POSTED: Tuesday July 17th 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Team GB’s Sam Weale doesn’t want to ‘be normal’, which is why he’s running, shooting, swimming, riding and fencing at London 2012 and wasn’t even tempted to follow his twin brother into the lucrative world of professional football.
The 30-year-old modern pentathlete and Beijing Olympian became the first male Brit ever to win a medal at European Championship level in the sport when he won silver in Hungary in 2010.
He left it late to achieve the Olympic qualifying standard for London 2012 though, unable “to put five events together” this season until pulling seventh place out of the bag at the 2012 World Cup Final in China at the end of May and achieve the requisite mark.
That result helped Weale convince the selectors to ink in his name along with world number five Nick Woodbridge for Team GB ahead of their team-mate Jamie Cooke, the 2011 Junior World Champion who was the first Brit to attain the qualifying standard last year with a fourth-place finish at the European Championships.
Now Weale is aiming high at his home Games to tick an achievement missing from more than a decade of international competition - which has seen a belated Olympic debut in Beijing and five operations to keep him operational.
“I haven’t ever stood on the top step of the podium at a major competition; I want to do that before I finish,” he said.
He has tried being normal and it didn’t suit him. The Somerset athlete retreated back into the “real world” in 2004 after a stress fracture in his foot crushed chances of making his Olympic debut in Athens at the tender age of 21.
A year later he turned on the telly and there was the announcement - the Olympic Games were coming to London.
“That was one of the key things to get me back in to the sport and on the road to London,” said Weale, one of four modern pentathletes selected to Team GB - with 2012 World Champion Mhairi Spence and 2012 World bronze medallist Samantha Murray representing the women. “If it hadn’t been in London I might not have considered it.
“Having an injury when you are young makes you take a step back from sport and you try other things.
“In 2004 I was finishing my degree and just had a bar job and wanted to be a normal 21-year-old.
“But I missed it (the sport) and decided I didn’t want to be normal any more,” he added. “I wanted to be at the London Olympics.”
His twin brother Chris is a professional goalkeeper who played for their hometown of Yeovil before being snapped up by Bristol City and then Leicester.
And watching Weale the footballer play in front of crowds of up to 25,000 has helped Weale the Olympian prepare for the mania of London 2012.
“Watching my brother play and putting myself in his position has helped me think about what London will be like,” said Sam. “In terms of the press and financial side of things and the pressure of competing every week, football is a different league.
“I obviously love my sport and I would never want to swap with my brother. It has given me a lot of opportunities my brother hasn’t had.
“But I feel I have got experience from him. Usually we are just competing in front of 50 or 100 spectators. It will be a lot more in London and that can affect you if you are not prepared for it.”
The 6ft 1inch, curly-haired athlete trains for around 35 hours a week, based at the University of Bath with the lottery-funded Pentathlon GB squad.
Modern pentathlon is a five-test event starting with a series of fencing duels, a 200m freestyle swim, show-jumping with horses allocated 20 minutes beforehand and a 3km run punctuated by laser-pistol shooting.
Weale focuses most on the swimming and running elements and practices his riding twice a week. “There’s not a lot you can do if you get a bad horse,” he explained, “so the advantages of you get from putting the practice in is minimal.”
He added show jumping to his repertoire at 17 after progressing from swimming and running races. “I only made it around four jumps before I was stopped for falling off or the horse refusing,” he recalled. “But my friend only got over two jumps so I was pleased and wanted to do it again. I knew I could get round it.”
Weale finished 10th in Beijing which he puts down to experience. “London is my second Games which is significant,” he said.
“It’s exciting still but you are there to perform not to just pick up a t-shirt.”
The gold medal at London 2012 is in Weale’s words, “almost the Russians to lose” given they occupy the top three places in the world rankings.
But as he points out: “Half the field can win a medal, and any of those 18 athletes could step up on the day.” Particularly if they don’t want to be normal in the year modern pentathlon marks its 100th anniversary as an Olympic sport.
The men’s modern pentathlon Olympic final takes place on Saturday August 11 and the women’s event on Sunday August 12, the last competition of the London Olympics.
Name: Matt Pound
Organization: Union Internationale De Pentathlon Moderne - UIPM
Phone: +377 9777 8555