By Mac Christie, Times-Advocate Staff
OTTAWA – Mount Carmel’s Melanie McCann recently finished in ninth-place at a World Cup event in Szazhalombatta, Hungary, her best-ever result in modern pentathlon.
McCann’s previous top finish in a World Cup event was 15th, something she’d recorded three times and heading into the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the 22-year-old said her placing in Hungary gives her a lot of confidence.
“It means that whatever my coaches and I have been doing over the winter has obviously been working,” she told the Times-Advocate last week from Ottawa. “We can just keep moving forward without changing a lot on the training end of things.”
McCann just returned to Canada after a week of fencing training in Paris, where she worked on some specific actions to help her tactically against her opponent.
“Paris is one of the best cities in the world for fencing, so I thought it would be a good training camp for me,” she explained. “It was good, I was able to work really hard without worrying about resting for any sort of competition.”
Now that’s she’s back in Ottawa, where she lives when she’s not competing, she’ll shift focus to the swimming, running and shooting portion of her training with coach John Hawes.
While she said she has to work hard on all five events – pistol shooting, epee fencing, 200m freestyle swimming, show jumping and 3 km cross-country running – she said she’s put in a lot of work on swimming and running over the winter.
However, over the past year McCann said her biggest improvement has come in shooting.
“I’ve been shooting consistently quite well,” she said. “There’s still room to bring my time down a little more, but I’m able to be competitive now with the rest of the field.”
McCann came into modern pentathlon from a swimming and running background, which she said is different than most Canadian pentathletes.
“I took up riding rather late in my pentathlon career,” she explained. “A lot of other Canadians come from a pony club background where they grow up riding.”
But despite her late start, show jumping has been a strong event for McCann this season, recording one of the top three rides in each competition.
While McCann said there is an element of randomness or luck to success in the riding event, since a rider meets their horse 20 minutes before the competition, she said she’s worked hard on her riding and is pleased to see her experience and training come through.
“I’m feeling really positive on the horse,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
It’s been a successful year so far for McCann, who qualified for the Olympics after a fourth-place finish at the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico in October. She also captured the Provincial and National Senior Women’s titles and was named the top Modern Pentathlete at the Ottawa Sports Awards in January.
After her last result McCann, who is ranked 32nd in the world, admitted she’s feeling pretty good.
“Pentathlon is so, so unpredictable though,” she explained. “You never know how the next event will go, but I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
She’ll be in action next at the World Championships in Rome from May 7-12 before heading to Chengdu, China for the World Cup Final at the end of May.
After those stops she will have some time off from competing before heading to Britain in late July to prepare for the Olympics.
While McCann said she has performance goals heading into the Olympics, she said they’ll be fine-tuned after the the World Cup Final and World Championships.
“I can’t give you a placing that I want,” she expained, “I want to have a really solid performance and a really positive experience at the Olympic Games.”
McCann said it will be tough to keep focused on her event and take in the experience without being overwhelmed, but added she has a good support team to keep her on track.
“I have a big group of family and friends that are coming,” she said of the Olympics.
“I’m really excited to have them there and cheer me on, so hopefully I can put on a good show for them. It means the world to me that they’re going to be there.”
As for future plans, McCann said she’d like to compete for another four years and continue on to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, noting she’ll rest and re-evaluate after London.
But for the coming Olympics McCann said a medal is a realistic possibility.
“In pentathlon you can see anyone from the top 15 shoot to the podium,” she explained. “It’s definitely realistic, but I’ll have to take it one event at a time before I can think about that.”