Pentathlon GB’s Jess Varley delighted to back on the podium after a tough year with superb silver at UIPM World Cup in Sofia

12 May 2024

University of Bath alumna Jess Varley was delighted to put a difficult 12 months behind her and keep her Olympic dreams alive by winning a superb silver at the UIPM Pentathlon World Cup in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Pentathlon GB team-mate Emma Whitaker finished just outside the medals and Kate French placed 13th in a fiercely-fought women’s final, while Myles Pillage was 12th in the men’s final.

All the athletes needed strong performances as they sought to qualify for this year’s World Cup Final and a chance of setting the Paris 2024 Olympic Games qualification standard.

Pentathlon GB’s Emma Whitaker and Kate French finished fourth and 13th respectively. PICTURES: UIPM World Pentathlon / Nuno Gonçalves

Varley did just that, performing consistently across all the disciplines to go into the decisive laser-run in fourth place. A strong runner, she quickly managed to overhaul Elodie Clouvel’s 33-second lead and came out of the last shoot in a thrilling battle for gold with Blanka Guzi which the Hungarian managed to edge.

“I’ve had a rocky couple of years but I’m back on the podium, yay!” said Varley. “I don’t think I’ve ever started a laser-run so high up, so I knew I was absolutely capable of getting a medal today and I’m so happy that I could come out and do it.

“I fell off a horse in training just before World Cup Final last year and had a fracture in my spine, which meant I wasn’t at full fitness for the World Championships.

Myles Pillage placed 12th in the men’s final in Sofia

“It’s so competitive with all the British athletes having two World Cups this year. At the first World Cup I did I had a migraine in the laser-run of the qualifications and didn’t qualify, had an absolute disaster, so this was my last shot. I had to come here and get a medal and I can’t believe I’ve done it.”

Whitaker started the final in 16th place after the fencing ranking round but strong riding and swimming pushed her up the table. She continued to climb in the laser-run and was closing in on bronze-medallist Malak Ismail, finishing just a couple of seconds behind. Olympic Champion French started the day in eighth but her medal hopes were undone by a challenging ride.

The technical riding course continued to pose problems in the men’s final and Pillage, who started the day in 16th, was only able to move up a couple of places. He excelled in the pool once again, recording the second-fastest time, to start the laser-run in 12th place – a position he maintained through to the finish line.

Attention now turns to the World Cup Final in Ankara, Turkey, from 22-26 May where all-important ranking points will be on the line ahead of Paris 2024.

The University of Bath has been home to Pentathlon GB’s National Training Centre since 1998, with the athletes doing their fencing, swimming, laser-run and strength and conditioning training at the Team Bath Sports Training Village. Find out more at

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