Amro Elgeziry

Amro Elgeziry, Isabella Isaksen
AP

Modern love: Pentathlon couple balances training, military

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He’s a unit supply specialist in the U.S. Army. She’s a multiple launch rocket systems crew member.

Together, soldier-athletes Amro Elgeziry and Isabella Isaksen are a married Olympic modern pentathlon couple trying to navigate their way through the challenges of training for the Tokyo Games during the coronavirus pandemic.

Their sport consists of five disciplines, two of which they can’t practice at the moment — equestrian horse jumping (their stable recently closed) and swimming (pools remain shut).

For the rest, they improvise. They hone their fencing footwork in their Colorado Springs, Colorado, backyard, shoot laser pistols at a target in a nearby park (yes, they sometimes draw stares) and take to the trails for morning runs.

They met through modern pentathlon. They train together for modern pentathlon.

Their first date?

“Wasn’t a modern-pentathlon date,” said Elgeziry, who married Isaksen on May 30, 2014.

“Ice cream,” Isaksen responded. “We’re both fans of ice cream.”

Elgeziry is already qualified for his fourth Olympics — with the Tokyo Games in 2021 set to be his first as a member of Team USA (he became a citizen in 2017). The 33-year-old was born in Cairo and competed at the last three Olympics for Egypt.

The 26-year-old Isaksen is attempting to secure her spot through world rankings or at the world championships in Minsk, Belarus, in June 2021.

It was certainly a family affair at the Rio Games. They both made it, along with their siblings. Isaksen’s older sister, Margaux, qualified for her third Olympics. Elgeziry’s brother, Omar, who now serves as their coach, also made the Egyptian squad.

After Rio, Elgeziry and Isaksen were each unsure about how much longer they wanted to remain in the sport. It was a financial challenge, illustrated by Isaksen working at Dick’s Sporting Goods until two weeks before the Rio Games began.

“But we both decided we still have a lot to accomplish in the sport,” Isaksen said.

They joined the Army months apart in 2017. Both were selected to be members of the World Class Athlete Program, which allows top-ranked soldier-athletes to perform at the international level while also serving their nation in the military.

Isaksen is a sergeant and a member of 13 Mike, which supports infantry and tank units by supplementing cannon artillery during combat.

Elgeziry also is a sergeant and a member of 92 Yankee, whose duties involve general upkeep of all Army equipment.

They’re stationed out of Fort Carson and before the outbreak of COVID-19 split their time between training at the base — along with performing their military tasks — and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center.

“Even if we’re training less on the sports side, we’ve got to stay ready on the Army side of things,” said Isaksen, who grew up in Fayetteville, Arkansas, as a runner before she followed her sister into modern pentathlon. “But with five sports to train for, we’re kind of used to it.”

On most days, they begin the morning with a distance run along the neighboring trails.

After that, the routine really does vary. There’s a lot of training ground to cover since modern pentathlon competitions consist of fencing, freestyle swimming (200m), equestrian show jumping, and a final event combining laser-pistol shooting and cross-country running (four 800m laps with five shots after each lap).

They have their fencing equipment at home so they head into their backyard to work on technique — over and over.

“It gets boring,” joked Elgeziry, who was a swimmer growing up before being lured into the sport by an older brother, Emad, who competed at the 2000 Games.

Sometimes, they practice laser-pistol shooting in their backyard. Other times, they head to a local park, where the couple can more closely simulate race conditions. They set up a stand to hold their laser pistols and position a target about 10 meters away. They’ll run a loop before returning to shoot at the target.

Their drills used to draw stares but, “the people in the park are used to us now,” Isaksen said.

Staying in swimming shape with no pools open has proven to be an obstacle. They go through dry-land workouts made up of core and strength exercises using a medicine ball and bands.

As for equestrian practice, they were riding at their coach’s stable until recently when it was shut down to comply with local ordinances.

“We’re just trying to make do,” Isaksen said.

“But it’s tough,” Elgeziry added.

They’ve added another event to their crowded plate — baking. The house specialties are sourdough bread and a pasta dish with broccoli.

“We do love to cook,” Elgeziry said.

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U.S. wraps Pan Am Games with 293 medals, 18 Olympic quota spots

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The Pan American Games, bringing together athletes from North America, South America and the Caribbean, are an interesting grab bag of events: Olympic sports bringing in the top-ranked athletes in the hemisphere, Olympic sports that are much lower on the priority list for world-class competitors, and non-Olympic sports such as racquetball, water skiing and basque pelota.

The program fluctuates a bit, and this year’s competition in Lima, Peru, featured a staggering 419 events, up from the 364 events contested in Toronto four years ago and far more than the 339 events on the Tokyo 2020 schedule.

One thing that doesn’t change in the Pan Am Games is the U.S. dominance in the medal count. The final tally this year: 120 gold medals, 88 silver and 85 bronze. The next-best country, Brazil, earned 55 gold medals, 45 silver and 71 bronze for a total of 171, lagging far behind the U.S. total of 293. Canada (152 total) and Mexico (136) took the next two spots on the medal table.

For some sports, the competition was vitally important. Modern pentathletes Samantha Achterberg and Amro Elgeziry earned spots on the 2020 Olympic team with their performances. Elgeziry took a silver medal in the 2014 world championships while competing for Egypt, then moved to the United States after marrying U.S. pentathlete Isabella Isaksen. Elgeziry and Isaksen also combined for gold in the mixed relay.

READ: Elgeziry, three-time Egyptian Olympian, qualifies for 2020 U.S. team

Some events offered Olympic quota spots, ensuring a place for at least one U.S. athlete in the event in 2020. U.S. shooters nailed down seven spots. Other U.S. athletes earned spots in archery, equestrian, sailing, shooting and water polo.

In other sports, with less at stake, the U.S. didn’t send its top athletes. One exception: Swimmer Nathan Adrian followed up his world championship relay medals with six medals in Lima, matching the total of fellow world championship medalist Margo Geer.

Most top gymnasts were competing in the U.S. Championships, and yet the U.S. women took the team gold medal and Riley McCusker finished with four medals.

The U.S. sent substantially weakened teams in several sports and posted several results that would be shockers in the Olympics. The men’s and women’s volleyball teams failed to medal. In men’s basketball, a U.S. team composed entirely of current and recent Big East players fell to Argentina by a stunning score of 114-75 in the semifinals, then rebounded to take bronze. The U.S. women, virtually unbeatable with WNBA players in the World Cup and Olympics, lost to Brazil in the final.

On the other hand, the U.S. swept the gold medals in the new Olympic sport of 3×3 basketball and took medals in several sports in which teams would rarely be competitive in the Olympics such as artistic swimming (formerly known as synchronized swimming) and men’s field hockey. The women’s handball team narrowly missed the podium, losing 24-23 to Cuba in the bronze medal game.

U.S. bowlers Jakob Butturff and Nick Pate took the doubles bowling gold in unusual circumstances after Puerto Rico’s Jean Perez Faure tested positive for a masking agent. Butturff has won seven PBA events.

The Parapan American Games, for athletes with disabilities, start Aug. 23.

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Amro Elgeziry, three-time Egyptian Olympian, qualifies for 2020 U.S. Olympic team

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Amro Elgeziry went to the last three Olympics for Egypt. Next year, he will compete for the U.S. Olympic team for the first time.

Elgeziry, a modern pentathlete, qualified for the Tokyo Games by placing fifth at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, on Sunday, according to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Another modern pentathlete, Samantha Achterberg, qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic team by taking silver in the women’s event Saturday.

Open-water swimmers Haley AndersonAshley Twichell and Jordan Wilimovsky previously qualified for the Olympic team.

Elgeziry, 32, was born in Cairo. He moved to Colorado Springs, site of a U.S. Olympic training center, in 2014 (the year he earned a world silver medal) and married U.S. Olympic pentathlete Isabella Isaksen. Isaksen finished 12th at Pan Ams, missing the chance to qualify for Tokyo, but will get more chances in the next year.

Elgeziry retired from the Egyptian team after Rio to settle into a normal American life with Isaksen, according to USA Modern Pentathlon. But he felt the urge to return, joined the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) and became an American citizen.

Emily deRiel was the last American to earn an Olympic pentathlon medal, silver in 2000. The sport debuted at the 1912 Stockholm Games.

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