EN Today: Pentathalon Nation

Imagine a sport where not only do you have to be able to jump a decent-sized course on a horse you’ve never ridden before, but you also have to be proficient at running, swimming, shooting and fencing. The latest from JER.

EN’s tradition of occasionally turning into Pentathlon Nation with the kind help of EN guest writer extraordinaire JER continues today with JER’s latest post.  I’m also very happy to report that EN sponsor Tipperary is going to be helping out the Canadian Pentathlon Olympic team this year.  As always, many thanks for writing this JER and go pentathlon.

From JER:

The news is all great: Melanie and Donna are going to the Olympics!

First, let’s put this achievement in perspective. The Olympic modern pentathlon competition is limited to thirty-six male and thirty-six female athletes, with a maximum of two per country per gender. Qualification is either by top placings in either designated competitions like the World Championships or Pan Am Games, or via the overall rankings at the end of the current World Cup season. Melanie McCann gained qualification last fall with her fourth-place finish at the Pan Ams. For Donna, the wait was longer. After fighting it out all season and all over the world, when the World Cup final ended on May 26, Donna knew she’d earned a ticket to London.

Canada has managed to fill its Olympic quota in women’s pentathlon — and now let’s put that in perspective. While many of their competitors are funded by national lotteries or government agencies, giving athletes a comfortable income and free training and access to support services like physiotherapy and sports psychologists, Canadian pentathletes mostly go it alone. It’s a huge effort to pursue one single sport this way, but a world-class pentathlete has to master five totally different disciplines. As eventers, we have a sense of what the multidisciplinary life is like, but pentathlon takes it to the extreme: you have to cobble together a training plan that involves a lot of driving around, frequent costume changes, specialized weaponry, and sometimes a horse.

On Wednesday, June 6, Pentathlon Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee made the official announcement of Donna’s and Melanie’s nomination to Canada’s team for 2012. We mustered the pentathlon-friendly troops – yes, they do exist — at Southlands Riding Club in Vancouver. The COC sent a representative in the form of Tricia Smith, a four-time Olympic rower with a silver medal to her name. From Pentathlon Canada, we had National Team Coach John Hawes, High Performance Director Bob Noble and Riding Coach Rick Maynard. Due to the magical maneuverings of media coordinator Diane St. Denis, local, national and even foreign press representatives turned up.

Or maybe, just maybe, everyone came for the free food provided by the COC.

But this was no occasion for cynicism, not even at its most delicious. This day was about Donna and Melanie and about making your dream come true.

Rick Maynard set up a Canadian flag-themed jump and brought along a horse, who had enough star quality to need to be convinced to pose for photos. Bob Noble packed his pistol, which was a threat to no one, human or equine, as it was outfitted with the new safety- and environmentally-friendly laser barrel that will be used at the Olympics. We set up a table and target so that everyone could give it a go. Some of the Southland riders showed a lot of promise – fingers crossed, we might have made some new converts to pentathlon.

The fun was short-lived, however, as a pentathlete’s day never stops at one activity. After lunch, the girls had a riding lesson with Rick Maynard, followed by a run/shoot session, then two hours of fencing at night.

With only forty days till the Games begin, who has time to rest?

Scenes from Southlands Riding Club, June 6, 2012:

Melanie fires her pistol in a larger-than-life photo.

Donna evangelizes to the world media on the sport of pentathlon.

National Team coach John Hawes and High Performance Director Bob Noble school four-time Olympic rower and silver medalist Tricia Smith in the art of shooting.

An air pistol with the conventional barrel replaced by the new laser container used in pentathlon competitions.

So, can you also swim, fence and run? (She was a very good shot.)

Our awesome poster for the 2012 Canadian National Championships, designed by Texas-based artist Walter Soza. Great sport deserves great art.

Melanie and Guinness.

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