Eilidh Prise admits it would be the fulfilment of a lifelong dream if she could earn qualification for her first Olympic Games in the coming days.
The Scottish-born 23-year-old, whose mother Trish hails from Dublin, competes in the grounds of her old university tomorrow (9 August) as she aims to reach Sunday’s European Championships women’s final along with Natalya Coyle and Sive Brassil.
Prise has enjoyed steady progress throughout her junior career with Great Britain and since joining the senior Irish high-performance unit two seasons ago.
She is no stranger to the podium and after finishing 11th at the 2018 Europeans, as well as winning two relay silver medals, she has every right to believe that Olympic qualification could be within her grasp if all goes well.
Eight places at Tokyo 2020 are on offer in each of the men’s and women’s individual finals at the University of Bath, where the men’s individual qualifying round got under way today (8 August).
“Last year at the Europeans was definitely the closest I’ve come to a complete performance,” says the two-time UIPM Pentathlon World Cup finalist.
“It was the last competition of the season and I was quite tired from all the travel, and coming 11th was just such a boost and made me feel ‘actually, I can do this’. Europe is so strong and in that event I beat World Cup medallists and people who may on paper be better than me.
“That’s what can happen in pentathlon – if you have your day and everything goes well, you can win. It can throw up surprises.”
There is only one place per gender on offer to countries who are represented in the individual finals this weekend, so Prise would have to finish above Coyle and Brassil – as well as a host of top athletes – to secure her spot. She takes a realistic but determined approach to this challenge.
“To qualify for the Olympics is every athlete’s dream and I’d be lying if I said anything else,” she says. “It would be an incredible experience to compete at an Olympic Games, and it’s something that I’ve dreamt about since I was so young.
“The other thing is, though, I’m young. And if Tokyo isn’t the one, then maybe it’s Paris. I’ve got a lot to give and I really hope I’ll get there at some point.
“I’m still quite new to the circuit, I guess, and last year was the first time I competed at World Cup events. I’m still learning, I’ve been fortunate enough to scrape into a few finals and I’m still waiting for my perfect competition to come together, but the thing about pentathlon is that it could happen at any time.
“It would be fantastic if I could reproduce that performance, but what I’ve found is that the best thing is not to look too far ahead and just focus on each individual event. In the back of my mind I’m really hoping that I can perform like that again, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.”
Prise graduated from Bath last summer with a first-class degree in Mathematics. By then she was already entrenched in the Irish set-up, having realised it would offer her more academic flexibility than the British structure.
After moving to Hungary last year to work on her fencing, she fell injured and moved back to the family home – and launched herself back into her studies by embarking on a Masters in International Business & Finance at the University of Aberdeen.
Although not based in Ireland, she feels a groundswell of support from inside and outside the tight-knit pentathlon community.
“My mum’s from Dublin and I have family in Limerick and in Cork. My Irish side of the family has always been very important to me and we go to visit them every year. I love being in Ireland and I’m always made to feel like I’m at home,” says Eilidh, whose sister Kerry is also a pentathlete.
“It feels amazing and I feel so proud and honoured that I’m able to wear the Irish vest. It’s such a huge thing, especially for my mum. The only thing that’s disappointing is that my granny passed away in 2015 and I know that she would have absolutely loved to see me. But I know that she’ll be watching from wherever she is now.
“All my cousins on the Irish side are so proud and always following my progress, so I have a lot of support. When I said I was going to compete for Ireland they all said ‘about time, why didn’t you do it before?’
“It’s also really nice to feel part of the team, and they’ve always been so inclusive and supportive since I joined. I also think it’s great to have Tal and Arthur there, almost as role models. They’ve both been to two Olympic Games and they’re so experienced, and they are so helpful if you ever have a question about anything.
“They are the people to ask, and it’s going to be so good to have that especially next year, with all the travel. To have people who have already been through it – twice – is really beneficial to people like me and Sive.”
For more information contact Jonathan Coates on +44 7788 352219