As soon as Dennis Bowsher heard the words, a slight smile started to spread across his face.
Bowsher, who was being interviewed during the Team USA Olympic Summit in Dallas, had already answered the same question multiple times. But each new approaching reporter wanted to know: "How often do you have to explain your sport?"
"It happens a lot," said Bowsher, who is from Dallas.
Bowsher answered calmly each time, not minding the repetition, just as he doesn't mind when people ask him to explain his sport daily. Instead of resenting it, Bowsher embraces the position. He has become an ambassador for the modern pentathlon.
"It's always fun to tell people, as well as the history of the sport," said Bowsher, who is also a soldier in the Army. "People try to be nice and act like they know what it is and say it's really cool. But then I get it out of them that they don't. Telling them about it, they really enjoy it. They like it once they hear about it."
To help, Bowsher hands out business cards showing each stage of the modern pentathlon. A friend, using Photoshop, helped create the card that has five photos of Bowsher standing in his different uniforms.
On the far left Bowsher wears his cross-country shirt and holds a pistol; the 3-kilometer cross-country run and shooting disciplines are combined. Second from the left, Bowsher stands in fencing gear holding his foil.
The far right photo is Bowsher in a swim cap, and in second pose from the right, Bowsher is in a bright red blazer he wears for horse jumping. In the middle, Bowsher wears his main uniform, army fatigues.
"There are a lot of times I tell people about the sport, and they might remember about it, but they won't remember me a few weeks later," Bowsher said. "If you give them a card, they have it lying around."
Bowsher can't blame people for not knowing about his sport. He was once in the same position.
He first heard about the modern pentathlon in 2002 when he was 19. His first love was swimming. While in College Station for a swimming competition, Bowsher picked up a flyer advertising a modern pentathlon training center in San Antonio.
"I cannot remember why I called the number on the pamphlet, but they said if I drove down there for a week they would put me up in a hotel and let me try it out," said Bowsher, who realized he wouldn't be able to become an Olympian concentrating on only swimming. "I've had that dream since 1996, so this was kind of a new avenue."
It wasn't the easiest transition for Bowsher.
"I was afraid to get on the horse for that first time," he said with a laugh. "It's funny, the first time I shot a gun and rode a horse was when I started training. And I grew up in Texas."
Within a year, Bowsher won the junior nationals. He has since won four national championships and trains full time as a member of the Army's world-class athlete program. Bowsher met the qualifying standard for the 2008 Olympics, but was left out because only two athletes are allowed.
In the past few months, as Bowsher prepares for his first Olympics, he has handed out stacks of business cards. His father, John, has also been raising awareness.
"Every time I can explain it, I do," John said. "I have a stack of cards I'm handing out too. Every time I eat at a restaurant, I hand them out and say: 'Do you know what my boy does?' I've gotten a tremendous response. Some even ask for autographed pictures."
As a veteran who served in Vietnam, John said he admires his son's dedication to his country as an Olympian and soldier.
"I've got a tear in my eye now, just thinking about it," John said. "I couldn't be prouder."
John still remembers his first reaction a decade ago when he heard his son was interested in the modern pentathlon.
"I didn't have a clue what it was, no idea at all. I had to look everything up," he said. "But it's perfect for him. He was always a strong swimmer, and he ran cross country in high school. Those are the two areas they couldn't teach him. And since, he's kept improving. As he's gotten better, our excitement for him and the sport have kept growing, too."
Bowsher's father was one of the first converts. Bowsher hopes to add many more with a breakout performance this summer.
Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760