Fruitvale native Claire Samulak’s Pan Am Games journey to Lima, Peru came to an end on Saturday with impressive results in the women’s Modern Pentathlon.
Samulak broke the top-20 in the Americas, coming in 19th place overall in the gruelling five-event sport.
“I am happy with my performance,” Samulak told the Times on Monday from Lima. “It is really hard for anyone to put together a perfect day in pentathlon. I had a few goals when I came here and I met most of them.”
The Modern Pentathlon is one of the most challenging and unique events at the Games. Consisting of five sports, including one-touch épée fencing, 200-metre freestyle swimming, equestrian show-jumping and a final combined laser pistol shooting and running event (referred to as Laser Run). The events are done consecutively and the competition completed in one day.
Samulak opened the Games with a third-place finish in her heat in swimming, then began the marathon one-touch fencing event. As anticipated, Samulak’s best performance came in riding where she placed sixth, and held down 14th spot heading into the final event, the Laser-run. Samulak dropped a few spots but finished with a personal-best 1,002 points to complete her first Pan Am Games experience.
“I wanted to break 1000 points for the first time, which I did and I am so glad I was able to do that at such a high level of competition,” Samulak said. “I wanted to place in the top 20, and I did that too. I always want to do better, but that’s something that every driven person feels and it’s what makes a great athlete.”
While the focus is on sport, the Pan Am Games are as much a cultural event and Samulak said she was particularly impressed with the food in Lima, and the accommodations at the athletes village. One of the more inspiring moments for Claire came after Team Canada’s flag raising ceremony when she met Canada’s Governor General Julie Payette.
“I invited her to come watch our competition … She was there at the finish line cheering me on and came and gave me a big hug and told me that I was a true all-around athlete and represented Canada so well in my interactions with other country’s athletes.
“I told her to, ‘Say hi to the Queen for me!’”
The 25-year-old Samulak took up the sport two years ago and has competed in the Modern Pentathlon for just over a year. Yet, participating at such a high level has also reaped other rewards. She worked with top sports psychologist Karen MacNeill, as well as some of Canada’s best physiotherapists that help speed recovery time from the many bumps and bruises endured in training and competition.
Her incredible progress and mentoring from veteran Canada teammates Kelly Fitsimmons and Shauna Eileen Biddulph also bodes well for the future.
“The Modern Pentathlon Canada team is a fun, outgoing and experienced group who have showed great encouragement to me as the newcomer. I’ve made unforgettable memories and lifelong friends.
“What an honour to represent my country at this event,” added Samulak. “I have learned an enormous amount to set me up for a stronger performance at the next Pan Am Games.
“It’s been an incredible experience.”
Mexico’s Arceo Gutierrez won gold in the women’s Modern Pentathlon with 1,392 points, followed by Samantha Achterberg of the USA, 1,338, and Laura Moya-Lopez of Cuba with bronze, 1,327.
Canada’s Fitsimmons finished ninth and Eileen Biddulph in 16th.
As of Monday afternoon, Canada had won two gold, 14 silver, and nine bronze for a total of 25 medals, good for third overall.
Approximately 6,700 athletes from 41 nations of the Americas will compete in Lima, covering 62 disciplines in 39 sports – the largest sporting event ever held in Peru. The Pan Am Games continues until Aug. 11.