Air Force officer strikes gold, Soldier sixth in Pan Am pentathlon
By Tim Hipps FMWRC Public Affairs
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - U.S. Air Force World Class Athlete Program Capt. Eli Bremer earned an Olympic berth by winning the gold medal and Army Spec. Dennis Bowsher battled illness to finish sixth in the men's modern pentathlon July 24 at XV Pan American Games Rio 2007.
"This smile's going to be here for a while," Bremer said after crossing the finish line of the 3,000-meter cross-country run to complete the five-sport event with 5,380 modern pentathlon points. "I just feel like I've finally put all my God-given talent to use. It's the greatest feeling in the world to get to see my flag raised up. I can't describe it, but I'm going to the Olympics!"
Cuba's Yaniel Velazquez won the silver medal with 5,344 points in the daylong test of shooting, fencing, swimming, riding and running. Canada's Joshua Riker-Fox took the bronze with 5,328 points. Bowsher finished 45 seconds behind Bremer in sixth place with 5,200 modern pentathlon points.
Bremer started the day with a personally exceptional 10th-place performance in 10-meter air pistol shooting.
"I actually put the gun down for about a week and just did a lot of mental imagery work," Bremer said of preparation for his weakest link in the five-sport event. "So I walked into shooting and was definitely nervous, but I knew I had to get down to business, and we took care of business in shooting. I had two bad shots, but aside from that it was one of my better shoots of the year."
After keeping calm while shooting, Bremer uncaged his rage during epee one-touch fencing and posted the fourth-best score of the competition with 25 victories and 14 defeats.
"The fencing for me is much more natural," Bremer said. "It's a total change of gears. I was fired up and got off to a good start -- I think I was 6-0 coming off the blocks. Then I just tried to keep my energy high for all 42 touches."
Bremer, 29, a former NCAA Division I swimmer for the U.S. Air Force Academy Falcons, is stationed at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. He had muscle cramps during the 200-meter freestyle here but still posted the fastest time of 2 minutes, 5.63 seconds. Bowsher was second in 2:08.95.
"I was concerned about that so I pulled back a little bit in the last 100 of the swim because I didn't want to risk anything," Bremer explained. "My left foot cramped up coming off the block so I tried not to kick too much in the last 100 because I knew I'd need my legs for riding and maybe running as well."
Atop Lest Moon, Bremer had the ninth-best equestrian ride of the competition.
"Riding is nerve-racking," Bremer said. "I always tell people the day that you're not scared of jumping a horse in a foreign country over 15 four-foot jumps is the day that you no longer belong on a horse. So if you're not scared of doing that, there's something very wrong with you.
"I remember coming into the first jump and looking up at the screen and seeing myself ride on the screen and thinking: 'Well here we go. I've got the Olympics on the line here.' I biffed the first jump and that was definitely my fault. After that, I relaxed a little bit and let the horse do his job."
While Bremer was having one of the most memorable days of his life, Bowsher was struggling to find his competitive form.
"Once I got into Brazil, I got a little under the weather and caught a cold," Bowsher explained. "It's unfortunate, but I'm doing the best that I can to fight through it."
Bowsher's performance in fencing -- 11 victories and 29 defeats -- dropped him from medal contention.
"Everything was like a half-second too slow -- of sticking my arm out and reacting," he said. "I'm not trying to make an excuse, but I'm not a hundred percent right now. That little 'extra bit' you need just wasn't there today."
Bowsher bounced back during his ride atop Lady Day.
"The ride was really good," said Bowsher, 24, a native of Dallas who is stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. "I had to work to make him a good horse because it was the type of horse that needed to go fast and I made him go fast."
Bremer sympathized with his U.S. teammate, who couldn't muster enough speed from his own body.
"Dennis has been really trying to pull through despite being really sick," Bremer said. "He's kept a positive attitude and I can't say enough about what a teammate he's been. It's hard when you're having a day like this because he's had the best year. He's our number-one athlete right now. He had that second place in the World Cup and he won Nationals. He's had the dream year and his day will come."
It all came down to the run, which Bremer won going away.
"My biggest strength right now is probably running, with swimming right behind it," he said. "The international field has gotten so fast in swimming that my running has actually taken over as the dominant sport where I score more points."
Bremer's uncle, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, served as the Presidential Envoy to Iraq and Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority that led the U.S reconstruction effort there from May 2003 to June 2004. Eli plans to separate from the Air Force in late September and become an active Reservist.
"It's always been a dream of mine since I was about 4 years old to go to the Olympics," he said. "I want to go to represent the U.S. and represent the Air Force to say thanks for how much they've done for me."
Bremer has a bachelor's degree in economics, a master's in marketing, and he's considering a government internship in Washington, D.C. He has little more than a year remaining to dream about Olympic gold. Bremer then should have plenty of time to savor his Olympic journey.
"I'll be 30 at the Olympics and I'll feel really satisfied to move on with my life," he concluded.
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