Modern Pentathlon

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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Olympic modern pentathlon champion to miss Tokyo Games due to pregnancy

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Chloe Esposito, the Australian who won the Rio Olympic modern pentathlon, will not defend her title in Tokyo because she is pregnant with her first child due in August.

“True to form, nothing ever works out the way we plan it,” was posted on Esposito’s social media. “Defending my title will have to wait another four years. Can’t wait to be a mum.”

Esposito, 28, is Australia’s lone Olympic medalist in modern pentathlon, which features four disciplines: fencing, show jumping, swimming and a combined running/shooting event.

She won with an Olympic record 1,372 points, rallying from fourth place going into the running-shooting finale. Her father and brother also competed in Olympic modern pentathlon.

Her victory in Rio was a surprise, given she was seventh at the London Olympics and eighth at the 2015 World Championships. Esposito took a year off after Rio and returned to win the 2018 World Cup Final, taking the world No. 1 ranking that year. She missed 2019 competition after a hamstring operation.

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MORE: Three-time Egyptian Olympian qualifies for U.S. Olympic team

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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