TORONTO -- Ticket: punched.
With a third-place finish at the 2015 Pan American Games, pentathlete Nathan Schrimsher became the first official member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team.
“I don’t have words yet, it’s not going to sink in for a while,” said Schrimsher. “It’s been a rough year, lots of things happened and I'm just emotional now. It hasn’t hit me yet, but I think it will here soon.”
By virtue of his top-three finish at the Pan Am Games, Schrimsher qualified by name for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. He is the first U.S. athlete of any sport to make the team, kicking off a year-long qualification process in which more than 500 athletes are expected to be named to the team that will compete in 28 sports in Rio from Aug. 5-21, 2016.
Schrimsher, who has climbed in UIPM world rankings from 123rd to 59th since the last Pan American Games in 2011, has improved his performance immensely in the lead-up to these Games. Coming off a gold-medal performance at the 2015 Pentathlon Pan American Cup, he entered Sunday's event as one of the top-billed modern pentathletes from the region.
With world No. 13 Charles Fernandez from Guatemala in the field, Schrimsher had his work cut out for him. He held neck-and-neck with Fernandez through the first two events, with the opposition finishing at the top of the fencing standings, while he had the best swim (2:00.59). Despite having an average jumping performance, Fernandez maintained first position leading into the combined event with Schrimsher starting second, just 17 seconds behind him.
In the end, Schrimsher fell back to third with Mexico's Ismael Hernandez Uscanga taking silver. Schrimsher, a 2010 Youth Olympian, will make his first Olympic appearance in Rio.
U.S. teammate and two-time Olympian Dennis Bowsher finished 10th.
“I felt okay, it just wasn’t my day,” said Bowsher. “This is how I got my qualification in 2011 for 2012, so it is great to see a fellow soldier following my footsteps.”
Teammates in modern pentathlon, Bowsher and Schrimsher also represent the red, white and blue as active members of the U.S. Army. Bowsher is a sergeant, and Schrimsher is a specialist and a product of the World Class Athlete Program. In a sport designed to “test a man’s moral qualities as much as his physical resources and skills, producing thereby the ideal, the complete athlete,” according to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympic Games, both Bowsher and Schrimsher’s specialized military training has certainly played a role in their success in sport.
“Modern pentathlon has a military history,” said Bowsher. “A huge thing is discipline and sacrifice because you have to train a lot for this sport, and I think the military instills that in you and it is great training.”
“It’s amazing to be a soldier and compete for the United States,” said Schrimsher. “It’s a big name we wear as athletes and I just want to represent it as best I can.”
The next opportunity for modern pentathletes to qualify for Rio won’t come until the UIPM season reconvenes in the late winter and early spring months.