Pentathlon Ireland achieved their highest place finish at a World Cup competition yesterday when Natalya Coyle and Eanna Bailey finished 5th in the mixed relay event. Progressing up the leader board throughout the day, the young team went into the final event, the combined run/shoot discipline, in 8th position just 37 seconds behind the leading team. In an exciting race that saw the medal positions change dramatically on each lap, the Irish athletes held their nerve on the shooting range and backed it up with competitive running performances which put Eanna in contention for the bronze medal on the last lap. The experienced German athlete had too much left when the group of three athletes hit the track with 300m remaining and raced away to claim a the bronze medal.
The relay was a great opportunity for the Irish athletes to gain further experience at World cup level. Their day started in the fencing hall, where 17 teams, comprised of one athlete per gender, competed against each other for four individual hits (2 per gender). Ireland had a shaky start, losing 4-0 against the Mexican team. Natalya came back strongly against the Italian 1st team, beating the female athlete 2-0 however Eanna struggled to get off the mark, losing 2-0. The form of the Irish team didn’t really start going until the 6th round where they faced the Australian team and beat them 3-1. The fencing continued to pick up with 4-0 victories over Guatemala and Argentina, and 3-1 victories over Italy (2) and the Ukraine. After two hours in the fencing hall, the Irish team had accumulated 28 victories out of 64 fights; Natalya winning 18 of hers and Eanna 10 of his. This gave the team a pentathlon points score of 762 and placed them in 13th position out of the 17 teams competing.
Onto the pool and the Irish were seeded in the fastest heat in lane one. Natalya led off on the 2x100m relay but struggled to keep pace with some of the fastest female swimmers. Her split of 1:04.9 was enough to keep Eanna in sight of his opposition during the changeover. Eanna swam well and his time of 52.9 brought the team into 4th position in the heat and in the overall rankings from the swimming. There official time of 1:58,28 scored them 1384 pentathlon points and shifted them up the leader board to 9th position after two events.
For the relay riding event, each team is draws pair of horses and the athletes/coach can choose which athlete rides which horse. After observing the horses in the individual competition the athletes were pretty happy with their horses and entered the arena in a confident mood. Teams begin the ride event with 1200 pentathlon points. Penalties are subtracted from this for any violations whilst each athlete completes a riding course of 9 fences in a relay format. Natalya knocked one pole, incurring a 20points penalty whilst Eanna left all the fences standing in a clear round. Despite riding short lines between the fences, the team was slightly over the course time limit of two minutes and incurred 28 penalties. Their riding total of 1152 was the 7th best in the competition and moved the team up one more place to 8th.
The Irish team lined up for the start of the combined run/shoot event in 8th position, just 37seconds behind the USA team in 1st position. For the relay, each team member completes two shooting series and two 1km run laps with a relay style change over at the halfway mark. Natalya began the event and produced an excellent first shoot series, taking just 6shots to hit the five required targets. Completing the first shoot series in 19 seconds elevated the team up to 6th position for the start of the first 1km lap. Strong running by Natalya meant she returned to the range for the second shoot in 7th position. With another excellent shooting display, again hitting 5 out of 6 shots in 18seconds, Natalya left the range for her final 1km in 4th position. She was chased down by Olympic champion Lena Schenborn and the USA athlete who overtook her with 150m to the change over box.
Eanna set off in 6th position, heading onto the shooting range for his first shoot series where he was not to be out done by Natalya, also hitting 5 from 6 shots in a time 16seconds and maintaining the 4th position onto the run lap. Despite being overtaken by the USA athlete in the first few hundred meters, Eanna looked strong and composed and reeled him back in over the course of the 1km. Coming on to the range for the second shoot series, Eanna was able to hold his composure and again hit 5 from 6 in 16seconds. He left the range level with the Polish athlete for the bronze medal position with the German athlete only 10m adrift of the pair. Eanna ran extremely well and the three athletes were still closely grouped when they hit the track with 300m to go. The German athlete had a phenomenal kick and sprinted away from the other two athletes to claim the bronze medal. Despite his best efforts, Eanna was unable to catch the Polish athlete who had initially reacted well to the German’s kick but was struggling to maintain the pace. Eanna crossed the line in 5th position. The total time of the Irish team in the combined event was 14:59,28 and was the fastest of all the teams. In addition, the time total time that the Irish team spent on the shooting range was just 69seconds, 12seconds quicker than the second fastest team, China who won the gold medal.
This event was a great opportunity for the athletes to gain further experience at World Cup level and it was extremely pleasing to see that they were able to perform under pressure in the combined event. Both athletes were extremely happy with their performances and despite being disappointed not to medal they appreciate how far they have come in such a short period of time.
Both Eanna and Arthur will now have a short break from competing at the World Cups to concentrate on their college exams before returning to competitions in June. Natalya with the financial assistance of her Olympic Council of Ireland Scholarship, is due to compete in World Cups 3 and 4 in Hungary and China respectively.
The 2011 World Cup Series:
· World Cup 1 – USA, 23rd – 27th February
· World Cup 2 – Italy, 14th – 17th March
· World Cup 3 – Hungary, 5th – 8th May
· World Cup 4 – China, 26th – 29th May
· World Cup Final – Great Britain, 9th – 10th July (Olympic Qualification Event*)
The top 36 ranked athletes from WC 1-4 will be invited to contest the World Cup Final
Further information on the Pentathlon and the World cup series:
· Union International de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) – www.pentathlon.org
· www.facebook.com – Search pages for “Pentathlon Ireland”
· Pentathlon Ireland – www.pentathlon.ie