What do you get when running, shooting, riding, swimming and fencing are combined? An Olympic event that dates back to 708 B.C., known as the Pentathlon.
Kyle Smith, 23, will soon be preparing for the initial stages of training for the Modern Pentathlon at the United States Olympic headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo.
A year ago if someone would have told him he was going to be training for the Olympics he would have said, “ That’d be a great fiction story.”
“At this time last year I was a recent college graduate, starting a new job at Wells Fargo in Omaha,” Smith, a 2006 graduate of Broken Bow High School said. “ I was on the job for less than two weeks and they decided to close numerous locations across the country. I was already a victim of the economy.”
Smith again was looking for a job and he was able to land a job working as an executive assistant for Wellhead Electric in Sacramento, California and he was relatively happy. He was on the job for less than two weeks when he received a call that would again change the direction of his life.
Months before starting his job at Wells Fargo and Wellhead Electric, Smith applied for an internship at the United States Olympic Committee. After receiving the blessing of his boss in Sacramento, Smith moved to Colorado Springs to begin his internship that began this past January.
Smith, a 2010 graduate of Hastings College, earned a degree in business administration, sport management and recreation management and was quickly learning the behind the scene aspects,
“ I was involved in the business aspect, “ he said. “ I just wanted to learn the business and what not a better way than for the Olympic committee.”
It was mid-April and Smith was conducting his daily workout. Shortly after, someone he’d never seen approached him and he started to ask Smith questions.
“ After I finished my workout this guy comes up to me and starts asking me questions. He asked if I’ve swam before and I told him I was a member of the Cosmos Swim team for 10 years in my hometown,” he said. “ He then asked me if I ever shot a gun and been on a horse. I told him ‘ I’m from central Nebraska, I’ve shot a gun and rode a horse before.’”
The man that approached Smith was Rob Stull, a three-time Olympian. Stull competed in the Modern Pentathlon in 1984, 1988 and 1992, winning a silver medal as part of the 1984 U.S. Pentathlon team. He’s also a four-time national fencing champion.
“He asked me if I wanted to train with the team. I thought he was messing around at first. When I discovered he wasn’t joking, I said of course,” Smith said. “ I started to train with them almost everyday.”
It was through his daily training with the Olympic team that he was approached by the coaching staff and was asked a question that would change his life: “ How would you like to be on the Olympic team?”
The coaches told Smith they would love to have him on their team, but he had to do two things first: Run two miles under 10 minutes and swim 200 meters under 2:30.
“ I ran two miles in 8:54 and finished at 2:21 in the 200 meters.”
The following day the coaches asked if he wanted to be a resident athlete.
“ I immediately said yes,” he said. “I mean, come on, what was I going to say? I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to potentially represent the United States.”
He will be training six days a week and his schedule is going to be busy. Smith will be facing long days. His day starts at 6:45 for breakfast. Shooting practice from 7:30 to 9 follows that, and then 9:30 to 11:30 is fencing, then an hour break for lunch. He’ll hit the weight room from 1:00 to 3:15. Swim practice follows shortly after from 3:30 to 5:30.
Smith will be coached by some of the greatest athletes to partake in the Pentathlon.Along with Rob Stull, Kyle will be coached by Dr. Genadijus Sokolovas (swim stroke technician and former Modern Pentathlon Olympian) from Lithuania and Peciak Janusz (Fencing Coach; former Modern Pentathlon Olympic and World Champion) from Poland.
Because of his background in track and swimming he feels comfortable.
“ In college I ran track and I competed for the Cosmos swim team till my sophomore year of college,” he said. “ The coaches told me those are two attributes they look at when recruiting a potential athlete.”
The sport he’s trying to be comfortable with is fencing.
“ Fencing is by far the most frustrating sport I’ve ever tried,” he said. “ You would think it’s easy because the goal is to stab the guy, but there’s just so much technique involved.”
His goal is the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but don’t count out 2012 Olympics in London. “ My coaches have been honest with me. They said their goal for me is 2016 in Brazil” he said.
“ But if I pick things up quickly I could be considered for 2012.” With everything happening so fast, Smith feels extremely fortunate.
“ Going through this I’ve been able to appreciate the things I’ve been given,” he said. “ Never in a million years would I have guessed I’d be training for the Olympics. It’s a humbling experience.”
The foundation of his success has been the skills learned while swimming for the Broken Bow Cosmos Swim Team.
“ My swimming background has been my rock. I was a swimmer before I was a runner,” he said. “ Without swimming I wouldn’t be training for the Olympics.”
His most memorable moment so far involved meeting Michael Phelps, the 16-time Olympic Medal winner.
“ It was mid-March and I finished a workout. I was running downstairs to lunch and I fell down the bottom part of the stairs and biffed it, “ Smith said,” Then someone came running over and asked if I was okay, I was trying to get my bearings and when I looked up it was Michael Phelps who wanted to make sure I was okay, I guess I just fall into things.”
Smith is the son of John and Karen Smith.