100 days to Tokyo: Kate French reflects on super start to Olympic season for herself and Pentathlon GB team-mates

14 April 2021

With 100 days to the Tokyo Olympic Games, Pentathlon GB’s women have been showing fantastic form on the international stage – no more so than University of Bath alumna Kate French.

The Rio 2016 Olympian smashed the women’s pentathlon fencing world record on her way to gold at the UIPM World Cup in Budapest last month, then followed that up with silver in Sofia last week.

While her compatriots go again at another World Cup competition in Bulgaria this week, French is now back in Bath to recharge ahead of next month’s World Cup Final in Hungary and has had chance to reflect on her stunning return to competition after a 14-month break.

“I’m really pleased with how things have gone, I didn’t really know what to expect having not competed for so long,” said French, who studied Sports Performance at the University.

“My semi-final in Budapest was a bit rusty and I didn’t fence well at all, so I was really nervous about my shoot because it hadn’t been going so well when we had a couple of practice competitions in Bath. I remembered how to do it again, though, and surprised myself.

“I’m not really sure where my fence came from in the final. Everything just clicked. I’d wanted to work out why my fencing hadn’t gone well in the semis so I looked back at some videos, which I think helped.

“You try not to count the hits but I knew I was on course for a really good total and got quite nervous towards the end. I just wanted to beat my previous personal best of 29 victories, so I was really chuffed with 31. It was my day to lose after that, which I very nearly did in the ride, but I managed to hold it together and then I was pleased to keep up that consistency in Sofia last week.”

French currently tops the women’s world rankings and is joined in the top five by fellow in-form Pentathlon GB athletes Jo Muir and Francesca Summers, while Jess Varley also finished in the top 11 in Sofia.

“The competition is really tough just within the GB squad, let alone the rest of the world, and it’s spurring us all on to do better,” said French. “It’s a good, fun environment to train in and we all encourage each other but we had no idea where we were in relation to the world stage until we started competing again and it’s been great to see us all do so well.”

While Muir and Summers continue their pursuit of Olympic qualification points in Sofia this weekend, French is taking a break having achieved the Tokyo standard by winning silver when Bath hosted the 2019 European Championships.

“It’s a fine line, especially with not having competed for such a long time before as you still want to build that experience and make sure you are ready, but setting the qualification standard has taken a bit of stress off,” she said.

“I need to keep doing well to earn selection, especially with such tough internal competition, but hopefully this means I can better prepare for the World Cup Final.

“The Olympics felt like miles away and now they are coming around really quickly. I think they will be here before we know it and I’m really looking forward to the next few months.”

Pentathlon GB’s National Training Centre is based at the Team Bath Sports Training Village, with many athletes combining their sport with study at the University. Click here to find out more.

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