On the road to London 2012: Natalya Coyle
After becoming the first Irish modern pentathlete to qualify for the World Cup Final, Natalya Coyle is targeting next year’s Olympic Games in London thanks to the support of her Olympic Solidarity Scholarship.
How did you get started in modern pentathlon?
I first started horse riding with the Pony Club when I was very young and then moved up the ranks and did tetrathlons [a combination of riding, running, swimming and shooting]. I was on the international teams and eventually I just picked up the fencing. Then two years ago, when our coach Lindsey Weedon came over, she really got us into it. Up until last year I hadn’t actually done a World Cup, so she really got us going and set up the standards.
How does your Olympic Solidarity scholarship help you?
Without it, I wouldn’t be able to compete. It’s an expensive sport, but fortunately because of the scholarship I’ve been able to go to all the World Cups, which helped me qualify for the World Cup Final, and hopefully I’ll be able to qualify for London 2012. Without it I really wouldn’t have been able to go anywhere.
What does it take to be good at modern pentathlon?
A lot of time and dedication. Five sports takes a lot of time – many people think we’re just average at each of the sports, but when you pull them all together it does take a lot of time and effort. To try and work it all in with college as well is really difficult – I don’t think I’d be able to do it without Lindsey, who arranges our schedules.
What are the challenges of training for five different disciplines?
Injury would be a big one because you’re crossing over so much. It’s also very tiring as you’re trying to fit in about four training sessions a day. When you’re running hard in the morning, swimming hard in the evening and trying to fit fencing in between you’re just exhausted. I like to sleep a lot!
Is there one discipline that you prefer over the others?
I’ve always ridden horses – I started when I was young and I’ve done that a lot, so that really would be my favourite one and fortunately I don’t have to work on that as much as the others. I only just picked up fencing a couple of years ago so I have to work really hard at that compared to the others.
Do you have any sporting heroes, either in modern pentathlon or in other sports?
In modern pentathlon I’d definitely say Georgina Harland. She was the bronze medallist in Athens in 2004 and she came over and gave us a speech when we were just picking up the first high performance standards. She really inspired us. Outside modern pentathlon, I suppose athletes like Carolina Kluft who do multiple events and still manage to perform at their best.
What would it be like for you to compete in the London Olympic Games and who would be your main rivals?
Well, hopefully first of all I make it, and then I can think about rivals and places. There are so many top-class athletes, especially among the British team – they have so many athletes going for just two places. It’s the same with Germany, Italy and China. So just getting there is the first step.
What would you look forward to most about London 2012?
Just the whole experience. Who wouldn’t say that going to the Olympic Games is a dream? To represent my country and my sport and hopefully make it more well-known around the world.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like just hanging out with my friends, like anyone else, and I like sleeping! I go to college as well – just normal things that everyone else does.
You finished 20th at the World Cup Final in London in July – how much of a boost was that for you as you target Olympic qualification?
It’s fantastic to have placed so high, it really gives me a confidence boost for the rest of the season. I’m really starting to believe in myself, and when you do that anything’s possible. London  is so far away but this is a step in the right direction for me. It’s going to be a long road, but it really would be phenomenal to be on the start list for the Olympic Games and I’m going to do all I can do to get there.
Olympic Solidarity is the body that ensures that talented athletes, regardless of their financial status, have an equal chance of reaching the Olympic Games and succeeding in the Olympic arena.
It is responsible for administering and managing the National Olympic Committees’ share of the revenue from the sale of broadcasting rights to the Olympic Games.
Working in particular with the most disadvantaged NOCs and their Continental Associations, Olympic Solidarity uses this money to develop a range of assistance programmes.
Within its total budget, USD 61 million is earmarked to provide support to athletes for the 2009-2012 Olympic Solidarity quadrennial period.