POSTED: Wednesday July 25th 2012

Modern Pentathlon: From the Battered to the Batterer, Woodbridge has his eyes on a medal

Team GB modern pentathlete Nick Woodbridge has already stood on the podium in London after making the transition from ‘being battered’ to ‘the batterer’ in the sport’s fast and painful first event.

The 26-year-old became the first ever British male pentathlete to win a World Cup Final medal when he clinched bronze at the London 2012 test event in Greenwich Park last year - propelling him into the world’s top ten.

The grueling, five-discipline sport comprises fencing, a 200m swim, show jumping on an unfamiliar horse, and a 3km run and a shoot. It was envisaged by its creator, Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic movement, as the test of the ‘ideal, complete athlete’.

The run and shoot are now combined, with athletes setting off at intervals based on their performances in the first three events. The first to hit all their shots and cross the line is the victor.

To get back on the podium in London, Woodbridge believes he needs to pick up early points in his fencing - the discipline he hated the most as a youngster but the one he had to master to turn his tetrathlon skills (a form of pentathlon for juniors which does not include fencing) into Olympic potential.

“You just got battered by the better fencers,” he said. “When you first start you have no concept of distance and timing so you are getting battered all over the place.

“It was only when I became the batterer it became a bit more fun.”

The 6ft 2in former youth world champion is now ranked fifth in the world, making big strides since finishing 25th at the Beijing Olympics.

While he is pinning his hopes for a good performance in London on a strong start in the fencing he knows there is still everything to play for in the final four events.

“The pentathlon is not over until you cross the line, there are so many variables,” explained Woodbridge who was selected for Team GB alongside Sam Weale, Mhairi Spence and Samantha Murray, his training partners in a competitive, Lottery-funded squad based at the University of Bath.

“If you have had a couple of bad rounds of fencing or no hits it can be such a long day. But it is never over, there’s always a chance to get back in.”

His GB team-mate, Spence, proved the matter at the 2012 World Championships, clawing back an unlikely 37-second lead from France’s three-times World Champion Amelie Caze in the final run and shoot to win a stunning gold medal in the women’s event.

“I always compete well at home,” said Woodbridge confidently. “There’s a lot of familiar faces and support that you have around you. It’s that home advantage.”

Having made his Olympic bow in Beijing with Weale he is comfortable with what lies in wait come race day at London 2012 - thousands and thousands of baying spectators.

“The overwhelming factor of the crowd is the experience from Beijing that I will take with me to London,” he said.

“All the noise that the crowd creates is a bit overwhelming. We’re not used to that in modern pentathlon as outside the Olympics you just don’t get anything like the same number of spectators. In London I know what to expect.”

Woodbridge learned to fence at the Much Wenlock Fencing Club after competing in biathlons from the age of 10 thanks to Wellington Swimming Club and Telford Athletics Club and picking up horse riding and pistols through his local Pony Club.

The Much Wenlock Games was the event on which Coubertin based his idea for the modern Olympic Games so Woodbridge’s sporting career is steeped in Olympic tradition - and London 2012 marks modern pentathlon’s 100th anniversary.

“I like the variety of pentathlon, you never get bored,” he said. “When I was younger my parents used to run me here there and everywhere so I could try every sport under the sun.

“My dad suggested I take up fencing on top of the running, swimming, riding and shooting as it would be a way into an Olympic sport,” he said.

After just six sessions Woodbridge competed in his first pentathlon, the 1999 national championships, and finished third but still nearly chucked in the sport, fed up with the bruises. He persisted though and in 2004 was rewarded with gold at the youth world championships in Bulgaria.

Fast forward to 2012 and precious metals are on the mind once more. GB’s women have won four medals over the last three Olympic Games but Richard Phelp’s fourth place in Los Angeles 1984 is the highest-ever British finish in the men’s individual event.

“A medal is achievable,” said Woodbridge, who is 12 places above GB team-mate Weale in the world rankings. “But it is putting all the disciplines together on the same day.

“I haven’t had the perfect run of events this season so hopefully I can see to that at the Olympics.”

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.

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Keywords · Modern Pentathlon · London 2012 · Pentathlon · Pentathlete · Olympics · Olympic Games · London · UIPM · IOC · Coubertin · Run · Shoot · Swim · Ride · Fence · Great Britain · gold · champion · Nick Woodbridge · British · Woodbridge

Name: Matt Pound
Organization: Union Internationale De Pentathlon Moderne - UIPM
Phone: +377 9777 8555

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