The Start of My Journey

Shooting at my first international major, aged 14

I was born in May 1995, but my Pentathlon journey didn’t start until I joined Whitgift School in 2008. Before this I played a lot of rugby, and I was also a national level swimmer. As a result, at Whitgift, Both my brother and I were spotted as swimmers who had half an idea of how to run, so we were thrust into the schools’biathlon team (involving swimming and running). I don’t remember how we did, but let’s assume we both did well, with me doing slightly better than him. 

Anyway, after this I decided I wanted to give Pentathlon a go, so over the next year I picked up the three other sports (those would be shooting, fencing and horseriding).

Silver at my last U19 competition, the 2013 World Champs

After doing some regional and national competitions, with what we could call mixed results, I was chosen for the wildcard spot at U17 Europeans in 2010. At this age group it was just a Modern triathlon competiton with shooting added onto therunning and swimming. I ended up winning this competition, and it was this result that made me start thinking about whether I could do pentathlon seriously.Over the next few years I did more youth level international competitions, and I won a few more medals – At least one (individual, team and relay medals were all up for grabs) at every major international championships to be precise, something I’d never thought of until writing this! I ended my youth careeer at U19 Worlds in 2013, in China. I was ranked as youth World number one, and I wanted to win. I’ve always wanted to say I’m the best in the world at something. Eventually I finished second, something I’ve never been overly pleased with, feeling like I missed an opportunity. In the words of my childhood hero Ash Ketchum, “I want to be the very best,” and coming second wasn’t achieving that.

I have no appropriate photos from uni so here is a podium shot

After leaving the youth age groups I had the summer off, received my final A-level results, and accepted my place at the University of Bath for Mathematics. I quickly realised going out three or four times a week was a great way to anger our performance director, and that it also wasn’t particularly beneficial to my fitness either. As I learnt to balance living away from home, my social life, and sports, I gradually got back into training again after a couple of months. Balancing my degree with full time training took two things. One, an easy choice, I quickly made the decision that Maths was boring, and I made the switch to Mathematical sciences, allowing to choose from more modules rather than a number of compulsory ones. Instead of doing modules such as ‘Algebra 2’ (I like to call part one of this module “the worst time of my life”) or ‘Ordinary differential equations and control’ I was allowed to choose to fun ones, such as ‘Mathematical Biology’, or the ‘Logic and semantics of programming languages’. As you can tell, I loved my degree. The second thing required to balance out my schedule involved dealing with the number of clashes I had between training and lectures. I dealt with this very maturely and carefully, making sure I made the most of my time at uni. Never going to lectures did have its drawbacks however. At the end of every semester, for about 4 to 6 weeks depending on how much work I thought there would be, I used to lock myself in a dark room, hook myself up to a Red Bull drip (that’s a joke WADA), and pore over past paper mark schemes to try and learn the techniques to answering each type of question for every module. At these times I wondered why I was paying the 9 grand a year just to teach myself my degree.

Post swim lactic acid face

Anyway, outside of these bi-annual stints in the library I had my first taste of what pentathlon competitions would be like from now on. I failed to make the final at the U21 World Championships, probably paying the price for the previously discussed approach to training and studying. This set back motivated me to apply myself fully to train harder in the lead up to the end of the Senior season. I hadn’t been selected for any Senior World Cup events this year (because of my slow start to training when I joined uni), but after two months of solid training, I was chosen for both the Senior European and World Champs team. I qualified for both finals, both times in 36th place out of 36.At Europeans I was eliminated in the ride, finishing in 36th, but at Worlds I scored a maximum 300 points, and finished 16th, prompting Jan to say in an interview “the sky is the limit.” It’s been these sort of successes through the last 6 years that have helped me get to where I am now. Each time the successes have been small steps in the right direction, something that I could feel proud to have achieved, but each time they have also served as a reminder of what I still need to do.

First two into the shooting range at Rio 2016

Making the 2016 Games in Rio was one of these small successes for me, and in the build up I took a year out from my degree to focus on training. I always privately thought to myself that I was never far away from a podium position throughout the preceding season, most obviously when I finished a career high fourth at the World Cup in Rome. I went in to the Olympic Village fully believing in my ability for compete for a medal, and this showed in the fence where I had my best Senior score. I would have finished 4th in the fence, only for a red card and a 10 point deduction (I won’t point any fingers for the blame, since I am totally over it) , to move me back to finish the discipline in 8th. This reduced score was still my best ever Senior fencing score, and after a good swim and ride I was up to 2nd before the laser-run. I still feel that I was right to believe I could finish on the podium, but on the day my shooting let me down. Two slow shoots dropped me down the field, and I finished in 10th. Everyone always likes to tell me that 10th at an Olympic Games is no small feat, and that it was my first Olympics, and that I was still so young and blah blah blah, but I still feel like I should have done better. I already knew what it was like to shoot under pressure, and in reality I think I should have been able to cope with it better. I might sound like I’m moaning but overall the Olympic experience was one of the best weeks of my life, and I would 100% do it all again. After all, I get to put OLY after my name on emails now, which makes me sound like an actual grown up. However there is definitely a wrong that still needs righting come Tokyo (whenever that may be now!).

Since I started competing at a Senior level, there has been a steady and consistent (or ‘linear’ as my degree would say) improvement in my results (which you can click on below). To sum it all up; I won my first Senior medal in 2016 at the Spanish open, appeared at my first Olympics in Rio 2016, finished 6th at the World Championships in 2017, and won bronze at the European Championships in 2018. Everything culminated this year in 2019 – I reached the World Number one spot with a haul of sprint finishes, leading to 4 individual medals, including Gold at the World Cup Final and Silver at the World Championships. And I earnt a Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification spot on top of that. Next year I plan to cement my place in the Number 1 spot by winning in Tokyo and a Senior relay medal, something I’ve never won, would be nice too. At the end of the day, I do all this because I enjoy it, and I’m still only 24 (as of December 2019), so there’s a lot more time to set more goals, and more time for a lot more successes (and failures) to come. Either way I’ll enjoy it whilst it lasts!