At the weekend I attended the modern pentathlon World Championships in Rome to support our athletes Sam and Freyja
in their attempts to secure a position at the London Olympics. It was a nail biting competition and was always going to be tough when the Olympic standard is so high (they had to obtain a podium position!).
Over the last few weeks I have been on the edge of my seat awaiting their fate in a sport that I have become well and truly hooked on.
I only got into this less mainstream sport 3 years ago and attended my very first modern pentathlon in 2009 at the World Championships in Crystal Palace. Due to Sam
unfortunately being injured around that time, I was privileged to have him escort me around the event giving me a much needed idiot's guide to the sport.
I could not get over the insight I had as a spectator. The spectator areas are often bang smack in the middle of the events, letting the action and results unfold around you and the competitors cross the line within inches of you. I also couldn't get over the sense of community the sport brings, the supporters being hugely passionate and interactive.
I have always loved multi events. With multi events you go on a journey and anything could happen which is what makes a performer stand out, their ability to deal with unpredictability and only being as good as their next performance. I have witnessed both Sam
do badly in the fence and swim but then their unbelievable focus for what's ahead puts them back in the game. It's a rollercoaster and being there is like living each step.
The event takes place in a single day over 5 disciplines, fencing, swimming, riding and the combined running and shooting event. Enough to make James Bond look average!
It begins with the fence. Each competitor has to fence against the other 35 competitors in sudden death bouts lasting up to a minute, so requiring great concentration and skill with each victory gaining points.
The next event is a 200m swimming race with points decided on the time it takes to complete the race.
The third event is horse riding which is hugely unpredictable as the horses are drawn on a lottery basis with points deducted if they knock down fences or for refusal to jump a fence (12 jump course). So Sam
can only pray that they won't pull a donkey!
Once these first 3 events have been completed the twist is that the points system ends there. The competitors' scores are totalled up and converted into a time handicap, with the top person starting the combined run and shoot event in first place, and the remaining competitors starting every few seconds after depending on how many points they are behind the leader. The winner is the first person to cross the line.
The combined run and shoot event is the cherry on top of a very gruelling day. It combines endurance, agility and pure focus. The competitor has to do 3 1000m laps of a course but at the start of each lap is a shooting range where they are required to hit the target 5 times using a laser gun before continuing the next lap. This element is fairly new to the sport and, despite mixed opinions, I feel as a spectator it adds great climax.
This final element is incredible to watch and this is where Freyja
is awesome. She thrives on the intensity and is strong on the run. I have witnessed her back in 28th place and pass competitors by the dozen. If she can improve some of her other events and go into the combined with a better time handicap, what she could produce is scary.
strength is his all round ability with no real weak events and his single minded desire to be the best which has made him the only British man to have ever won a European medal. It is a privilege to watch Sam
compete and witness his skill and speed in the fencing event in particular.
As a spectator sport, I can't recommend it enough and for people who were lucky enough to bag Olympic tickets are in for a treat. You do not get any closer to the action, suspense and competitors.
I hope the sport can grow and have wider appeal as it will be interesting (and a challenge) to see how the action I describe above could transpire on mainstream television. If it can relate some of the same atmosphere, it would make for very entertaining viewing. In the meantime, you can catch some live coverage at www.pentathlon.org
and also on Sky Sports.