SARASOTA -- Pentathlete Liang Wan Xia said Wednesday she was amazed at the wildlife and natural beauty in the Sarasota-Bradenton area as she looked at the new course at Nathan Benderson Park.
"I'm really impressed by the big flowers and the beautiful, big birds," she said during her visit as part of an athletic team from China.
When asked about her view of where the Modern Pentathlon World Cup I is taking place, the 24-year-old athlete from Guang Zhou, China, responded: "I like it very much."
"I have felt very much at home," she said through an interpreter at the athletes tent at Sarasota's Nathan Benderson Park where the Olympic qualifying event continues through Sunday.
She was already a winner Wednesday in the semifinals at Benderson Park, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, which is also going on at Selby Aquatic Center, 8301 Potter Park Drive in Sarasota. Nerves had not been a problem, she said.
"No, not nervous. This is only the preliminary, and I've been here before," she said.
She was among a team of four women, four men and five coaches, all trained in China's capital city, Beijing.
"It's winter there," she noted, adding everyone in her home country Wednesday was celebrating the Chinese New Year.
"We're missing that," she said wistfully, but brightened quickly as she watched pentathlon competitors nearby practice shooting laser pistols.
Enjoying lunch nearby was Jakub Chamrad, 31, an agent for PentaShot, a Czech
company that sells and services laser pistols and targets used in the shooting competitions. He is here to handle any possible equipment issues.
"They're based on air pistols," he explained about laser pistols. Laser shooting, adopted in 2011, provides exact measurement and worry-free ease of competition.
"You never worry about accidents," he said. "The laser won't hurt anybody even if you point it in the eye."
Chamrad, who hails from Moravia, Czech Republic, said he follows the circuit of pentathlon contests around the world.
"We are going to every World Cup," he added.
About 240 athletes from 36 countries are here for the world-class pentathlon competition, which consists of five events: fencing, swimming, horse riding and combined running and shooting.
Competitors are vying for spots on national teams for the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
For information, go toSBPentathlon.com. See competition results atpentathlon.org.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.