Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Grant’s Olympic experience has highs and lows

Grant’s Olympic experience has highs and lows
Preparations did not result in planned personal-best performance in Beijing
for modern pentathlete from P.E.I.

The Guardian

Being an international-level athlete often means soaring highs and bottomless lows.

An international stage like the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, China, magnifies those chart points.

For modern pentathlete Kara Grant, her second Olympic Games became a mark on her career she wishes were erasable.

“Was I disappointed in my 31st-place finish? Yes. Perhaps more so since I did a great job with my preparation and was confident in a great performance in Beijing,” Grant wrote in a recent e-mail to The Guardian. “I did a lot of reflection in the months leading up to the Olympics and I was ready. For whatever reason this did not translate into the lifetime-best performance I was planning on giving.”

Grant returned to Canada last Friday.

The Stratford native finished 22nd at the Olympics in Athens, Greece, in 2004. That experience and good results in world competition in 2008 (a top-10 finish at the world championships and Canada’s first ever World Cup medal) had her primed to improve in China.

And in front of 20,000 spectators at the shooting venue, she placed 16th and, she said, felt prepared and determined for the fencing competition.

But after winning three straight matches to open the event, Grant said things soured as she drifted from her strategy and finished 24th with a 15-20 win-loss record.

“Unfortunately my eagerness to make touches and win bouts made me a little overeager at times and I had trouble sticking to my game plan. I made a number of unnecessary errors which amounted to giving away matches,” she said. “Considering the great training and results I had in fencing this year, it was perhaps the biggest disappointment of the day.”

Next for Grant, a confessed poor swimmer in modern pentathlon terms, the 200-metre freestyle swim loomed and while accepting she’d have the slowest time, she thought a personal best might be floating in the Yingdong Natatorium pool.

“I did not even come close,” said Grant, who finished dead last in 36th place.

By the riding event, Grant’s medal hopes fizzled. But she pressed on, hoping to rise in the standings before the final test in the 3,000-metre run.

There was a chance, too, as the riding match in men’s pentathlon the previous day produced wild changes in the rankings, some athletes moving up 15 places.

But again, that break didn’t come about. Officials removed difficult-to-control horses which evened out the field and meant massive changes weren’t likely.

That and trouble reining in her horse spoiled Grant’s hopes of leaping-frogging competitors.

“While a keen jumper, my steed had an inclination for speed and a disregard for the top rail of the jumps. He was too strong for me and I wasn’t able to control his speed well enough to leave the rails up,” said Grant. “While my five rails were an improvement over his other rounds (eight and nine rails respectively), the damage was done. I was well and truly at the bottom of the field this day.”

Grant finished a respectable 16th in the run, which she called “anti-climactic”, and edged up one place to 31st.

Winning modern pentathlon is about consistency because the margins of victory are thin.

Germany’s Lena Schoneborn, the gold medallist, finished 10th or better in four event of five events and earned 5,792 points.

Great Britain’s silver medal-winner, Heather Fell, totalled just 40 points less and Ukrainian Victoria Tereshuk took bronze, a mere 80 points from silver.

Grant ended the day-long competition 696 points away from the podium.

After the event, Grant, 29, spent a week touring Beijing with her husband Jamie Whynacht and her family while gaining a little perspective.

“I’m pleased to say that my result in Beijing has not affected how I feel about my choice to be involved in pentathlon, nor how I feel about the many excellent results I have had over the course of my 12-year career. Representing Prince Edward Island and Canada at two Olympic Games and numerous international competitions has been the experience of a lifetime,” said Grant.

“Thanks to everyone who has made this incredible journey not only possible, but extremely rewarding.”

Monica Pinette, who finished 27th, was the top Canadian.

No comments: