LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The Russian pair held flowers and each other and smiled with pride at their accomplishments Sunday.
The pair -- Ekaterina Khuraskina and Lesun Aleksander -- won the mixed relay, Sunday's final leg of the 2014 Modern Pentathlon World Cup Final held at the Sarasota Polo Club.
On another steamy day, the Russian pair racked up a combined 1,456 points in fencing, swimming, equestrian jumping, running and shooting -- the five skills pentathletes perform -- to earn a 10-point win over China's mixed team of Qian Chen and Jianli Guo, who combined for 1,446 points.
The U.S. team, which includes Margaux Isaksen and Nathan Schrimsher, finished 10th in the 12-country field with 1,389 points.
The Americans finished eighth in the fencing, fifth in swimming, 11th in riding and seventh in the combined shooting and running.
The three-day crowd at the Sarasota Polo Club and The Selby Aquatic Center was estimated at 6,000, said David Host, U.S. pentathlon spokesman.
After their victory, Khuraskina said she and Aleksander do a 3-mile run and a long swim nearly every day in Russia.
"Swimming and running are six days a week and fencing, riding and shooting are at least three days a week," Khuraskina said.
Khuraskina said she was afraid of the Chinese team, but victory was theirs when everything fell into place.
"I believe that is the very best we could do," Khuraskina said.
Khuraskina also praised the crowd, the facilities and the soft grass.
"Everyone was very nice, very interested and the grass
was nice to run on," she said.
B Lithuania, Czech Republic, Mexico, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Italy, United States, Korea and Argentina finished behind Russia and China.
Although the Russian pair elicited respect from the crowd, the crowd favorites, as expected, were the American team.
Afterward, Isaksen took pictures with young fans, including Anna Mullins, 10 and Tessa Mullins, 5, of Tampa.
"I believe it's an honor to be a role model and with that comes responsibility," she said. "I try to make myself proud."
Isaksen is heading to the Kremlin Cup in Russia to compete, she said.
She and Schrimsher will compete in the World Championships in Warsaw in September.
There were more volunteers than competitors at the Pentathlon, which reflects the many facets of the event.
Cathy Terhaar, one of about 20 volunteers from the Manasota Track Club, said she was amazed watching Sunday's equestrian jumping, as were many fans once they understood the rules.
"The competitors draw their horses at random and have no more than 20 minutes to become familiar before the event begins," Terhaar said.
This made for some fascinating sights.
One horse "bunny-hopped," lifting all four feet at one time over a jump. One rider went flying over a horse's neck. But the riders just get up and finish the exercise.
"The horses don't know the Chinese word for 'Whoa,' " Terhaar said. "So, the language is another barrier they must overcome."
The Ukraine team won the riding event.
Of the Manasota Track Club volunteers, all in a state of elite fitness, only one, Nicole Chapman, said she could possibly do a pentathlon.
"I would have to learn to fence, but I used to ride a little," Chapman said. "I think I could learn to shoot."
Fans were amazed at the athletes' fitness levels, which required Sunday morning swimming followed by fencing, horseback riding then a breathless series of laps and shooting laser pistols at targets.
"This is a great event," said Sarasota's Meredith Woods. "I wasn't quite sure what we would see. But it's a beautiful setting and beautiful athletic feats, including a mini-horse show."
Woods, a financial planner at Robert W. Baird in Sarasota, has done equestrian jumping and knows how important the bond between rider and horse can be. Wood said she couldn't imagine doing a pentathlon.
"I could run, shoot and ride, but I have never fenced and I would have to doggie paddle," she said.
Back in December 2013, the Union International de Pentathlon Moderne, the international governing body for the Olympic sport of Modern Pentathlon, selected Sarasota-Bradenton as the host of four major Pentathlon events, including three World Cup competitions: the World Cup Final in 2014 and 2016 and World Cup first round competition in 2015. Sarasota-Bradenton will also host the U.S. Pentathlon Olympic Team trials in 2016.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond