result exceeded expectations by over 100 points. They swam well and then entered the riding event as one of the favorites. Each athlete pulled one rail over a challenging course and entered the combined event in 5th place. Against very strong teams the USA stayed the course, shot and ran well and were able to hold onto their 5th place ranking.
In the remaining women’s and men’s relays Team USA took the opportunity to use these events as a way to gain more experience for our athletes. In both relays there were ups and downs seemingly in each discipline. It is fair to say that the experience gained in these relays was invaluable and will be an important stepping stone in the careers of every team member.