Natalya Coyle sets her sights on London 2012

Natalya Coyle, is  but one young up and coming Irish woman hoping to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games and her qualifying for the  Modern Pentathlon World Cup Series 1  final in Palm Springs this weekend will do her chances no harm.

In the  Series 1 final,  up against the World’s best pentathletes the young Trinity College student came a creditable 21st out of the  36 finalists – no mean achievement .For the benefit of Irish sports fans who  are new to the sport of Modern Pentathlon here is some background information to help appreciate just what a demanding sport this is.

The events ?

The Modern Pentathlon, introduced at the 5th Olympiad in Stockholm in 1912, embraced the spirit of its ancient Greek  counterpart. It comprised the contemporary sports of pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, horse riding and running.

It was Baron Pierre de Coubertin ‘s belief that it would be the event, above all others, that “tested a man’s moral qualities as much as his physical resources and skills, producing thereby the ideal, complete athlete.”

The format of the Modern Pentathlon has been changed for London 2012 after the sport’s governing body voted to combine the disciplines of shooting and running into one event.

From January 2009, competitions finish with a combined shooting and running event, similar to that found in biathlon, which is held in the Winter Olympics

Britain’s 25 yrs old Mhairi Spence,  from Inverness, now  training and living in Bath , and a bronze medallist at the 2010 world event in Medway took silver in this year’s  Women’s final behind French Champion Amelie  Caze.

In a terrific day for the University of Bath-based British pentathlon programme, the other three  British women competing in Palm Springs all secured top-10 finishes, with Katy Burke just missing out on the medals in fourth, Samantha Murray finishing seventh and Heather Fell 10th

For Ireland, Natalya Coyle ,from the Tara Athletic Club, has already demonstrated  exceptional abilities which have led to her  obtaining financial support from the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) and she is now recognised as one of the sport’s leading  young stars in Europe.

Back in January, Natalya  was named as one of five recipients of OCI scholarships awarded to young athletes bidding to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games. A month later she finished 5th in the Hungarian Open Indoors event .

Coyle, a student of Business, Economics and Social Studies at Trinity , aims to represent Ireland at the London Games in the sport of Modern Pentathlon. She joins Lisa Kearney (Judo), Aileen Morrison (Triathlon), Barry Watkins (Canoeing) and Sam Watson (Equestrian) on the OCI scheme.

“The Olympic Council funding helps pay for travel abroad in an effort to qualify for the Olympics in London in 2012. The grant also comes with all the support services such as gym work and physio visits. The Olympics in 2012 is my major goal at the moment,” Natalya told the ‘Meath Chronicle’  as she prepared for her trip to Palm Springs.

“Our scheme is primarily aimed at so-called minority sports and is especially geared to support young athletes who have an excellent chance of making the strenuous qualification standards for the London Games,” commented OCI president Pat Hickey

“We are confident that all five athletes will make the Irish Olympic team for London and that the scholarships, to be used for training and competition purposes, will help them improve their already high competition rankings”.

In Bath last month, the Meath girl finished ninth in a high quality woman’s field after knocking some  three seconds off her previous best  long-course swim time, in an event that doubled as the GB Team selection final.

“The pentathlon is a difficult sport because of the multi-discipline. It is so difficult to train for all the events because they are all so different. There is running, shooting, swimming, riding and fencing and I have to try to get in enough training for all those different events,” said Coyle in an her ‘Meath Chronicle’ interview.

“I would train for around 25 hours a week and that is the most difficult part. It is starting to get a bit easier because I have a great support system now with the Institute of Sport, with my college and with my coaches.

“I only have one day off per week, a Sunday while Tuesday is one of my busiest days. I’m in the gym for an hour from 7.0 and then I do running from 9.0 to 10.0. I go straight into shooting then from 10.0 to 11.0 before I take a bit of a break where I have to go to college.

“I start back then with fencing from 2.30 to 5.0 before I head to the pool for swimming from 7.0 to 9.0. So it is a 14-hour day on a Tuesday and it is hard work. On the other days I do three or four sessions.

Added Coyle: “I’m really starting to enjoy the fencing discipline and it is becoming my favourite event. Since I’ve started to do more training that has become really enjoyable. I’m in a great club in Trinity, but I like all the disciplines because all the training is starting to pay off.

“I would probably be best at the horse riding discipline because I have been riding horses since a very young age with the pony club. I used to do tetrathlon with the pony club and I progressed from there to the pentathlon,” she said.

As anyone  who has  represented  their country in the Olympics will tell you,  Olympic qualification takes a huge amount of dedication, but Coyle firmly believes  she has the right support and ability to get her to where she needs to be.

If she can  improve further her already fine form  over the  next 12 months then she could well be a contender for the London Games. She fully recognises that it will be hard work, but she is willing to make the  necessary sacrifices.

“It is going to be really difficult to qualify for the Olympics. Last year I qualified in the top 36 for the World Cup final in June, so if the Olympics were last year I would have qualified.

“My aim this year is to compete in the top events again and gather enough ranking points to be in the top 36 in the world and therefore qualify. I’m confident that is within my reach, but it will all come down to hard work.

“I’m lucky because two of my really good friends  Eanna (Bailey) and Arthur (Lanigan-O’Keeffe) are involved as well so it makes it easier. Throughout all the disciplines I have made great friends and I train with them as well.

“My ultimate aim is to qualify for the Olympics and that is where my focus is. If I do manage to qualify then all the sacrifice is worthwhile,” concluded the determined young Tara  pentathlete.


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