Did anyone else assume the modern pentathlon was just a track and field event with half the number of components as the decathlon? Yeah … no. (hint: you get to shoot lasers!)
Margaux Isaksen, a 20-year-old cross country runner from Fayetville, Arkansas will be competing in her second Olympics this summer … and shooting lasers.
The Modern Pentathlon tests all the skills a warrior would need—at least a warrior from the early 1900s, so maybe not so modern. Margaux just happened to have all the right skills when one of her coaches asked her about her other sports interests and endeavors.
Margaux definitely made a statement when she first arrived on the national scene in 2007 at the age of 15 and won all three US National Championship titles (senior, junior, and youth). When asked what makes her unique, Margaux says that “All people are unique, but I guess I pride myself on my ability to set a goal and work towards that goal. I seem to have a real tenacity for being successful.” This will be her second Olympic appearance after placing 21st in Beijing in 2008 at the age of 16.
How does one become a world class athlete in five sports that seem so different from each other? It takes a lot of hard work, discipline, and being an all around bad-ass. After all, she did complete the entire 2011 World Cup Final in a cast with a broken arm. Margaux came back with a vengeance and was crowned the 2011 Modern Pentathlon Champion of Champions and won gold at the Pan Am Games, qualifying her for the US Olympic team.
This summer in London, the Modern Pentathlon athletes will compete in fencing, equestrian show jumping, 200 meter freestyle swimming, and a combined 3K run/pistol shooting event. The modern event was first held in the 1912 Olympics to simulate the experience of a 19th century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines, including details such as riding an unfamiliar horse (the competitors are only matched up with their horses 20 minutes before they ride). The Modern Pentathlon tests the athletes physically (running and swimming), mentally (shooting), and requires adaptability, intelligence, and courage (fencing and riding). The original pentathlon of ancient Olympic games tested athletes in skills of the soldier of the time: a foot race, wrestling, long jump, javelin, and discus.
So add this to the list of sports I knew nothing about but will now be glued to the TV watching this August 11th and 12th to cheer on Margaux. I am most impressed with how well-rounded these athletes are and the variety of skills they have to possess to compete.
Now I’m off to scour the internet looking for my perfect event: The Ultra-Modern Pentathlon. It consists of long distance driving, knitting scarves, juggling multiple social media accounts, cleaning up cat puke, and rowing.