Ireland will go into the UIPM 2019 Pentathlon World Cup Final in Tokyo (27-30 June) with their biggest-ever contingent of athletes.
Four members of the Irish high-performance team – Natalya Coyle, Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe, Sive Brassil and Eilidh Prise – qualified for the final through strong performances in the regular season.
That means one in 18 athletes on the start line in the Japanese capital will be Irish, and there is a quiet confidence among the team that qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games may not be out of the question.
Only one qualifying place for each gender is on the line this weekend, but both Coyle and Lanigan-O’Keeffe have a strong record at the World Cup Final. Last year Lanigan-O’Keeffe won bronze in the men’s event and Coyle finished fourth in the women’s.
The couple have also won gold twice in the Mixed Relay – in 2016 and 2017 – and will reunite on Sunday aiming for a third title.
This season’s good performances come in the wake of two new appointments that bolstered Pentathlon Ireland’s performance support team in the run-up to Tokyo 2020.
Martina McCarthy was appointed Pentathlon Ireland Performance Director with Andrei Fedotov taking on the role of Fencing Coach.
Their contribution has helped Lanigan O’Keeffe and Coyle remain prominent in the UIPM world pentathlon rankings, while Brassil and Prise have continued their exciting development.
McCarthy said: “It is quite a big achievement for our country to have four athletes qualified for the World Cup Final. There are 23 nations here and only six have as many athletes as we do and as many female athletes as we do.
“We really wanted to maximise the number of people we could qualify and it’s testament to the girls and Arthur that they have all reached this stage of the season effectively in the top 36 in the world. It’s great for our programme to have this success a year out from the Olympic Games.”
The Irish had a fantastic start to the season when Coyle won silver in the women’s final at UIPM Pentathlon World Cup Cairo in March. The feelgood factor has remained in place and the four qualified athletes, along with McCarthy, Fedotov and auxiliary coach Andy MacKenzie, prepared for Tokyo at a training camp in Mungyong, Korea which McCarthy described as “the perfect training environment”.
“The camp in Korea was excellent – there were 12 nations there so the athletes were effectively competing against the people they will come up against in Tokyo this weekend,” she said.
“The Koreans couldn’t have been more helpful and it was a beautiful place, stunning and quiet – the perfect training environment. We’re hoping we can use it as a base for Olympic preparations next year. It’s quite handy for Japan and the athletes will be able to stay removed from the bubble of the Olympic Games there.”
The women kick off their fencing ranking round on Thursday 27 June at 12pm local time (4am Irish time). The men’s fencing follows at 3.30pm. The women’s event continues with swimming, fencing bonus round, riding and Laser Run on Friday and the men re-enter the Pentathlon Arena on Saturday. The mixed relay concludes the action on Sunday.
McCarthy added: “This competition is an official Olympic test event that mirrors the format of the Olympic Games, so it really allows us to rehearse for the Olympic experience.
“The athletes are delighted to be here and getting a chance to visualise what the Tokyo Olympics will be like. Olympic qualification is only for the winners here, and there will be much better prospects of qualifying at the European Championships in Bath in August.”
Paddy Boyd, Pentathlon Ireland Chief Executive, said: “The qualification of four Irish pentathletes for the UIPM 2019 Pentathlon World Cup Final is a remarkable achievement.
“With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games now just over a year away, the athletes now have their first chance to qualify and they have performed superbly to earn this opportunity. I know everybody at home here in Ireland will be cheering Natalya, SIve, Eilidh and Arthur every step of the way.
“We are determined to leave no stone unturned in providing our athletes with every possible opportunity to fulfil their high-performance goals, and we are grateful to Sport Ireland, the Sport Ireland Institute and the Olympic Federation of Ireland for the invaluable support they provide.”
To follow the competition check the UIPM website or the UIPM Central app for results.
For more information please contact Jonathan Coates on +44 7788 352219.