The road to rio goes through Mexico, the journey before the olympics no one knows about!


World Cup #1 Mexico – Always Expect the Unexpected:
Sammy Achterburg


NOTE: Sammy was the first official guest of the Athlete On Fire podcast. I(Scott) have been a part of her journey as a coach, mentor, and friend. She is learning how to tell her story and this is the first of many installments to come. She has just recently returned from the second world cup in Cairo and has an amazing account of that experience. She is hard working, loyal, and deserving. If you would like to contribute to her journey in any way, please contact her as the financial strain of chasing a dream is significant. Hope you enjoy!
The first world cup of the season was finally here! Not only was this the first big international competition of the 2014 season, but the start to my first full season back since surgery. With the timing of my hip surgery in 2012 I was unable to compete in the world cups during the 2013 season. I was excited to be back and competing on the world cup circuit, but also a little nervous. I had really been working hard and was ready to do well and show that I was back and healthy. Before leaving for Mexico I had to complete my finals for classes I was taking at DeVry since I was unsure how the internet would be in Mexico. This was a little stressful to get everything ready for traveling as well as find a four hour window to take the final. I was taking my first accounting class which was proving to be pretty difficult as well. Thankfully, I got my final done before the trip and was able to relax a little bit more once I arrived in Mexico.

Acapulco, Mexico isn’t very far away, but the traveling to get there seemed to take forever. Long layovers and three flights just to get to Acapulco then a bus ride to the hotel. When we arrived that night at the airport and stepped outside there was an instant wall of heat and humidity. Definitely a big change from the cold weather we had been having in Colorado Springs. Since we arrived at night we were not able to see the view until morning. When I opened the window in the morning there was a beautiful view and we were right next to the beach. I had no idea we were going to be so close to the beach! On the first day we went to the venue to swim and run a little bit. I could tell that it was going to be very hot during the competition and difficult to stay hydrated especially in fencing. When we got back to the hotel we went out to the beach to check it out, it was beautiful and even though the salty water was a shock it was the perfect temperature and a nice way to cool off from the heat. The food at the hotel was great as well. There was so much to choose from and always tons of fresh fruit! After the day I got all my stuff packed up and ready for semifinals.


I was in group B out of three semifinal groups and we started off with the fencing portion. I started out very well and in the last half did do so well and was not getting many touches at all. I was disappointed but knew that I still had a chance with three events left. The swimming went well and I swam a 2:23, close to my personal best which was good especially with the hot weather and after sweating so much in fencing. I was in 20th place after the two events and would have to be in the top 12 to make finals. I definitely had to shoot well and run fast which is exactly what I did. I shot the first round in 11 seconds, second in 13 seconds, third in 9 seconds, and fourth round in 11 seconds and was able to run my way up to 11th place and make my first finals at a world cup! I was so happy, but knew that I really had to rest up and take care of my body so that I would be good to go for finals and not too sore.

The next day was a rest day and my teammates and I went down to the beach to relax a little bit. There were some women offering massages which couldn’t have been more perfect as my calves and back were already pretty sore from semifinals. One thing that is on my bucket list is getting a massage on the beach and I can cross that off now! The sound of the waves was so relaxing and the massage was wonderful. We also got coconuts and had them cut up after for a little snack. I was almost in shock at how amazing the location was of the hotel and how lucky we were to be able to spend a day relaxing like this. Most competitions we are cooped up in the hotel room all day it seems like and not really able to get out much more or less to a beach! After a relaxing day I was ready to go for finals.

The fencing went very well and I did even better in finals than I did in semifinals. I swam one second slower, but with fencing taking almost four hours I knew that I really had to push hard and just didn’t have anything left in the tank. The riding was somewhat a mess and disaster. Normally, in a world cup there will be 18 horses that will each be ridden twice with some reserve horses as well. In Mexico there was not enough horses capable of jumping the course so each horse had to be ridden three times. Many of the athletes and coaches were not happy with this due to the extreme heat and the poor conditions for the horses. 19 of the 36 women in finals ended up riding for 0 points due to incompletion of the course. Thankfully, I was able to finish the course with only two refusals and a rail knock down which brought me up to 14th place. I felt bad for the horses as they were soaked in sweat and exhausted. With a large majority of the rides being 0 points the federation decided to continue the competition without the riding. The athletes thought this was not fair to not include the ride or even include the ride given the poor riding conditions so there was an athlete protest. The combined event was not held and the rest of the event was cancelled, including the men’s event. I was sad that I was unable to finish the competition, but knew that it was not right what happened in the riding and it would not be fair to count the competition without the riding. Pentathlon is five sports and it is what makes our sport unique so to not count the riding and having inadequate riding conditions was unfair to all the athletes. I was a great learning experience for me though and having a good fence in finals was a good confidence booster for me in the upcoming season.

The next day the men’s final was cancelled as well. We decided to go to the beach again and relax. Even with only doing three of the events in finals I was exhausted and very sore. Some of the athletes were going jet skiing and I had never been before. I was nervous to try, but it looked like so much fun. Even though I got thrown off the back a few times I got to drive the Jet Ski and it was a blast! It is always great getting to interact and hang out with the international athletes as well and get to know them outside of competitions.

Since there was supposed to be a mixed relay on Sunday the federation decided to hold an open competition for the countries that were still in Mexico. Since I was not leaving until Monday I competed in the open competition. I was still pretty sore and tired but knew it would be good experience and practice. The women swam first and I did not swim very well at all but wanted to focus more on the fencing and gain as much experience as possible. I fenced very well and was able to move up in the placings for the combined. I had two very good rounds of shooting that were under 10 seconds and then two that were over 20 seconds. I feel that I am consistent with my shooting, but I was having some trouble with my rhythm and wasn’t as mentally focused. I still ran well and finished in 15th place. Since there were only eight horses, only the top eight women rode. I was happy with my results of the competition and was glad that I got so much experience and practice in one trip. Unfortunately the finals would not count for points, but this was a great way to start the season off and keep training hard until the next world cup. Things don’t always go as planned but you just have to keep working hard and do what you trained and have worked hard to do.


Thanks so much for following me and my story!

Sammy Achterburg

Follow Sammy on Twitter here: @samanthaausa