In 2016, Chloe Esposito became the first Australian to win an Olympic medal in modern pentathlon, blowing the field away with a brilliant performance in the combined running and shooting discipline to grab the gold. With her dad, who represented Australia in modern pentathlon at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, as coach, and her younger brother Max, who finished seventh in the men’s competition in Rio de Janeiro, the Esposito family are driving the sport to new heights in their homeland. Even sister Emily, a Commonwealth Games pistol shooter, qualified in modern pentathlon for the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games.
You come from a family with serious sporting pedigree: how old were you when you first heard the term “modern pentathlon”?
Dad first told me about his journey when I was 10 years old. It was the first time I heard that he went to the Olympic Games. We went down to the garage and he had like a big bag full of all his old Olympic memorabilia; and he brought it up to the house and started pulling it out, and telling me and my sister the story of what he did. He had his Speedos in there, his old fencing uniform. We were trying it all on.
Did it make you want to give the sport a try?
I thought it was really cool my dad did that. From an early age we had always swum and run, in school cross-country and swimming carnivals. And then I really wanted to start horse riding because of a TV show called ‘The Saddle Club’. It was about a group of girls who used to ride horses.
So I started riding when I was 12. And once I was swimming, running and riding, I thought I might as well try the other two. You can get your gun licence at 12 (in Australia), so I started shooting at 13 and then fencing at 14. By 14 I was doing all five.
Fair to say it was a competitive environment in which to grow up?
Between my sister Emily and me it was so competitive. Because she was younger than me, I would hate it when she beat me. In fencing, I would hit her and then she would hit me, and then we would start to hit each other a little bit harder and then get really aggressive, and walk off and not talk to each other until we got home. And then we wouldn’t really speak at home either.
She was a very good runner as well, and I used to get in the worst moods when she beat me in running training. Between Max and me, it was completely different. Maybe because he was a boy.
Is, or was, your mum very sporty too?
Mum is the only one – she is totally opposite to us. When she was younger, she tried about 10 different sports. She even did judo at one stage but broke a nail, so she quit that.
What is it like having your dad as your coach?
I always say I wouldn’t have been able to get the results I have without Dad. He knows which buttons to push, and even though sometimes I get so, so annoyed. There are times where it is like ‘Dad, get out of my face,’ but then we have to try and break it up. Training is training, and you have to see Dad as coach and not take it to heart; and then when we are home we try not to talk about sport or anything.
You have been living and training in Budapest for a while; are you a big fan of goulash?
I do love it. I haven’t had it for a while though, it’s a bit too warm now. The meals here are very, very heavy. There are beautiful restaurants. One of my favourites, when I have a ‘cheat day’, is a langos. It’s like a deep-fried bread with garlic on top. I haven’t had one for so long, but they are delicious.
You got married after Rio 2016, and your husband commutes to Budapest from Australia when he can. How tough is it to be apart?
It is hard. I met him when I was living in Barcelona; he is from England. He then moved to Australia four years ago and has a really good job there, so he didn’t want to come over here and start all over again, and then go back to Australia and start all over again; so we get to see each other once every two-to-three months.
It is tough, but I am trying for Tokyo (2020 Olympic Games), and it’s only another two years away. And it’s my job at the moment and I will make the most of it; and after that I will get to spend the rest of my life with him.
When he comes over, do you at least get to go on holiday, perhaps travel around Europe?
No (laughs). It’s a training camp for him when he comes here. I said to him when he was here (last time) – he stayed for a month – ‘I’ve realised how boring and tiring it must be for you.’
We have weekends where we do go off – a couple of nights we went to stay in a nice hotel in Budapest – and we do have down time; but most of the time he is just coming to training sessions with me.
When are you most happy?
I do love time off and away from sport. I love the beach, but I guess I am most happy when I am fit mentally and physically, when training is going really well, achieving those little goals I set for myself. That makes me really happy.
You have said winning gold in Tokyo in 2020 is your goal – how are you going to do it, and any chance you might continue to Paris 2024?
I can’t just do what I did in Rio; I need to be one step ahead of what I was, because if I stay the same other people will catch up.
Tokyo is my final goal. I am sure my brother will continue the sport, and if I wanted to, I am sure I’d have another Olympics in me. But my husband has seen me in my bad days and he’s like, ‘Nah, nah, after Tokyo you are going to stop, that’s it, I can’t go through all this again.’