POSTED: Tuesday July 31st 2012

Modern Pentathlon: Daniel has experienced the highs and lows

The weight of a nation will be on Daniel in London
The weight of a nation will be on Daniel in London

Daniel is happy to final achieve his Olympic Dream
Daniel is happy to final achieve his Olympic Dream

Modern pentathlon, like so many things in life, is largely about navigating relationships.

It┬┤s a sport built upon understanding and working with the horse you draw. Success depends upon anticipating the moves of your opponent. Even the personal relationship formed with equipment is essential for victory.

It┬┤s a lesson Thomas Daniel learned all too well in 2008.

Prior to a training trip, Daniel responsibly packed up his car with all of his gear, ready to leave the next morning. When he woke, however, he learned the universe had a different plan for him. During the night, his car was broken into and among the things stolen was his competition pistol.

While replacing the pistol seems like a simple solution, it is anything but for an athlete attempting to qualify for his first Olympics. Modern pentathletes spend months learning how their pistol fires, how it feels, and how it reacts.

“I had several good competitions in 2007, so I thought I could make the Olympics in 2008,” Daniel said.

Daniel was left with no other option but to enter the remaining crucial final qualifying competitions with a new gun. Like walking to the alter with someone you hardly know, the result was disastrous.

“Mentally it was very hard to continue with my new gun,” Daniel said. “Also in the training session, I had some problems with the new weapon. Then I had several bad shootings in the same year when the qualifications were.”

Daniel failed to qualify for Beijing by just a few places, leaving a sting that needed time to heal. However, fortunately for him, another relationship saved his career.

Born in a country not recognized for its success in modern pentathlon, Daniel was discovered by his current coach and former pentathlete Horst Stocker in a running session more than 10 years ago. Stocker, an Olympian himself, has stayed with Daniel throughout the young Austrian┬┤s decade-long career.

Over the years, the two have developed a special relationship more friendly than instructive.

“We have a very good relationship because I have seen him nearly every day for more than ten years,” Daniel said. “I am his only professional athlete. He is so much on the same wave with me. He goes on the training camps and competitions. Hes like a good friend of mine.”

Daniel cites Stocker as one of the most influential people in his life to date.

“He was at the Olympics in 1984,” Daniel said. “It was always my goal to be there (at the Olympics) because I knew he was at the Olympics and I knew my goal was to be at the Olympics like him.”

If not for Stocker, Daniel might not have returned to be the world class athlete he is today after sitting Beijing out.

“My coach supported me a lot,” Daniel said. “I have worked with a sport psychologist since 2007. Both of them helped me to continue in a positive way.”

The work paid off, as Daniel was granted the opportunity to follow in his coach┬┤s Olympic footsteps through his world ranking.

In London, Daniel will have the chance to repay the favor by giving something to Stocker he never had - and Olympic medal. While Stocker competed in Los Angeles, he finished in last place.

Daniel, however, who finished fifth at World Championships in London in 2009, has a strong chance to dramatically improve Austria┬┤s Olympic history in modern pentathlon. It doesn't hurt that England is a favorite competition site for him.

“Every time, I've had very good competitions in England,” Daniel said. “The riding is high quality. The horses are challenging and I think I┬┤m good at riding. I think I┬┤ll have good possibilities to get used to the horse.”

If he does, it will be a marked change from his coach┬┤s Olympic experience, as Stocker failed to complete the riding course in America.

But no matter what happens, one thing is for sure. Daniel, who has nearly 12 people coming to cheer him on, including both his and Stocker┬┤s parents, will have one of the largest cheering sections in the venue.

After all, what is it all worth in the end if you don┬┤t have strong relationships with the people around you.

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Keywords · Modern Pentathlon · London 2012 · Pentathlon · Pentathlete · Olympics · Olympic Games · London · UIPM · IOC · Coubertin · Run · Shoot · Swim · Ride · Fence · Great Britain · gold · champion · Austria · Thomas Daniel · Daniel · Austrian

Name: Matt Pound
Organization: Union Internationale De Pentathlon Moderne - UIPM
Phone: +377 9777 8555

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