By Mac Christie, Times-Advocate Staff
BUDAPEST — Melanie McCann got her 2014 modern pentathlon season off to a solid start with a seventh place finish at a pre-season competition in Hungary.
The tournament, held in Budapest Feb. 1-2, featured 60 of the top modern pentathletes in the world and McCann said it was a good way to shake the rust off after a winter of training.
“It was really good,” she said of the tournament. “It was a good competition to see how my winter training has been developing.”
The 24-year-old Mount Carmel native added as far as she and her coaches are concerned, she’s right where she needs to be with the World Cup season just around the corner.
“The finish isn’t so important,” she explained. “It’s kind of just making sure that all our training is on track.”
McCann placed third in the fencing portion of the event, 22nd in swimming, seventh in riding and 21st in the combined run-shoot event.
“It looks like my running is getting up to par, (to) where it needs to be,” McCann surmised. “The riding went great.”
McCann said over the last nine months she been keying the running portion of her training.
“We saw some major improvements there,” she explained. “I was time-trialing a lot over the winter, just to make sure my times where were they needed to be.”
As well, McCann said she worked hard on the technical aspects of her swimming stroke.
“I saw some significant changes on race day (with my stroke),” she said. “That doesn’t happen very often, so it was nice to see.”
Meanwhile the fencing result, which McCann said she was happy with, came after a unique competition held over two days, instead of the usual one. As a result, McCann got to fence against all 60 competitors.
McCann added she’s been working on her fencing, claiming the silver medal at the Canadian National Fencing Championships in December, but added the technical events – shooting, fencing and riding – are refined closer to the season.
The Budapest event was the first competition in three months for the Olympian, who last competed in Doha, Qatar in October, finishing fifth.
McCann qualified for the competition, the Champion of Champions, by winning the NORCECA/Pan American Championships in July 2013.
“It was a nice way to close the season after a bit of a stretch off competing,” McCann said. The 11th place finisher at the 2012 London Olympic Games cut back on her number of competitions last season to make sure her body was where it needed to be leading up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero.
“My season this year looks pretty full,” McCann said. “I’m hoping to do three of the four World Cups, then the World Cup Final and the World Championships.”
The NORCECA qualifier and the Canadian Championships are also marked on the calendar.
“It looks like I’ll have about eight or nine competitions this year, which is for sure a bigger travel schedule than what I did last year,” she said. “But it’s good for me. I’m happy to be on the road again.”
At this point in the four-year Olympic cycle, or quad, McCann is focused on top of the Canadian team to qualify for the Pan Am Games in Toronto in 2015.
“That’s a direct qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Games,”McCann explained. “So that’s kind of the nearest target for me.”
But apart from that, McCann said it’s important to start competing with athletes at the top of the World Cup standings.
“In two and a half years it will be the Olympic Games and you’ll have to be able to compete in the top percentage of the girls,” she explained.
In the interim, McCann said she feels good about her fitness leading up to the first World Cup event in Acapulco, Mexico at the end of February.
“I feel good about my state of competition,” she said, adding she’s also feeling healthy. “It’s just a matter of getting out there and competing a little bit more.”