Pentathlon GB set-up their National Training Centre at the University of Bath nearly twenty years ago. National Performance Director Jan Bartu, who has been in position since April 1998, was pivotal in establishing this base which allows athletes to train for swimming, fencing, shooting and running all under one roof with riding taking place off-site.
Now, those pentathletes looking to compete at an elite level will traditionally come to Bath for their studies while also training full time and using the world class facilities in the University of Bath’s £30 million Sports Training Village.
Working alongside Jan at the National Training Centre are coaches Frici Foldes, Marco Quattrini and Michal Janca. Frici, our National Fencing Coach, has been with Pentathlon GB for eighteen years, whilst Marco and Michal who are both specialist modern pentathlon coaches joined the performance team in early 2017 following a Coaching Team reshuffle after the Rio Olympics.
In addition to our modern pentathlon coaches, there are specialist swimming, running and riding coaches who work with the programme as well as the English Institute of Sport team based at the University of Bath who integrate medicine, physiotherapy, nutrition, sports psychology, performance lead, life-style management and performance analysis support.
Following graduation, modern pentathletes are able to become full time athletes, dedicating themselves to perform to the peak of their abilities. It means athletes can spend over ten years training in Bath with London 2012 Olympic silver medalist Samantha Murray currently the longest serving athlete at the National Training Centre. Her younger brother Oliver is one of three athletes who moved to Bath in September 2017, continuing their modern pentathlon career as they move from the youth to the junior ranks.
Modern pentathlon is one of the most diverse and unique sports in the Olympic Games, comprising of swimming, fencing, horse-riding, running and shooting. Each discipline is held separately, apart from the running and shooting, which are performed together in a challenging and exciting combined laser run, the final discipline of the competition.
Pentathlon GB athletes have enjoyed significant success in recent years, including five medals at the last five Olympic Games and seven medals across the last six World Championships. However, as modern pentathlon has truly turned into a global sport, that success becomes harder and harder to replicate. At the 2016 Olympic Games there were thirteen nations represented in the top thirteen positions of the men’s field and twelve nations in the top thirteen of the Women’s field with only Pentathlon GB’s Kate French and Samantha Murray bucking the trend. The six medals at the games were also won by six different countries and three different continents whilst at the 2017 World Championships, the six individual medals were spread between five nations with only traditional powerhouses Hungary doubling up.
A change to the rules last autumn saw an amendment to the swimming points, reducing the gain from 1 point per 0.33 seconds to 1 point per 0.5 seconds. As with any change, it benefits some athletes whilst compromising others. What it definitely means though, is that the best swimmers are significantly disadvantaged with point differences in the discipline now smaller between the field, providing a significant challenge to some Pentathlon GB athletes with the swim traditionally their favourite, and strongest, discipline.
The World Championships in August marked the end of the 2017 season with Pentathlon GB athletes enjoying their off-season before returning to full training in mid-October. It means that the focus for the squad is currently on training before the 2018 season gets underway, starting with the first National Ranking Competition on Saturday 13th January. The international season begins shortly after with the first major event of the year, World Cup 1, taking place in Cairo at the beginning of March.
Kent’s Kate French enjoyed a terrific 2017, topping the Women’s World Cup standings after claiming a gold medal at the second World Cup of the season in Cairo and a silver at the season opener in Los Angeles. With Kate and Orpington’s Joe Choong both finishing 6th at the World Championships, in extremely tough conditions in the heat of an Egyptian summer, spirits within the squad are high heading into next year.
There was also success for other athletes during the season with Scotland’s Joanna Muir, and Surrey duo Francesca Summers and Sam Curry all recording their best World Cup results. Joanna teamed up with Plymouth’s Myles Pillage to claim a World Cup Mixed Relay silver medal whilst Northamptonshire’s Jess Varley and Gloucestershire’s Jamie Harper took bronze in the Under 24 European Championships Mixed Relay.
Bristol’s Charlie Follett claimed the first medal of her international career at the Swiss Women International in March whilst numerous athletes have made their Junior European and Junior World Championships debuts ensuring that there is lots of positivity and ambition around the camp before the 2018 season begins.
The Olympics are the pinnacle of any sport and modern pentathlon is no different with planning for Tokyo 2020 already underway and the Games the primary focus in the next 5 years. However, there are many major events before then, including three World Championships with the sport’s most competitive competition an annual fixture in the calendar.
2019 will be of particular interest to British fans of the sport with the European Championships set to be held in Bath. The event will see many of the best Pentathletes on the planet competing on British soil with Olympic qualifying spots up for grabs. More details on those Championships will follow in the next twelve months but August 2019 promises to be a special month for Pentathlon GB.