American modern pentathlon couple adds to feel-good love story

By Martin Rogers, USA TODAY Sports | April 01, 2018, 12 a.m. (ET)

POMONA, Calif. — Even before Friday afternoon, Amro El Geziry and Isabella Isaksen felt like their story was a perfect version of the American dream.

Then the dream got better.

El Geziry, from Egypt, recently completed the requirements to become an American citizen and to represent his new country. He and Isaksen have been married since 2014 but were unable to compete together in modern pentathlon until this week.

The pair waited for the time they could race in tandem in their sport’s mixed relay discipline. When it finally came, they made the most of the opportunity, claiming the silver medal at Friday’s Los Angeles tour stop of modern pentathlon’s World Cup series, and adding another cherished memory for the family photo album.

As they crossed the finish line at the Pomona Fairplex they embraced, celebrating with a hug and a kiss that spoke as much to their journey together as to the grueling schedule they had just completed.

“It is the happiest thought in my life to be able to do the sport that I love with the person I love,” El Geziry told USA TODAY Sports in an interview earlier this week. The couple met through modern pentathlon, shyly saying hello to each other at international events and becoming friends before romance blossomed.

They are hugely popular members of the sport’s community of elite athletes. They sit close together for interviews and finish each other’s sentences. They take an extra “honeymoon” each year when training permits, just because it’s fun to be young and to have found your soulmate.

Yet it has not all been easy. Sadly, the sight of a Muslim man and a white woman still generates some puzzled looks in certain parts of the country.

“When people see something different they are a little bit taken aback,” Isaksen, 24, said. “But within our families and our sport we have received nothing but love and support.”

A few minutes in the company of the couple, listening to them talk of their dual excitement at the path life has taken them on, is uplifting.

El Geziry, 31, grew up in Cairo and competed for Egypt at the past three Olympics. He is a qualified doctor who might, had he not met Isaksen, be now looking at athletic retirement. However, the pair both enlisted in the U.S. Army and have their eyes on Tokyo in 2020.

The length of his competitive career may be dictated by potential rule changes in the sport — and whether they allow him to compete with his wife at the highest level.

“If they have the mixed relay in 2024 then it is guaranteed, I will be carrying on,” El Geziry said. “The chance to compete together as partners, as husband and wife, at any Olympics? I don’t think anything could be greater than that.”

As things stand, the mixed relay is not on the Games schedule for Tokyo in 2020, but it is under strong consideration for the Paris Olympics that follow four years later.

El Geziry and Isaksen spent several months apart during Army training but are inseparable now. In advance of this week’s event they took a scenic drive down the California coastline, part of Isaksen’s plan to show her husband as much of his new country as possible.

It was Isaksen’s mother who first said her son-in-law’s story was like the American dream, and so it is.

“I completely agree with my mom,” Isaksen said. “Amro has embraced everything about America and all the opportunities here. He wants to compete for America and to serve America both in sport and the Army and just by being a good person.”

Modern pentathlon is an energy-sapping slog that has been in the Olympics since 1912. On Friday, El Geziry and Isaksen completed a swimming relay, a fencing competition and a horse riding criterion, before finishing with a biathlon-style run interspersed with laser target shooting.

They were narrowly behind first-place finishers Riccardo de Luca and Alessandra Frezza of Italy but, much like their life together, it felt like a win.

“Any day when you get to go to work with your husband is a good day,” Isaksen said.