Reflections on the 2013 Pentathlon

by Jason Burnstein


I was once told that whenever there is a pentathlete of Greek descent at the Pentathlon, the sun always shines.  In fact, the superstition proved true for many years.  However, this year, it was struck down (perhaps by a thunderbolt from Zeus).  Yes, it rained, and rained, and sprinkled, and stopped, and then rained some more.  But I am not complaining, and neither did the students.  In fact, the rain seemed to emphasize some of the most profound lessons that the Pentathlon has to offer: lessons in perseverance, endurance, and maintaining a positive attitude throughout challenging times.

Not once did I hear the students complain about the weather.  Instead, I witnessed them grow stronger because of it.  Maybe it was the fact that we trained in weather that was even colder and fiercer than the day of the Pentathlon.  Or perhaps the ancient gods heard all of the odes they had written and filled their hearts with courage.  Maybe it was the powerful blessing on the pentathletes spoken in Greek by Niko’s dad, Yianni, that made these students so brave.  Whatever the reason, they all seemed to improve, and shine, and succeed like never before, despite the rain.

There were many memorable moments on the day of the Pentathlon; those incredible acts of beauty that lift the hearts of all that witness them.  In those moments, the student seems to become something much greater than they are.  She looks like a Greek statue, in perfect balance and harmony; the ideal form of the human body.  He reaches for the ideal movement, and exceeds everyone’s expectations.  It is a deed of such beauty that it is impossible to describe.  But those that were there will know what I speak of.  And it happened again and again, by each and every student, all day long.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne specific example of nobility and grace was during a new event called the Chariot Race.  In this event each city-state runs a long lap as a group.  They leave the start line together and are timed until the last person crosses the finish line.  For them to improve their score they need to work together.  The fast runners have to set a pace that all can follow.  The group has to decide on a dynamic that will help get them to the finish line as fast as possible.  On the final run we all witnessed a powerful moment of camaraderie as one student struggled to make it to the end, the entire city-state turned back. With arms around her, they walked, skipped, jogged, to the finish line together.

At the closing ceremony I asked all of the students to take hold of the medals given to them by Zeus and Athena and think back on the day.  I challenged them to be proud of themselves for every moment that they tried their hardest and strove for excellence; no matter the result.  And I reminded them, that the glory of this day will fade away, but the spirit that they brought to the training and to the Pentathlon will forever be there for them.  After all, the Pentathlon is not really about throwing javelins, and running sprints.  It is about learning new skills, striving for an ideal, persevering through challenges and disappointment, and being proud of yourself for doing the best you could…no matter the weather.