Final chance to set Olympic standard as pentathletes head to World Championships

19 May 2016

Pentathlon GB has selected nine University of Bath-based athletes, including two current students and six graduates, for next week’s World Championships – the last qualifying event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Samantha Murray, World Champion in 2014 and bronze-medallist in 2012, is named in the women’s team along with Kate French, Joanna Muir and Freyja Prentice.

Jamie Cooke, fresh from winning a historic World Cup Final gold medal, is in the men’s team along with Joe Choong, Sam Curry, Tom Toolis and Joe Evans, the latter competing in the relay.

The championships – taking place in Moscow from May 23-29 – are the last chance for athletes to put themselves in contention for Olympic selection, with a top-three finish setting the qualification standard.

So far three Brits have a quota place – Murray, French and Mathematics student Choong – with Team GB allowed to take four athletes, two male and two female, to the Games.

Looking to show her Olympic credentials is Biology graduate Prentice, who has achieved top-ten finishes at her last two World Cup events.

“If you medal at the Worlds it’s almost a guaranteed seat on the plane, so that’s what everyone is striving for,” she said.

“I’ve just had two top-ten World Cup finishes, so I have to be pleased with that and hopefully use that confidence in Moscow. I just have to make sure I get into the final and then we’ll see what happens from there.”

Murray booked her place at London 2012 by winning bronze at the Worlds four years ago, then went on to famously secure silver in the Games themselves.

“I’m really happy to be selected for the World Championships once again,” said the French & Politics graduate. “I always enjoy going to them, they are a great opportunity to perform against the best and the prospect of challenging for the title really excites me.”

(From left) Samantha Murray, Joanna Muir, Kate French and Freyja Prentice on the athletics track
(From left) Samantha Murray, Joanna Muir, Kate French and Freyja Prentice

French set the Olympic qualifying standard with a top-eight finish at last year’s European Championships at the University of Bath but knows her Rio place is still not secure.

“Nothing is set in stone for Rio at the moment, the women’s squad is really strong and Moscow will have a big influence on who is selected,” she said.

Fellow Sports Performance graduate Muir will make her senior World Championships debut next week, having made the step up from the junior ranks this year.

“It’s quite scary, in a good way,” she said. “The standard is a lot higher and I’m competing against people who have won Olympic medals, which is quite surreal, but I’m really enjoying the challenge.”

Mathematics student Choong is the only GB man to have an Olympic quota place so far and is hoping to confirm his place on the plane to Brazil with another strong display in Moscow.

“Going to the World Championships is incredibly important because it is our last chance to show how good we are in terms of selection for the Rio Olympic Games,” he said.

“I’ve been fortunate this year as I already have the Olympic qualification standard, so I’ve been able to focus on certain competitions and I’ve had a good block of training towards this event.”

(From left) Joe Evans, Tom Toolis, Joe Choong, Sam Curry and Jamie Cooke on the outdoor athletics track
(From left) Joe Evans, Tom Toolis, Joe Choong, Sam Curry and Jamie Cooke

Cooke is on course to qualify for Rio through the world ranking list, where he currently sits second, and will be looking to build on his successive World Cup gold medals in Hungary and the United States.

“My last two events have been fantastic, I’ve really enjoyed both of them, and things have been going really well,” he said.

“It’s nice to see the hard work I put in over the winter starting to pay off in the summer. Having that consistency and momentum is promising.”

Politics & International Relations graduate Curry says he is “absolutely thrilled” to be selected for the men’s individual event in Moscow after only competing in the relay in 2015.

“I sat down with my coach after that and said my real goal for this year was to be selected for the World Championships, so this is a very exciting opportunity for me,” he said.

“I’ve had the best preparation I could possibly have had, so whatever happens on the day will happen.”

Sport & Exercise Science student Toolis is also looking to build on his last World Championships performance as he targets Olympic selection.

“I just missed out on the final last year so it would be good to go back and show everyone what I am capable of,” he said. “Finishing in the top three would secure Olympic selection, so there is all to play for.”

Completing the team is Sports Performance graduate Evans, who won silver in the mixed relay with French at the 2014 Worlds.

“It’s a huge opportunity for me and it’s brilliant to be going, it is always a fantastic feeling to be representing your country,” he said.

“The World Championships are the biggest competition we have in terms of depth, everyone is there, and the standard is going to be very high – especially with it being an Olympic year.”

The team announcement took place at the University of Bath Sports Training Village, which has been Pentathlon GB’s national training centre for the past 20 years.

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