Sometime today first-year student Rosalie “Rosie” Purvis will compete in the women’s semifinal Modern Pentathlon Junior World Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The field is composed of junior-level athletes — ages 19 to 21 — from about 30 countries.
Purvis is one of three women and three men on the U.S. team competing in the event, which involves five sports: fencing, swimming, equestrian show jumping, and combined running and pistol shooting.
The women’s final will be held on Nov. 19. There also will be men’s and women’s relays and mixed relays on Nov. 21.
Purvis, a homeschooler from rural Callaway County, Mo., trains anywhere from two to five hours a day — on top of a full class load. A first-year honors student, she plans to major in engineering science.
“Thus far I am excited, nervous, sort of worried, sort of prepared,” she said, about two weeks before leaving for Buenos Aires.
“I definitely feel like my swimming has improved because I have been swimming with Sweet Briar’s team and Jason [Gallaher] and Bonnie [Kestner] have worked to help me improve my technique,” she said of her swimming coaches.
Gallaher, Sweet Briar’s head swimming coach, says those gains come from her desire to get better.
“Rosie is definitely a coachable, focused student-athlete,” he said. “She is very interested in improving, and she is able to instantly apply feedback and instruction. Her willingness to make necessary changes to her strokes has been a huge factor in her improvement. I hope that what we have done with her will benefit her in this competition.”
Purvis uses a laser gun to practice shooting. She’s had less opportunity to train for the run/shoot, which concerns her a little, but riding has gone well. “I worked with the riding program, so now I can ride two days a week, which is great, and I am so thankful they were willing to help me,” she said.
It’s a tough schedule but Purvis, who also competed in the 2011 Junior Olympics Fencing Championships in the United States, and placed sixth in the 2011 U.S. Nationals in modern pentathlon, is facing her toughest and most prestigious contest yet.
Modern pentathlon was created by the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who succeeded in adding it to the games in 1912. Like the original pentathlon, which mimicked warrior skills of the ancient Greeks, de Coubertin conceived the contemporary variation to showcase those of the ideal cavalry soldier at the turn of the last century.
According to the USA Pentathlon website, usapentathlon.org, de Coubertin believed the sport “tested a man’s moral qualities as much as his physical resources and skills, producing thereby the ideal, complete athlete.” The site also notes that then-U.S. Army Lt. George S. Patton finished fifth in the first Olympic modern pentathlon competition.
Modern pentathlon was opened to women in the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Purvis has her sights set on the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, and she is willing to endure the rigors to get there. Indeed, she looks forward to it.
“I like challenges and I love to stay fit,” she says. “God gave me the ability to do something amazing, so I enjoy the hard work it takes to do pentathlon. After pentathlon, everything else seems like a walk in the park, and it gives me a sense of being able to accomplish anything.”