Thursday, Jul. 24, 2008

21. Sheila Taormina

Modern Pentathlon
United States
Age: 39

Want Olympic drama? Taormina, the first woman to qualify for the Olympics in three sports, has struggled with depression as she wondered why she was still chasing the Olympics in her late 30s. Her psychological struggle has had a physical counterpart: She's had to fend off a stalker, who went to prison for five years but was released earlier this year (he has steered clear). And she fought, and won, a spot on the modern pentathlon team, even though she had never fired a gun, picked up an épee, or ridden more horse than a kiddie-ride pony before starting the sport three years ago (modern pentathlon combines swimming, running, fencing, shooting, and equestrian). Taormina won a swimming relay gold in Atlanta in 1996, and competed in the triathlon the past two Olympics. She's back for a historic turn, which will surely raise the profile of modern pentathlon, also known in your Olympic program as "what the hell is that?"