How Music Geek and Entrepreneur James Lenger became a Team USA Pentathlete

A Remarkable Story of Grit, Ambition, Determination and Perseverance.

James Lenger is one of those rare individuals who is gifted in many areas. He is a global entrepreneur, musician and member of Team USA. Yet James’ road to success was not an easy one; it began steeped in tragedy. In April of 2009, James’ mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. Her tumors were aggressive and she died just six months later in October. James was searching for something meaningful that would change his life and that he could dedicate to his mom. Three years after his mom’s passing, he found his inspiration. After watching the 2012 London Olympics, he decided to pursue the modern pentathlon. His journey is a remarkable story of grit, ambition, determination and perseverance.

The modern pentathlon is an Olympic sport that consists of 200 meter freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping over a 350–450 meter course with 12 to 15 four-foot obstacles, pistol shooting, and running 3200 meters cross-country. General George S. Patton, America’s 23rd four-star general, was a modern pentathlete who competed in the inaugural modern pentathlon as a member of the 1912 U.S. Olympic team at the Stockholm Olympics. A pentathlete is the ultimate representative of polymathic athletic ability; it requires world-class mastery of multiple domains.

As a child, James had played in various sports, but not any of the pentathlon sports. He was a quintessential music geek. He became an entrepreneur while in high school, teaching music, earning enough to pay for his entire college education. After college, he had toured with a band throughout the USA, and played at the 2002 Olympics. James founded Guitar Cities in Chicago in 2006, and then expanded to New York, San Francisco and London. His company teaches students all around the world. James also co-created @fifteensecondlessons on Instagram, an innovative and easy way to learn how to play guitar. It has nearly 13,000 people following the lessons. It has been featured on TV on FOX in Philadelphia and New York, as well as ABC in New Orleans.

James’ dream to become a pentathlete was extremely ambitious, if not impossible. Yet he was undeterred. After years of inactivity and with extra weight to lose, James started training and pushing himself. He started fencing, lost 20 pounds, took some riding lessons from his cousin, and found a swim coach. He started competing in races and tournaments. In 2013, he won 2nd in his division in a 5K race, finishing 17th out of 1,129 competitors, and placed 1st in his division in a fencing competition in the State of Illinois. He then registered for an Olympic development camp.

James started with Team USA in an event called the biathle and triathle, a run-swim-run event and a shoot-swim-run event. A year later he competed in his first pentathlon event, the North and Central America (NORCECA) tournament.

James has a grueling training schedule. Each week he swims five to six days (12,000–20,000 yards), runs 25–40 miles four to six days, fences two to four days, practices shooting four to six days, and rides horses one to two days. During the triathlon season, his training also includes cycling one to three days per week.

His persistence and hard work paid off. James won the world championship on behalf of Team USA in the tetrathlon (fencing, swimming, running, and shooting) at the UIPM 2016 Masters World Championships held in Prague, a massive achievement for someone who had no experience in those sports four years prior to the competition. He defeated tetrathletes who had spent most of their lives swimming, running, shooting and fencing. Last year James qualified for the Team USA World Cup team. He competed with Olympic athletes and their alternates from all over the world and represented Team USA in Los Angeles, Hungary, and Poland. James competes in triathlons in the off-season. He represented Team USA in the triathlon sprint distance in Cozumel in 2016. Before every race or competition, James says “hi” to his mom, keeping her legacy alive.

James believes that everyone has an ability, no matter at what level, to do something amazing. He recently launched Moved by You! ( as a way to support individuals seeking to dedicate an athlete endeavor to the tragedy or loss of a loved one.

“I wanted to create something that would help others, as my journey towards Team USA helped me. It was a therapeutic goal, and as Forrest Gump put it, ‘My momma always said, you have to put the past behind you before you can move on. And I think that’s what my run was all about.’ For me, it was a way to always remember how much my mom had meant to me.” — James Lenger, Team USA Pentathlete

Copyright © 2017 Cami Rosso All rights reserved.

Originally published at on July 3, 2017.