2012 Olympics: Suzanne Stettinius has chance at a medal in modern pentathlon

July 23, 2012

The Olympic dream of Suzanne Stettinius will soon be brought to realization, but her road to London wasn’t always glamorous.

A native of Parkton, Md., near the Pennsylvania state line, Stettinius will represent the United States in the modern pentathlon, an event that judges a one-day performance in equestrian, fencing, running, shooting and swimming.

To prepare, Stettinius needed to train for eight hours a day; as a recent college graduate, the training left her with no time for a job and no source of income.

“It was like I was back in high school,” Stettinius said. “My parents were giving me gas money, food. I was like ‘Mom, I want to go to the movies with friends.’ I had to ask my mom for money. It felt weird, but I definitely would not be here without them.”

Her father said Stettinius is an independent person who would only take financial assistance if she absolutely needed it.

“The Olympic quest is a very long-term goal,” William Stettinius said. “You want to add it all up. Well, you do it as a parent because there’s something there that makes you do it.”

To help pay for her Olympic dream, Stettinius, 24, raised more than $50,000 through donations and fundraising. She held a silent auction, a pistol shooting competition and even a toga party to limit her expenses.

She’s raised enough money to send 13 people, including her family and coaches, to accompany her to London.

“The community just came together and it was great,” Stettinius said.

Stettinius graduated from McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., with a degree in business administration and a minor in economics. During her time in college, she made money by riding race horses in the morning.

She said she started to search for jobs after graduating and people had begun to ask for her résumé, but decided she would wait to work until after the Olympics.

“When I started concentrating on the Olympics, I really didn’t have time for a job at all,” Stettinius said. “I have five sports to be training for.”

Stettinius said she hopes the sport of modern pentathlon can grow in the United States as it has in Europe.

She recently was inspired by a group of 35 youths who attended a camp at the national team’s training grounds in Colorado Springs.

It was at her local pony club where Stettinius was introduced to the sport. She had grown up riding horses and shooting pistols on her Maryland farm, which helped ease her transition and also became her biggest strenghts.

As an 8-year-old she competed in her first tetrathlon, which includes the elements of the modern pentathlon minus fencing.

She learned how to fence when she was 13 and soon began pentathlon. Her father called the sport a natural progression of everything she did as a child.

Swimming was her biggest obstacle as Stettinius didn’t join a competitive team until college.

Her swimming background is “definitely not normal,” she said as as most of her competitors have been swimming for most of their lives.

“I didn’t grow up on swim teams,” she said. “I mean I would do the summer teams, but I wasn’t very good.”

After one year at Bethany College in West Virginia, Stettinius transferred to McDaniel.

During her three years at McDaniel, Stettinius slashed her time in the 200 meters from 2 minutes 40 seconds to 2:19.

After competing in the Olympics on Aug. 12, Stettinius will remain abroad for five days to vacation with her family. Once she returns home, she’ll begin to pay her Olympic debt as she sells most of the nine horses she owns.

As long as she does well in fencing, she says, a medal is attainable. And along with possibly a medal she’ll once again have an income.

“I don’t think it was hard, but I don’t think it was easy for her to say hey I need some money to go to the Wal-Mart,” William Stettinius said. “But, when she’s a full-time athlete, you either support her or not.”

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