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Meet the athletes: Track & Field

Jul. 25, 2012 - 02:10PM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 25, 2012 - 02:10PM  |  
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Bio:

Army infantryman
Army World Class Athlete Program, Fort Carson, Colo.
Hometown: Evansville, Ind.
Age 34
50K race walk
Competes Aug. 11

Bio:

Army truck driver
Army World Class Athlete Program, Fort Carson, Colo.
Hometown: Dallas
Age 29
Modern pentathlon
Competes Aug. 11

Spc. Dennis Bowsher

On the day Spc. Dennis Bowsher graduated from basic training six years ago, he was probably the only soldier in formation worried about how out of shape he'd become.

Already an elite athlete in the modern pentathlon with a national championship to his credit, Bowsher was recruited directly into the Army's World Class Athlete Program.

His five-sport discipline — running, swimming, fencing, shooting and horseback riding — was first designed at the turn of the last century to replicate the skills cavalry troops needed to master.

But like any soldier, Bowsher had to complete basic and advanced training first.

He says that once his drill sergeants realized he was going to fly though the PT test, any time they needed a "volunteer" for kitchen duty or other menial chores, he got the nod.

Still, he says, "being part of a family like the Army is [a] huge honor. USA will be on my chest, but the U.S. Army is in my heart," he said within minutes of signing the paperwork to re-enlist.

Staff Sgt. John Nunn

Staff Sgt. John Nunn concedes that his event — the race walk — may be one of the Summer Games' most obscure sports, but he insists it's also "the most grueling physical event at the Olympic Games."

Yes, you read that right. But he can make his case.

First, he says, it has solid history. The race walk has been an Olympic event since 1904, originally part of that 10-event crossover from the ancient Olympiad known as the decathlon.

Second, get up and try this right now: Start walking, but with each step, as soon as your foot hits the ground, make sure your leg is completely straight. No bending your knee while the foot is on the ground. And one foot must be on the ground at all times.

Now keep doing it for 20 kilometers and, if you're a glutton for pain, make it 50K. Now try with a squad of eagle-eyed judges making sure you don't cheat. Race walkers caught breaking either rule more than three times are booted from the competition.

In London, Nunn will race in the longer event. In fact, it's the longest. As in, longer than any other single foot race in the Olympics. That's both in raw distance — besting the marathon by about five miles — and the time it takes to finish. Last year's gold medal in the 50K finished in a little more than 3 hours, 37 minutes.

And while it's slower than running, it's definitely not slow.

"I can max my PT test walking," Nunn says. The fastest he has walked two miles was 12 minutes, and that was during a 5K race, so he was pacing for a longer distance.

Nunn is a veteran of the 2004 games, narrowly missing the qualifier in 2008. With the vast majority of his 12-year race walking career competing in the 20K, London will mark only his fourth attempt at a 50K and his first on the international stage.

"I don't know, honestly, if there's another other Olympic athlete who can say they've made the Olympic team and never competed internationally in their event," he said with a chuckle.

Still, with a first-place finish in his qualifier, he's hopeful he'll return with a strong showing.

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