RIO DE JANEIRO (BP) — Nathan Schrimsher will fulfill a dream when he competes in the modern pentathlon event at the Olympics. He’s been working toward this goal for years, and his training and journey to the pinnacle of his athletic achievement has been a family affair.
That’s why, despite the excitement, the experience will be mingled with sorrow. Schrimsher’s dad Keith passed away unexpectedly last year, and he’s the one who will be on Schrimsher’s mind during the competition.
“The Lord gives and takes away, and that was the day he took away,” Schrimsher said of his father’s death. “Nothing is guaranteed except for our faith in the Lord.”
Schrimsher owes a lot to his dad, who was described in his obituary as “a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. … His faith assures that he is no longer suffering the trials of this world, but is rejoicing in the arms of his Lord and Savior.” The Christian home that Keith established and the commitment to always having his family in church led to Schrimsher’s conversion as a child.
His dad was also actively involved in Schrimsher’s training as an athlete. Modern pentathlon consists of fencing, shooting, swimming, horse riding and cross country running. That might sound like an odd combination of events, but the sport is based on the skills needed by a 19th century cavalry officer.
“He’d have to be able to ride a horse that he’s never met before, have to be able to cross land or water, running or swimming, then be able to defend himself with a sword and gun and still deliver the message that his commander gave him to cross enemy lines to the next person in charge,” Schrimsher said.
Growing up in Roswell, New Mexico, Schrimsher and his brother Lucas played traditional sports like soccer and baseball for a time, but gradually they stepped away from competing. After a period of idleness, their parents insisted that they find an outlet for their energy. The Schrimshers got Nathan and Lucas involved in a swim team locally that was coached by Jan Olesinski, a pentathlete from Poland who competed in the Olympics in the 1980s.
After a few months, Olesinski asked the Schrimshers if they’d like to try the other pentathlon events as well. Schrimsher had grown up on a ranch and been around horses and guns his entire life, so the pentathlon events were a natural fit. What initially began as a summer activity led to youth competitions and greater involvement in the sport. Nathan was the first U.S. athlete in any sport to qualify for the 2016 Olympics earlier this year.
Schrimsher’s competition begins on Thursday (Aug. 18). Whatever the outcome, he knows he’ll miss sharing the joy with his dad. He said he’d gladly give the Olympics away if it meant having more time with his father. But he can only trust in the Lord’s goodness as he continues to mourn.
“Sometimes you don’t understand everything at the moment, but I’m trying to walk by faith and trust in the Lord,” Schrimsher said. “He’s in control of all things even though I can’t see or can’t understand at the time.
“I just keep putting one step in front of the other,” he said. “I can’t do that on my own, but just pray and trust that I rely on the Lord for that.”