For elite Irish athletes, 2019 is a pivotal year as in a lot of cases it provides an opportunity to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and for pentathlete Natalya Coyle, she is no different.
The 28-year-old Meath native is no stranger to the process having qualified for London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016 where she finished ninth and sixth, respectively.
As she speaks to Pundit Arena, Coyle has just finished a pool session before grabbing a bite to eat and then rounding off her long day with running, shooting and finally a gym session.
The life of a modern pentathlete means that you are constantly training for five different disciplines; fencing, swimming, show-jumping, pistol shooting and cross-country running.
Coyle is constantly on the go as her preparations ramp up for a crucial event later this year, the European Championships which take place at the University of Bath in 2019.
The top eight placed competitors from these championships qualify for the 2020 Olympics and Coyle is hoping to secure her spot at this competition.
“There are other ones [events] as well,” Coyle tells Pundit Arena.
“Top eight Euros is kind of the big one that I will be going for this year. There’s also World Championships top-three is a qualifier as well. Next year there is also World Ranking spots but the big aim and what I would love to do would be to qualify at the Europeans this year.”
Coyle has tasted success in recent times with a first-ever individual medal when she secured silver at the World Cup 4 event in Sofia last year. She followed that up this year with another second-place at a World Cup event in Cairo.
She admits she’s in a good place at the moment but knows that you can’t get ahead of yourself in the sport due to its unpredictable nature.
“Yeah, I’m feeling really good at the moment. I’m training well as well. I am looking forward to it [European championships] but it is the pentathlon so you never really know, you could go in with really, really good shape but then maybe a horse mightn’t be good. I feel like it’s all going well anyway.”
As in every four-year Olympic cycle, as the competition draws near, there is increased attention from the Irish media and sporting public alike. Coyle’s trajectory in terms of her success suggests that she is one of Ireland’s main medal hopefuls in Tokyo next year but she is determined not to get distracted by something which is over a year down the line.
“To be honest, I know this is something that sounds like a common answer but I actually don’t really think that far ahead at the moment because I know so many fantastic athletes from different nations and in different sports that have kind of really got ahead of themselves and then haven’t qualified for a games.
“I’m really just trying to focus this year on getting that qualification because I think a lot of sports would say, a lot of athletes would say to you that some parts of the qualification are actually harder than the Olympics itself. So, it’s just trying to get that performance done and nailed, so that’s really, really the goal here. That’s what everything goes on. Hopefully, that happens and then I can change my perceptive then.”
Qualification will be no easy feat as Coyle explains the quality which will be on show at the European Championships later this year.
“I do feel, not even the pressure, but you kind of feel nervous a little bit about Euros and things like that. Because top-eight in Europe, the top eight in the world are European, so it is quite a strong event. So it’s more feeling a bit nervous about the event rather than just the extra pressure of it.”
Most of us couldn’t even begin to comprehend the nerves that elite athletes feel when they face into such pivotal and career-defining competitions but Coyle admits that the role of her family is crucial in supporting here through the good and the bad days.
“Yeah, I’m really fortunate, my family are really supportive, my Mom would have driven me to everything when I was younger. It was great. They don’t get to come to every competition with me, so, it’s really larger stuff.
“Technology is great, you can talk to them straight away afterwards. I’ll always try to bring a flower from the ceremony back home to Ireland to give it to my Mom and it always gets pretty mangled by the time flights have gone through it! They’re really important.
“They’re always there for you and I think, most athletes will say there are a lot of dark days in training and in competition and a lot of hard times. Your family and friends are the ones there for you all the way through that. They’re really important because they are there to celebrate with you when you win but those days are few and far between and then they’re there to commiserate, to pull you back up on those hard days.”
Coyle will be hoping to secure her place at the Tokyo Olympics when she takes part in the 2019 Modern Pentathlon European Championships at the University of Bath between August 6-11.
Global job site Indeed announced its official partnership with the Irish Olympic team which will strengthen its roots even further in Ireland. The partnership will see Indeed supporting Irish athletes on the journey to qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Games. The announcement comes on the back of a statement by Indeed to employ an additional 600 staff in its new state of the art headquarters on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in the heart of Dublin’s Silicon Docks.