LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Male athletes representing countries from around the world faced the grueling Florida sunshine during Day Two of the Modern Pentathlon World Cup Final held at the Sarasota Polo Club, the first time the United States has hosted a pentathlon in more than four decades.
An enthusiastic audience of family, friends, volunteers and spectators enjoyed a day of competition involving five sports and 36 male
athletes all competing in different events, from fencing, swimming and equestrian jumping to a men's combined event of running and laser pistol shooting.
The Modern Pentathlon is the embodiment of Olympic versatility and the test of a complete athlete, dating back to the ancient Olympic Games held in Athens, Greece.
The pentathlon is a complicated sport which requires multifaceted athletic skills, but the young team representing the United States, which traveled from Colorado Springs, where the Olympic Training Center is based, was ready for the challenge.
"This is a great training ground for them to get experience. There are five sports involved, and it takes many years to develop all the skills, but we're happy to be here in Sarasota," said USA coach Janusz Peciak.
From early in the day, when the athletes first competed in fencing and swimming at the Selby Aquatic Center in Sarasota, to the end of the competition on a hot field at the polo grounds, pistol shooting and running, Russia and the Ukraine proved to be the world's finest pentathletes and champions. Russian athletes Aleksander Lesun and Ilia Frolov won the gold and bronze medals, with Ukrainian athlete Pavlo Tymoshchenko taking silver.
The American competitors, including 29-year-old Nathan Schrimsher, hoping for a chance to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, said the event was tough but worth it.
"This is a tough climate. I train in Colorado where it's cooler, but everyone here is looking for Rio, and that's our main goal," said Schrimsher, who serves in the U.S. Army and is training for the Olympics as part of the Army's World Class Athlete program.
His commander, Major Gen. Camille Nichols, says there's great synergy between becoming a world-class athlete and a world-class soldier.
"This is just one of many Olympic sports the Army is involved in. We have soldiers training for the Olympics as wrestlers, boxers and even bobsledders. It's a great program, and it makes you Army strong."
Local spectators like Rich Donoghue of Bradenton said he enjoyed watching the men's equestrian jumping, which he had the opportunity to see at the 1972 Olympics in Munich when he was serving in the Army.
"This is fun and interesting. It demonstrates a wide variety of skill sets, which makes you a great overall athlete."
Jim Sweeney of Sarasota was impressed by all the different countries attending the event so close to home.
"This is really cool and very exciting. These truly are top of the line, world class athletes," Sweeney said.
On Friday, 36 women representing nations from around the world competed in the World Cup Final.
The pentathlon event will conclude Sunday with mixed relay competitions held again at the Sarasota Polo Grounds. Gates open at 11:30 a.m.
Tickets can be purchased online at sbpentathlon.com.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.