New training paying off for Sacksen
Sam Sacksen (right) holds off another runner at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (Submitted photo)
Sacksen, a Somerset native and 2008 Olympian, said he fell down in the rankings last year, but is working his way back up — one epee thrust at a time.
“I don’t want to make excuses — I just wasn’t doing my job right,” the 24-year-old said. “I am much more focused and really narrowed in on my goal. After the mixed relay team won bronze at the final World Cup event in China (May 29), I really started to feel good. I have so much more confidence now. Things are really clicking.”
Sacksen finished eleventh of 87 competitors in China and will take that confidence to London next month where he will begin the first in a series of qualifiers to earn one of 36 spots in the modern pentathlon at the 2012 Olympic Games.
He will also compete at the U.S. National Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo., the World Championships in Moscow, Russia, and the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, in October.
“These are big point competitions,” Sacksen said. “My goal would be to finish near the top 10 in London. I’m really looking forward to the Pan Am Games. I would love to have a podium finish there.”
Sacksen has really been concentrating on his training and said his visit last weekend was the first time he was back home in Somerset in 10 months.
He is living in West Chester and training with various coaches in Philadelphia and New York City, after leaving the United States Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs.
“I think I got as far I could with the National team,” Sacksen said. “I have a bit more flexible schedule now and my coaches are like mentors. My swim coach, Bruce Gemmell, has been a guiding force for me. When I’m having some trouble focusing, he has a come-to-Jesus talk with me and straightens me out. John Gondak, of Penn State, is my running coach. He also helps keep me calm. Last year when I was struggling, I was like I really don’t want to do this anymore — my coaches said hold on, relax and let’s get back in the saddle and keep going.”
He credits the head of the NY Athletic Club, Michael Aufrichtig, for being a positive influence on his training, especially his fencing, which is the weakest of his five pentathlon events.
“My fencing is the reason I moved,” Sacksen said. “Some of the best fencing and coaching comes from New York. The exposure to that atmosphere has helped me improve immeasurably. I’m always trying to improve on the riding, shooting, swimming and running, but improving in fencing really benefits me the most.”
He said he recently changed his diet to add more complex carbohydrates for energy and is already seeing the difference. Sacksen said he never really had a calorie count but tries to eat three or four regular meals a day with some snacking in between. He said he took his own food to China in May because he got sick over there last year during the four-day World Cup event.
“I’m doing whatever I have to to qualify for the Olympics,” he concluded. “Hopefully I will be in London in 14 months. After that, I will hand over the torch to the up-and-coming guys on the junior team and head to veterinary school.”