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Olympian Monica Pinette leaves Beijing with lasting memories









Even though she did not come close to achieving her goal of a Top 12 finish in the women's modern pentathlon event, Monica Pinette will still have some rather fond memories of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Pinette, a 31-year-old Métis born in Vancouver, placed 27th over-all in her sport, which combines five disciplines; swimming, running, fencing, shooting and riding (show jumping). There were a total of 36 entrants in her competition.
Participants in the modern pentathlon must compete in all five events. They are awarded points for how well they perform in each discipline.
"I wasn't happy with my over-all placing," Pinette told Windspeaker in a post-Olympic interview from Schaffhausen, Switzerland, where she lives with her newlywed husband Philipp Waeffler, who is also the coach of the Canadian pentathlon squad. "I had wanted to finish in the top 12. I knew I didn't have medal potential, but I also could have had a better day than I did."
Pinette had also represented Canada at the 2004 Athens Olympics. She placed 13th in those Games, which marked the country's best ever Olympic performance in the pentathlon.
Aside from her previous Olympic efforts, Pinette felt she could place among the top dozen finishers in Beijing since she had an 11th-place result at the world pentathlon championships earlier this year in Budapest, Hungary.
"I shot and rode very, very well," she said. "And my physical events, the swim and run, were OK for me. It was the fencing where I really messed up. Normally, I am pretty good at fencing but on that day I was having some troubles."
That sub-par result translated into a huge drop in the event's over-all standings.
"The fence is what killed any hopes for a good placing because I was more than 200 points lower than normal," she said.
Waeffler couldn't pinpoint the reason for Pinette's fencing performance. "Why (she didn't do better) is difficult to answer," he said. "Mainly this day she was not on top of everything that would be necessary for a good result."
Pinette had been to Beijing twice before the Olympics.
"I had a pretty good idea of what to expect," she said. "I didn't expect that in the one year since I was last there though that they could have cleaned it up so much. I think they must have planted more than a million trees."
And except for the fact she didn't fare as well as she wanted, Pinette immensely enjoyed the experience.
"Of course, I will remember my competition because that is why I was there, but I was most impressed with the incredible organization," she said. "China really made sure we would be impressed."
Pinette did not attend the Games' opening ceremonies as she was still in South Korea at a Canadian team training camp. But she did go to the closing ceremonies.
"They were great," she said. "The closing ceremonies were a lot more relaxed and we just ran around out there so I liked it. And, we had those ridiculous crazy red pants so it was like wearing pajamas - comfy, but I felt a bit under dressed."
When she wasn't competing Pinette did manage to catch some other Olympic action.
"We went to watch track and field one night so I was glad to get my first peek inside the Bird's Nest (Stadium)," she said. "And (Canadian) Gary Reed was running so it was nice to cheer for someone who I know. We also went to watch ping pong, except I have learned that ping pong is NOT a politically correct term at the Olympics."
Pinette was in the midst of some rather boisterous supporters at that event.
"The atmosphere in there was wild," she said. "China was just about to win all three medals. My ears didn't forgive me for the whole next day. There was more energy in that table tennis final than any other Olympic experience."
At this point, Pinette is uncertain whether she will remain in the sport long enough to try and compete at the 2012 London Olympics.
"I am giving pentathlon another couple of years but I'm not committing to 2012," she said. "I don't know if I can justify it for that much longer because it is so expensive for me to be an athlete. I'm not a carded athlete so I have to raise a lot of my own funds."
Waeffler believes Pinette can still be one of the world's top performers in her sport.
"Monica has made continuous progress and developed (including this year)," he said. "But her age will only allow her a few more years in the sport at the highest international level."
Pinette said having her husband also serve as her coach creates some unusual situations.
"Basically, I have two Philipps, my coach and my husband," she said. "I have to separate them otherwise I get upset on occasion. I think he is more committed to developing me than if I was just another athlete.