Captain takes on pentathlon - Air Force officer lives lifelong Olympic dream

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Air Force Capt. Eli Bremer predicted there would be a shakeup in the shooting and fencing portions of the Olympic men’s modern pentathlon. Bremer, however, got all shook up during his first two shots of the five-sports-in-one-day event.

“History has shown the top guys have blown it in the first couple of events,” Bremer said two days before finishing 23rd with 5,204 modern pentathlon points in the event that consists of 10-meter air pistol shooting, epee one-touch fencing, 200-meter freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping and 3,000-meter running in one day.

History was not on the side of the Air Force World Class Athlete Program modern pentathlete on Aug. 21, when he competed in the pentathalon.

“It started out really badly the first two shots,” said Bremer, 30, a native of Hancock, N.H., who is stationed at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

“The first shot, I was too aggressive on the trigger, I wasn’t settled into my hold, and it was a four, and that really, really unnerved me,” he said. “My next shot, I came onto the target, and I wasn’t looking at the sights because I was so distracted, and I shot a six.

“I sat myself down, calmed down, and said, ‘You’re better than this. You can clean up your act a little bit,’” he continued. “I refocused and shot a lot better, but I dropped 10 points in the first two shots, and you can’t do that and expect to do well at the Olympics.”

With 916 shooting points, Bremer was 34th among 36 athletes after one event. He followed with a four-way tie for 29th place in fencing, worth 736 points, that left him in 35th place after two disciplines.

“Had I had a better shoot, I think the fence would have gone better, too,” Bremer said. “As much as you would like to think that the sports don’t interact with each other, when you’re having a great day, it just continues to build on itself.

“When you’re having a bad day, it’s real hard to pick yourself up by the bootstraps four more times,” he said. “I can’t expect to come out of a shoot like that and do well. I knew right after that it would be virtually impossible to pull back up.”

The remainder of Bremer’s long-awaited day was an exercise in salvaging pride.

In swimming, his forte, Bremer finished seventh with a time of 2 minutes, 2.80 seconds, earning 1,328 points that put him in 34th place.

“It was my best swim this year,” he said. “Actually, it was my best swim since I’ve been in pentathlon. But even that was a little off. I swam a 2:02, and I was aiming for about 2 minutes. Had the day been a little more optimal, had preparations of the last couple of weeks with travel and all that gone a little better, I think it could have been closer to 2 minutes.”

A lot of little things added up to a disappointing overall day, Bremer said, giving himself a grade of D for the performance.

“I was coming off of a very strong performance in the world championships, which is probably harder than the Olympics,” he said. “I didn’t rest for it and got 12th. I just did everything right there, and then kind of did the opposite here - just had the opposite day.”

On horseback, Bremer rode Dangdang to a 14th-place finish worth 1,060 modern pentathlon points. He entered the run in 25th place and gutted out 3,000 meters in pouring rain to finish with the seventh-fastest time of 9:19.61 for 1,164 points and a 23rd-place finish, with a 5,204 modern pentathlon total.

Defending Olympic champion Andrey Moiseev of Russia became only the second back-to-back winner of gold medals in Olympic modern-pentathlon history with 5,632 points. Lithuania’s Edvinas Krungolcas took the silver with 5,548 points. The bronze went to Lithuania’s Andrejus Zadneprovskis at 5,524.

Despite his ominous start, Bremer kept competing like a champion.

“I tried to fight as much as I could, and I was pretty proud of the fact that I didn’t give up,” said Bremer, who cherished living his lifelong dream.

“I love the city and it’s been a lot of fun to be here,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic experience being in the Olympics. It’s a dream come true from that point of view. It’s possible that I’ll compete on to 2012. About six months ago, I was saying, ‘Absolutely not,’ but I’m definitely not writing it off now.

“I think I’ve got a lot better performance in me than we saw today, so I wouldn’t mind taking another crack at it and ending the career on a higher note,” the captain said. “That right there is kind of motivating to me. I don’t like to go out on a low note.”

Bremer could not complete his Beijing experience without saluting his Air Force supporters.

“I couldn’t do this without the Air Force,” he said. “They’re really the reason I’m here. It’s just impossible for me to do this sport without their support. It’s been terrific to represent them, and this week has been awesome.

“Today was a bad day,” he continued, “but I’ve probably gotten 50 e-mails from service-members who I didn’t even know who are e-mailing from around the world, from Qatar to Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, to a former first sergeant who’s now a chief master sergeant who sent me an e-mail. I haven’t talked to him in seven years, and he sent me an e-mail saying, ‘Hey, congratulations on making the Olympics. I always knew you could do it.’ So having the Air Force as a backer has been terrific.”

Given the sacrifices he’s had to make in pursuing his dream, Bremer said, the support from friends and strangers alike was important. “Really, I couldn’t do it without them,” he said. “It’s a tough sport financially. It’s a tough sport emotionally and physically, and you’ve got to have to have a strong background cast.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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