RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Army News Service, July 26, 2007) - U.S. Army World Class Athlete 1st Lt. Mickey Kelly secured a berth in the 2008 Olympic Games with a third-place finish in the women's modern pentathlon July 23rd at the XV Pan American Games Rio 2007.
"I can't believe I just did that," 1st Lt. Kelly said of winning a Pan Am Games bronze medal and earning a trip to Beijing, China, as the second North American finisher at the Deodoro Sports Complex.
"I'm still in shock. You dream of it and you try to put everything in position so you can have that," she said, "and when it comes true, you're just like: 'Whoa, did that really just happen'' I'm just ecstatic."
Brazil's Yane Marques won the gold medal with 5,484 points. Canada's Monique Pinette struck silver with 5,288 points. First Lt. Kelly took the bronze with 5,252.
"It was the mission and I am so thankful for everyone who has helped me along the way," said 1st Lt. Kelly, 29, a native of Chatham, N.Y., who is stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. "There are so many people who just put in a nice word of encouragement, and the Army, the coaches and my teammates."
First Lt. Kelly was seventh among 14 competitors in the 10-meter air pistol event and earned 976 modern pentathlon points. She finished in a four-way tie for seventh in epee one-touch fencing for 784 points. Her 200-meter freestyle swim time of 2 minutes, 26.75 seconds was sixth-best for 1,160 points.
First Lt. Kelly overcame early trouble aboard her horse, Tai Pan, to finish third in the equestrian show-jumping event for 1,140 points.
On the first of two rail knockdowns, Tai Pan stumbled over the obstacle and 1st Lt. Kelly lost her footing in the stirrup.
"I had to ride the next two jumps with no stirrup," she said. "But I had my goal in mind, and I was like 'OK, we're doing this come hell or high water.'"
First Lt. Kelly got her foot back in the stirrup and scored 1,144 points with the third-best ride of the competition.
U.S. teammate Sheila Taormina, a two-time Olympian in swimming and triathlon, drew a horse named Euacao Do Rin that refused eight jumps, costing Taormina 800 points for obstruction penalties and 300 more for failing to complete the course within the allotted time. She finished 11th overall.
"I felt bad," 1st Lt. Kelly said of Ms. Taormina's misfortune. "I've been there and I've done that. Of course, in the end, it was an advantage for me, but that is pentathlon, and that's the hardest thing to grasp about it. Sometimes it's unfair, but if you just deal with it and move on, the next time that comes up you deal with it better."
First Lt. Kelly secured the bronze medal with the second-fastest 3,000-meter cross-country run time of 10:33.55 for 1,188 modern pentathlon points.
First Lt. Kelly attributes her progression to grasping how modern pentathlon works and "just rolling with it."
"You have to because it's not going to be your best day in all five events in one day," she explained. "When we pray for that, it's going to be at the Olympic Games, but until then we're just going to work up to it."
Before departing for Brazil, 1st Lt. Kelly had dinner in Washington with her uncle, Sgt. 1st Class Jay Rippel, who shared stories about fighting the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.
"It was really humbling," she said. "And I thought how it would be so wonderful just to be able to represent them (by making the U.S. Olympic Team) because I've trained for it and I've been trying to get there. And to just be able to say: 'Hey, it's for you guys,' because they are just amazing at what they do. I'm glad that I'm able to do my part in the same way."
(Tim Hipps writes for the U.S. Army Family Morale Welfare and Readiness Command Public Affairs Office)