Swimmer, fencer, pistol shooter, runner, show jumper: the modern pentathlete must be all these things to succeed. The one-day event consists of round-robin fencing, a 200m freestyle swim, a 12-15-obstacle showjumping course, and four 800-m laps, each prefaced by laser shooting at five targets. Revo UK Ambassador Kate French has been doing this for years on the international level and just competed at her first Olympics. Below, the 24-year-old answers some of our burning questions about the most diverse event of the Games.
Revo: Well, first thing’s first. Brazil is much different from your native England. Did you enjoy Rio and get to do anything fun with your family and friends on your days off?
Kate French: Yes, Rio is an amazing place; it’s very vibrant and full of life! As our competition was at the end of the Games, I stayed on with some friends a few extra days sight-seeing and soaking up some of Rio's nightlife.
Revo: Rio was your first Olympics. What went through your mind when you found out that you qualified last year?
KF: I was over the moon when I qualified but knew I couldn't celebrate as I still had a lot to prove to ensure I was selected.
Revo: Most people don’t learn what the pentathlon is until the summer Olympics rolls around once every four years. How did you get involved with the event?
KF: I came from a few different roots, the Pony Club and Schools Biathlons. I did Pony Club Tetathlons from a very young age, which involves everything but fencing. Then I heard about Modern Pentathlon competing at the Schools Biathlons so decided to take up fencing and give it a go.
Revo: Fun fact for our readers: the original pentathlon of the ancient Olympic Games consisted of a stadion foot race (a 180-meter sprint), sand pit wrestling, a long jump, javelin throw, and a solid bronze discus throw. Have you ever considered how you’d fair at that version of the event?
KF: I think I would be useless at the ancient pentathlon. My throwing and jumping skills aren't great but hopefully I'd fair okay at the foot race!
Revo: A unique aspect of the pentathlon is that the horse you ride for the show jumping event is chosen by draw just a few minutes before the event starts, and in Rio, you scored the maximum number of points in this discipline. How do you prepare to ride an unfamiliar horse and has this always been one of your strengths?
KF: I come from a riding background so I like to think I can read a horse better than most. That being said, it guarantees nothing in pentathlon and sometimes you and your horse just don't get on. In Rio, I knew my horse would look after me, as he was a lovely horse having seen him go in the first round. He was a little worked up when I first got on so I had to spend plenty of time calming him down and gaining his trust. Luckily this paid off and I was over the moon to win the ride event.
Revo: The pentathlon was invented to showcase the skills of the ideal cavalry soldier, and women were denied their own event at the World Championships and Olympics all the way until the year 2000. How does it feel to be part of one of the first classes of female athletes to compete in pentathlon at the Olympics?
KF: I'm very proud to be a female Great British Modern Pentathlete, especially as the standard within the women’s’ squad has been so high. It’s a real honour to have been selected to compete at the Olympic Games.
Revo: Although you competed in Rio individually, you occasionally compete in team relays with Olympic silver medalist Samantha Murray and other athletes. How do you and your teammates motivate each other and help each other improve?
KF: I love competing in the relays and individually against the other British girls. The standard is so high and we really do push each other along to ensure we are all at the top of our game.
Revo: The next summer Olympics are four years away, but we’ll be watching for you. In the meantime, where should we look for you next?
KF: Keep an eye out for me at the World Cups next season. You can follow the progress through Pentathlon GB.
Follow Kate on Twitter: @KateFrench3