Lindsey has been with Pentathlon Ireland since October 2009 and is the founder of the High Performance Programme. As a BSc graduate in Sport and Exercises Science and MA graduate in Coach Education and Sports Development, Lindsey has secured support for the HPP from the ISC and produced impressive International and Olympic results. Representing Great Britain, Lindsey won individual Junior bronze at the Junior World Championships in 2003. Lindsey also won team medals including Gold at the Senior World Championships in 2006. Since beginning coaching with Pentathlon Ireland, Lindsey has coached athletes from Youth B to Senior and from National to International competitions. Highlights include Irish representation at the Youth Olympic Games in 2010, the 2011rld Cup Finals and the Olympic Games 2012 in London.
FIS: It has been a really busy and successful 2 years for your athletes, what have been the highlights for you?
Natalya Coyle’s 9th place at the Olympic Games is an obvious high and Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe also placed 25th; both were fantastic achievements for such young athletes but I’d say the actual highlight was qualifying two athletes to the Olympic Games. I first approached the ISC in 2010 with the idea that we might qualify an athlete for London 2012. Thankfully the ISC had the foresight to support the idea and help me to see it through. It really was an incredible journey and I vividly remember the culmination of the qualification process; the final competition was in China and it wasn’t a competition that Natalya nailed so I was up all night calculating and re-calculating the qualification points. Receiving the official confirmation was very exciting and a big reflection of a huge team of people that had helped Natalya qualify.
FIS: What changes did you make or systems did you put in place when you first took up your role with Pentathlon Ireland?
My initial step was to put in place training programmes and try to facilitate sessions for a group of athletes who were from the Irish Pony Club and had been competing in a sport call Tetrathlon (cross country riding, swimming, shooting and running). With no permanent training base and athletes in different locations this proved very difficult. One way round this was for us to attend international training camps on a regular basis. This allowed athletes to train on site for the majority of events and also to gain greater exposure to higher standards of fencing opponents. Each year in the run up to London 2012 the programme progressed significantly.
After the successes in 2012, last year provided us with an opportunity to take stock of our progress and develop a much longer term strategic plan encompassing Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. We now have a Talent Pathway in place to allow the long term development of athletes in our sport from our Youth age groups through to Senior Internationals.
FIS: How long does it take for the success to start being seen on the podium?
Although I only began working with the athletes in 2009, both Natalya and Arthur both had good foundations and displayed characteristics of good all round athletes. For them, their performance curve has been steep and the progress they’ve made in the last few years is unusual. Traditionally pentathlon, the skills events (fencing, shooting and riding) take time to develop so as long as an athlete can maintain the physical levels (running and swimming) they can still compete at the top level. I would anticipate Natalya and Arthur to continue developing their skill events across the next Olympic cycle and improve their performances. While there are exceptions, most athletes would be involved in the sport for at least six to eight years before medalling.
FIS: With the new facilities at the National Sports Campus, is it now possible for athletes to train in Ireland and compete at the highest level?
We’re delighted with the National Pentathlon Training Center and being located on the National Sports Campus. Since being operational in mid October, the NPTC has already made noticeable improvements on our athletes training performances. They can now fence, shoot and run in the NPTC, swim in the National Aquatics Center and with the new National Horse Sport Arena on the campus are athletes are incredibly well placed to perform all their training sessions. We also work really well with the Irish Institute of Sport (also located on campus) so the athletes don’t need to travel for their support services.
The facilities we now have are on par with some of the best in Europe and we’re looking to begin inviting other nations to come and train with our squads in Ireland.
FIS: What advice would you give to any young athlete hoping to make a career or be successful at the highest level in modern pentathlon?
Athletes with a background in running and swimming and have good coordination would be ideal for our sport. That said, athletes find our sport from various pathways and it’s not necessarily the most talented athletes but those with all round capabilities who are prepared to work hard that can prosper. As previously mention, fencing generally takes the longest to master so the younger athletes start the better.
Pentathlon Ireland will be re-structuring our participation events for 2014 and be looking to host some Talent ID events during the coming year.
FIS: Many thanks for taking the time to talk to us, finally what are Pentathlon Ireland’s goals for the high performance system over the coming years?
Olympic qualification will be the initial goal and from there we’ll be looking for our athletes to produce medal zone performances at major championships and events. We’re also looking to develop our Talent Pathway athletes towards Tokyo 2020.