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Natalya Coyle is aiming to sharpen her epee and improve her fencing form in Sofia this week with only 100 days to go until the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Coyle and her Irish team-mate Sive Brassil will compete in the last event of the regular season, UIPM 2021 Pentathlon World Cup Sofia (II), in the coming days.
With qualification taking place tomorrow (15 April) and the women’s final following on Saturday (17 April), two-time Olympian Coyle wants two more opportunities to test herself on the piste against the best fencers in the pentathlon world.
The 30-year-old from Meath finished seventh at the season-opener in Budapest in March but only after a fencing performance in the final that she described as “rusty” – 19 wins from 35 bouts.
Having worked hard for the past three weeks – and throughout the competition shutdown – with Pentathlon Ireland fencing coach Andrey Fedotov, she is ready to put her training into practice in the Bulgarian capital.
Coyle said: “I wanted to get back home and recover well after the first World Cup. It meant I was able to get a bit of training in at home, after quarantine, and I’m feeling nice and ready to go now.
“I am just looking forward to getting out and competing again. It’s going to be good to fence at a high standard again, as our access in Ireland is limited.”
Coyle has already qualified for Tokyo, courtesy of her performance at the 2019 European Championships, but 27-year-old Brassil is still very much in the thick of the chase, sitting 29th in the UIPM Olympic World Ranking.
This week’s competition will have a big influence on Olympic qualification, with only the Pentathlon World Cup Final and Pentathlon World Championships to follow before the rescheduled Games this summer.
Coyle admits she is happy to be back in amongst the competition circuit after cheering on Brassil and her other senior Irish team-mate, fiancée Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe, from home last week.
She said: “It was so nerve-wracking following everyone at home. I mainly get nervous for the semi-finals and then once everyone is safely through I relax.
“It’s great to have familiar faces around. Arthur isn’t here this week but it’s lovely when he’s here as well.
“It feels great and amazing that the Olympics are getting so close. Last year I didn’t know if the Games would go ahead and now that we’re 100 days to go I’m just delighted.
“Unfortunately I don’t see many people as we’re in a training bubble, but I hope everyone’s getting excited. Hopefully I can give everyone something to cheer about!”