Seeing Silver: Margaux Isaksen Starts Pentathlon Season Strong

By Paul D. Bowker - February 24, 2015

The road toward Rio began impressively enough for U.S. pentathlete Margaux Isaksen.

In the season-opening UIPM Modern Pentathlon World Cup stop this past weekend in Sarasota, Florida, the two-time Olympian led portions of the women’s final on Friday and ultimately won a silver medal. She finished runner-up to Great Britain’s Samantha Murray, the silver medalist at the London 2012 Olympic Games and defending world champion.

The Sarasota event was the first to award qualification points toward the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

“I’m pleased with how I performed,” Isaksen, 23, told TeamUSA.org. “The first competition of the year is a great way to gauge where I am both physically and mentally.”

And that would be just six points from the top step of the podium at the beginning of the season, when Isaksen’s body isn’t running at full speed just yet.

“I’m not incredibly fit at the moment,” she said. “There is still so much work to do this season and so many things I can improve on. But overall the season is off to a good start, and I feel like I’m in a good place. Every competition from this day forward is a building block on the road to Rio.”

There is no question where USA Modern Pentathlon CEO Rob Stull is hoping to see her.

“We’ve always thought that she is the best pentathlete in the world,” Stull said, “and she’s demonstrated it here (in Sarasota).”

Isaksen’s speed in the running and swimming events makes her a contender at every event. She had the third-best fencing score in Sarasota and had her third-fastest swimming time in three years. Before turning to pentathlon, she was a cross-country runner for her state championship team in Arkansas. The combined event in pentathlon is a 3,200-meter run divided into three 800-meter runs, each followed by laser shooting at targets.

“I was so conscious of Margaux behind me, she’s such a strong athlete,” Murray told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Isaksen’s fencing scores have already been helped by the addition of three-time Olympian Seth Kelsey as a coach. Kelsey missed winning a medal in epee fencing at the London 2012 Olympic Games by one spot.

Isaksen, who qualified for her first Olympic Games team in 2008 at age 16, finished just eight points out of a medal in 2012 in London. Next year in Rio, Isaksen could have U.S. company in her attempt to make the podium.

“It’s a very strong women’s team,” Stull said. “I think we can actually podium two women.”

The United States has not medaled in modern pentathlon at the Games since Emily deRiel won the silver medal in the women’s competition at the Sydney Games in 2000, when women first competed in the sport.

In addition to Margaux, among those gunning for the Olympic podium in 2016 are Isabella Isaksen, her younger sister who finished 27th in Sarasota, and Samantha Achterberg, who finished 19th.

“Isabella obviously is following in her sister’s footsteps,” Stull said. “She’s got a lot of talent.”

At Sarasota’s Nathan Benderson Park, both Isaksen women made it to the final round of the world cup, proudly running, swimming, shooting, fencing and riding in front of their home country spectators at a venue that not only will host the Pentathlon World Cup Final in 2016 but also the World Rowing Championships in 2017.

“Competing on home soil is incredible,” said Margaux Isaksen, who quickly surfaced as a USA Modern Pentathlon star in 2007 when she won national titles at the senior, junior and youth levels. “There is no greater honor than representing the country you love. Hearing the cheers from my fellow Americans helped motivate and inspire me to push just a little bit harder.

“It might sound cliché, but I have really never been prouder to be an American. It’s lovely to see pentathlon gaining popularity in the United States.”

And part of the reason for that growing popularity are the Isaksen sisters, Achterberg and Dennis Bowsher, a 2012 Olympian and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program who trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Bowsher was the lone American to qualify for the men’s final in Sarasota, finishing 31st. Overall, 12 U.S. women and 12 men competed.

“Across the board, we had great performances by both our men’s and women’s teams,” Stull said.

Paul D. Bowker is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.