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Athens toAfghanistan

Former two-time Olympic pentathlete Chad Senior of Merritt Island now battles in a world arena with a different U.S. team: The Air Force Reserve
BY GLENN MILLER
Special to Florida Weekly

Maj. Chad Senior is a U.S. Air Force pararescueman, a specialist who goes into, as the Air Force notes, “austere and non-permissive environments” to save downed air crew members.

Tough work. But this member of the 920th Rescue Wing is used to it.

Senior also is a two-time Olympian, a man who competed in the Modern Pentathlon in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.

The Merritt Island resident had the honor of walking in the opening ceremonies of the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

“To walk in behind our flag was as good as it gets,” said Senior, who’s stationed at Patrick Air Force Base.

It has been eight years since his final Olympics, and at age 37, Senior may be done as a world-class athlete. But he plans to follow the 2012 London Games, which begin July 27.

“I’ll be watching it and thinking, ‘Am I too old to come back?’” Senior said.


SENIOR SENIOR But he’s not too old for a military career. Senior has served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.

His resume is certainly unusual and perhaps unique – three combat tours and two Olympics.

His sport is also unusual. The Modern Pentathlon involves five skills: running, swimming, fencing, pistol shooting and horseback show jumping.

In 2000, Senior, who attended high school in Lee County on the Southwest Florida coast and went to George Washington University, was ranked No. 1 in the world for a time. At the 2000 Games, he had a legitimate shot at a medal, perhaps even gold.

Senior’s best memory of the Olympics was walking in with the U.S. delegation in 2004. His worst memory?

“The horse situation,” Senior quickly replied.

That was a reference to a fiasco at the 2000 Games in Sydney.

In Modern Pentathlon, athletes are assigned horses at random. The athletes have no chance to establish a bond with their equine partners.


Then-Capt. Chad Senior, U.S. Air Force Reserve combat rescue officer, holds his then-infant daughter for the first time in two months at Patrick Air Force Base in May 2010 after returning from supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Senior, now a major, and other reserve pararescuemen from the Brevard County base were in Afghanistan for four months participating in combat search and rescue. Then-Capt. Chad Senior, U.S. Air Force Reserve combat rescue officer, holds his then-infant daughter for the first time in two months at Patrick Air Force Base in May 2010 after returning from supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Senior, now a major, and other reserve pararescuemen from the Brevard County base were in Afghanistan for four months participating in combat search and rescue. Senior’s horse balked at jumping, costing him a medal. He finished sixth that year and 13th in 2004.

The overall memory of his days as an elite athlete is “hard work,” Senior said.

He said it’s the same regardless of the sport for Olympic athletes.

“You become obsessive with your training,” Senior said.

Now, the two-time Olympian has another role: husband and father of a 2-year-old daughter. ¦



Then-U.S. Army 1st Lt. Chad Senior (No. 20) pulls for the finish line in the final round of the five-event Men’s Modern Pentathlon in the 2004 Olympics at the Goudi Sports Complex in Athens, Greece, on Aug. 26, 2004. Senior is now a major with the U.S. Air Force 920th Rescue Wing stationed at Patrick Air Force Base. Then-U.S. Army 1st Lt. Chad Senior (No. 20) pulls for the finish line in the final round of the five-event Men’s Modern Pentathlon in the 2004 Olympics at the Goudi Sports Complex in Athens, Greece, on Aug. 26, 2004. Senior is now a major with the U.S. Air Force 920th Rescue Wing stationed at Patrick Air Force Base.

The running leg of the five-event Men’s Modern Pentathlon. The running leg of the five-event Men’s Modern Pentathlon.

Pararescuemen such as Chad Senior are involved in combat search and rescue. Pararescuemen such as Chad Senior are involved in combat search and rescue.

Chad Senior during fencing competition. Chad Senior during fencing competition.

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