PARKTON, Md. (WJZ)– In just a week, a young Baltimore County woman will arrive in London to pursue her Olympic ambitions.
She can run, shoot, fence, swim and ride, and she’s one of the best in the world.
Denise Koch has more on Suzanne Stettinius and her quest to go for the gold.
Maryland has made its mark in the Olympics, with athletes such as Michael Phelps, Kimmie Meissner and Dominique Dawes.
Now there is a new name to add to the mix: Suzanne Stettinius. She is one of the best in the world, but in a sport not many have heard of.
The modern pentathlon, composed of riding, running, shooting, swimming and fencing, pits this 24-year-old from Parkton against the world’s best athletes.
Growing up, she did not even imagine that she would one day be competing in the Olympics.
“No, I didn’t even think it was a possibility,” she said.
Stettinius has been riding horses since she was just 4 years old.
“My dad taught me how to shoot. I got swim lessons to try to work on my stroke a bit,” she said.
However, it was not until a national riding competition in middle school that her Olympic dream began to take shape.
“These pentathletes came and we learned about what the pentathlon was, ’cause we never really knew. We’re like, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ I already do all these sports. All I have to do is learn to fence,” Stettinius said.
It didn’t take her long to master fencing. She competed in her first competition when she was 17 years old, and her potential was immediately recognized.
“I won the junior division. The coaches were like where did this girl come from because nobody had ever heard of me before,” she said.
In the world of pentathletes, plenty of people have heard of Stettinius now. She is one of only two American women who qualified for the 2012 Olympic team.
“You have to be one of those people, you’re not amazing at anything, but you’re solid at everything,” she said.
She’ll have to be solid at riding, as competitors don’t find out which horse they’ll be riding until 20 minutes before the event. Then, they’ll have to jump 15 fences.
Her riding coach feels confident.
“She’s so gifted and so naturally balanced. I think she has the edge there,” coach Perry Fitzpatrick said.
It hasn’t always been easy, and at times it has been dangerous. Stettinius has broken both her neck and collarbone over the years.
“It was a reality check. I realized if I want to do this sport, I’ve got to dedicate myself to the sport,” she said.
Hours of training everyday make this a full-time commitment, which can be tiring at times.
“When I hit a wall, it’s not just me anymore, my whole community is backing me up. I have to suck it up,” she said.
Stettinius is the first woman from Maryland to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in the modern pentathlon.