By Tim HippsJune 18, 2007
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Army News Service, June 18, 2007) - The U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program is in prime position to provide at least half of Team USA's modern pentathlon contingent for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
Spc. Dennis Bowsher won his second national crown and two other Army World Class Athlete Program Soldiers - Capt. Niul Manske and 1st Lt. Mickey Kelly - won silver medals at the 2007 U.S. National Modern Pentathlon Championships June 9-10 in Colorado Springs.
"It's nice to represent," Capt. Manske said of Soldiers sweeping the top two spots in the men's division and being joined on the podium by Air Force Capt. Eli Bremer. "Essentially, it was the Dennis and Niul show more or less right from the get-go.
"He won the shoot and I was third; then I won the fence and he was second. After a couple touches in the fence, we were already 1-2, and we just kept it going."
Spc. Bowsher, 24, of Dallas, scored 1,180 points in pistol shooting; 1,036 in fencing; 1,260 in swimming; 1,160 in equestrian riding; and 1,036 in cross-country running to win the men's gold medal with 5,672 modern pentathlon points.
Capt. Manske, 31, of Port Clinton, Ohio, tallied scores of 1,144 in shooting; 1,036 in fencing; 1,180 in the pool; a perfect 1,200 on horseback; and 944 on the run to win the silver medal with 5,504 points.
First Lt. Kelly, 29, of Chatham, N.Y., finished second in the women's division behind Fayetteville, Ark.'s 15-year-old Margaux Isaksen, a summer resident at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs who won the junior and senior titles with 5,528 points, edging out First Lt. Kelly by only 52 points.
All three of the WCAP pentathletes are stationed at Fort Carson, Colo.
First Lt. Kelly won the silver medal with 964 points in both shooting and fencing; 1,148 in swimming; 1,172 in riding; and 1,228 on the run - the only event in which she finished first - for a modern pentathlon total of 5,476.
Spc. Bowsher and First Lt. Kelly trained through the national championships - meaning they did not rest for the event - because their sights are set on competing in the XV Pan American Games, scheduled for July 13-29 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"I wasn't in my peak-performance shape," First Lt. Kelly said. "I'm always disappointed to come in second, especially when it's that close, but I knew it wasn't going to be my top-notch day and that girl had the best day of her life.
"But really everything is pointed in the right direction for the big competitions that we have coming up," First Lt. Kelly continued. "I'll also use the World Cup in Rome as a bit of a tune-up for the Pan Am Games, which is my focus right now."
The first female and male finishers from both North America and South America at the Pan Am Games will earn a berth in the 2008 Beijing Games.
"Making the Olympic team is definitely the goal," said Spc. Bowsher, who entered WCAP last January after completing Army Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training. "But right now we have another World Cup in (Rome) Italy, and the Pan American Games, which is an Olympic qualifier.
"It will definitely be a load off my back if I qualify (for the Olympics at the Pan Am Games.) Then I will be able to just train and not have a lot of pressure on me."
First Lt. Kelly won the women's national championship in 2003 and a bronze medal in the first World Cup event of this season in Mexico City.
Barring injury or unforeseen developments, First Lt. Kelly and Sheila Taormina, a three-time Olympian in swimming and triathlon who bypassed this event to attend an elite fencing camp in Portland, Ore., are virtual locks to make the Olympic team, said Janusz Peciak, a six-time U.S. Olympic modern pentathlon coach who also led WCAP pentathletes from 1995 through 2005.
"My goal is to earn my Olympic spot there," First Lt. Kelly said of the Pan Am Games in Rio. "We're working in the right direction and hopefully it will be my day there."
Olympic berths also will be on the line at the Modern Pentathlon World Championships Aug. 14-22 in Berlin and the World Cup finale Sept. 15-16 in Beijing.
Mr. Peciak believes that Spc. Bowsher is now the "man to beat" in the United States.
"He has improved unbelievably in the last two years in fencing and running," Mr. Peciak said of Spc. Bowsher. "I believe he has a great future. He just needs to get that killer instinct."
Spc. Bowsher, who recently won a silver medal in the fifth World Cup stop in Drzonkow, Poland, became the first American male to medal at a World Cup event since two-time Olympian Spc. Chad Senior stuck gold in 2003 in Mexico City.
(Tim Hipps writes for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Public Affairs.)