UNIVERSITY PARK -- Rowing isn't the only Olympic sport coming to Manatee-Sarasota.
The area will host four major pentathlon events, including the World Cup Finals in 2014 and 2016, a World Cup first-round event in 2015 and the Olympic team trials in 2016, the sport's international governing body announced Tuesday.
The Union International de Pentathlon Moderne chose Manatee-Sarasota over such cities as Cairo, Rome and Budapest that submitted bids. Most of the five pentathlon events -- equestrian show-jumping, fencing, swimming, running and pistol shooting -- will be held at the newly constructed Nathan Benderson Park, site of the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
"For the first time in over 40 years, the international championship for one of the oldest and grandest Olympic sports will return to the United States," said USA Pentathlon Executive Director Rob Stull in a statement. "Sarasota-Bradenton's cohesive vision and exceptional presentation secured World Cup events in each of the next three years; an amazing feat and a significant opportunity for the growth of Pentathlon in the United States and throughout North America."The 2014 World Cup Final will showcase the top 36 male and 36 female pentathlon athletes from around the world. Future events will include preparation for competitors in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.
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A local committee headed up by former Congresswoman Katherine Harris and Paul Blackketter, head of the Suncoast Aquatic and Nature Center Associates, helped lead the charge to bring the events to the area.
"Winning these prestigious events constitutes a seminal moment in the evolution of Sarasota and Bradenton into truly world-class communities," Harris said. "The Pentathlon brings together a diverse array of Olympic sports and their associated communities, giving our region a tremendous opportunity for exposure to a broad global audience.
"Sarasota and Bradenton offer a unique sense of scale to this event. We have grown large enough to provide the necessary resources and support, but our small-town hearts will ensure that Pentathletes and fans never receive greater attention or a warmer welcome."
Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter@JasonBartolone.