POSTED: Monday July 30th 2012

Modern Pentathlon: Coyle Achieves Her Olympic Dream

Coyle has been all smiles since making the Olympics
Coyle has been all smiles since making the Olympics

Coyle has improved her running extensively over the past few years
Coyle has improved her running extensively over the past few years

Coyle looking to do some damage in London
Coyle looking to do some damage in London

Coyle Achieves Her Olympic Dream

Like all sword-wielding, pistol-toting modern pentathletes, Natalya Coyle can be armed and dangerous. But the 21-year-old Irish star’s most potent weapon is the disarming enthusiasm which has driven her to become Ireland’s first Olympian in the sport since 1980.

Coyle has achieved her goals ahead of time and will be making her Games debut at London 2012 - rather than Rio 2016, with just two years of proper training under her belt.

She runs, rides, shoots, swims and fences as fast as she talks and her performances in the past two years have seen her rocket from relative nowhere in 2009 to becoming an Irish cause celebre by qualifying for the Games.

The Emerald Isle didn’t have a high-performance plan for the sport until 2009, when Coyle’s coach, former GB modern pentathlete and now performance director for Pentathlon Ireland Lindsey Weedon, touched down in the country.

“I couldn’t have done it without Lindsey coming along and putting the performance plan in place,” said Coyle, from Tara, Co Meath, who secured funding from the Irish Sports Council in 2010 thanks to Weedon and reached her first World Cup final the same year.

“She turned us from mediocre athletes to where we are now,” said Coyle. “It’s incredible the structure she has put in which has got results.”

Weedon is naturally proud of her prodigy and praised Coyle’s dedication to the demands of mastering five sports simultaneously.

"Natalya has come so far in the last two and a half years,” she said. “She works very, very hard and she does everything we ask and more. She's only 21 but she has a very mature approach and it's an exciting time for her."

In modern pentathlon athletes must fence a number of duels before racing 200m in the swimming pool then completing a show-jumping course on an unfamiliar horse.

In London the fencing will take place in the Copper Box and the swim in the Aquatics Centre on the Olympic Park before the action - and spectators’ - moves to Greenwich Park for the riding.

After the first three events the competitors’ total scores are converted into a time handicap and the day concludes with the combined event, a 3km run, including three stop-offs at shooting points where they must hit five targets. The first across the finish wins in a thrilling climax to the multi-discipline event.

Coyle progressed from her local Pony Club to competing in tetrathlons - a junior version of the pentathlon minus the fencing - nationally and internationally before picking up a sword - or ‘epee’ - in time for Weedon’s arrival.

She qualified for the World Cup final again in 2011 in London, finishing 20th. And this year’s 10th place finish at the fourth World Cup in Rostov, Russia, followed by 21st at the World Cup final in Chengdu, China, secured her Olympic berth.

“When I qualified for the world cup final for the first time it started to become reality,” she said. “But it’s all been a bit of a blur. Without Lindsey there’s no way I would be where I am now.”

The country now has Coyle as a shining beacon to inspire a legacy and drive the sport on in the manner Stephanie Cook’s gold at the Sydney Olympics sparked a surge of interest in Britain.

When the gasping, disbelieving Mhairi Spence clinched the 2012 World Championship in stunning fashion she cited Cook as her inspiration, “to give (the sport) a go”.

Coyle hopes her qualification for London can have a similar effect. “I hope I can inspire loads of other athletes in Ireland to take up the sport,” she said, and has already been prompting flag-waving back home by helping carry the Olympic torch through Dublin - where her Business and Economics degree at Trinity is somewhat “on hold”.

“It will probably only all sink in afterwards,” said the bubbly, blonde-haired student who will be maximising her Games experience by competing in the final event of the Olympic fortnight in the 100th anniversary year of the sport.

“I always wanted to put everything in to it. So if I didn’t qualify I would have no regrets. You don’t get any better motivation than going to the Olympics.”

Coyle’s own Steph Cook moment was when Georgina Harland came from 14th place in the final event, the run, to win bronze for Great Britain at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and convinced Pony-Club-member Coyle to spread her wings and “add something a bit more” to her riding.

Coyle is ranked 36th in the world so would have to cause a major surprise of her own to win a medal in London but has been upping her hill training to cope with the undulating run in Greenwich.

“The course is an amazing venue, something like I’ve never competed at before, with the backdrop of Greenwich,” she said.  “We do a good bit more hills now as a result of the hilly course in London. The hills don’t help matters, but you know what’s coming. 

“I just want to go there and perform as well as I can. For me it is a stepping stone for Rio, but I am going to make the most of it.”

The women’s modern pentathlon Olympic final takes place on Sunday August 12 and is the last event 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 · Natalya Coyle · Coyle · Ireland · Irish

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

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