Sixteen qualification places at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are at stake as Ireland’s elite pentathletes head across the channel for the 2019 European Modern Pentathlon Championships (6-11 August).
The competition at the University of Bath has long been identified as the most important of the season for the Irish high-performance unit, with eight Olympic berths on offer in each of the men’s and women’s individual finals.
Ireland currently has four athletes in the top 50 of the world rankings, and Natalya Coyle, Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe, Sive Brassil and Eilidh Prise all have a realistic chance of securing the high finish they need to secure their coveted ticket to Tokyo.
The three women team-mates are effectively in competition with each other as there can only be one qualifier per gender from each country competing in Bath. There will be other opportunities to qualify, starting with the UIPM Pentathlon World Championships in Budapest in September (the criteria is outlined on the UIPM website).
Tom O’Brien, winner of a silver medal at Trinity College when the UIPM Laser Run World Championships came to Dublin last year, also competes in England in his first appearance at the Europeans since 2016.
The Mixed Relay kicks off proceedings on Tuesday 6 August before the Men’s and Women’s Relays on Wednesday. The individual qualification rounds take place on Thursday and Friday with the battle for medals and Olympic places bringing the competition to a climax on Saturday (men) and Sunday (women).
Four years ago, Lanigan-O’Keeffe announced himself as a major player in the sport as he won gold at the Europeans at the same venue, securing his place at the Rio 2016 Olympics with something to spare.
Since then, two-time Olympians Lanigan-O’Keeffe (27) and Coyle (28) have regularly inhabited the podium at major competitions, while Prise (23) and Brassil (25) have progressed consistently.
The latter duo finished 11th and 21st respectively at last year’s Europeans in Hungary – if they could repeat those places next weekend they might not be far away from Olympic qualification.
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.
McCarthy said: “All our preparations this season have been geared towards the athletes peaking at the European Championships. This is their best chance of securing qualification for the Olympic Games early and giving themselves almost a year to get ready for Tokyo.
“We are fully aware that competition will be fierce but the team has a lot of experience at the highest level of the sport and they know how to handle the pressure.”
Paddy Boyd, Pentathlon Ireland Chief Executive, added: “It’s wonderful to have Ireland represented by five pentathletes at the 2019 European Championships in England.
“It has been another season of excellent progress for Irish pentathlon, with some stunning achievements at elite level. There is a growing crop of athletes who now believe that they belong in the top of the sport.
“This is due not only to their individual determination but also to a strong high-performance culture that has been embedded in the last number of years thanks to the Irish pentathlon community working closely with Sport Ireland, the Sport Ireland Institute and the Olympic Federation of Ireland.
“The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is now within touching distance and Natalya, Sive, Eilidh, Arthur and Tom will have the support of many people in Bath as well as the entire country back here in Ireland when they compete in the coming days.”
For competition updates visit the Pentathlon GB website.
For more information please contact Jonathan Coates on +44 7788 352219.