The modern pentathlon is the only sport that was created specifically for the Olympic Games.
Being a top-level pentathlete requires skill, speed and stamina. With five disciplines to focus on; running, swimming, shooting, show jumping and fencing, the event is both gruelling and challenging on the mind as well as the body. Sive Brassil is one of Ireland’s elite modern pentathletes competing on the international stage. The 2021 Tokyo Olympic hopeful is no stranger to hard work.
As Brassil describes, the modern pentathlon is “an endurance sport”. Consequently, her training schedule is very intense, often practicing multiple disciplines per day.
“Yesterday I was in the gym in the morning and then I had a run in the afternoon, and I had to kind of change out of my running gear, put on my riding gear and drive across to my riding lesson. So like yeah, all the sports are quite different so it’s a challenge, but it’s also kind of nice to be doing different things within the day rather than just the same thing over and over”.
This year, Brassil will join 25 other ambassadors in the ‘Dare to Believe’ campaign, which aims to bring the Olympics beyond the phenomenal quadrennial event and into the classroom.
The Olympic Federation of Ireland ran the programme last year to an overwhelmingly positive reaction and so have extended it for the 2020/21 school year in partnership with FBD insurance.
For Brassil, this is a welcome break in her busy timetable, giving her an opportunity to motivate the next generation, saying “It’s really nice to share my story through sports with the students. To kind of share my Olympic dream and get them thinking about their dreams and get them thinking about goal setting”.
Visiting schools has taught this pentathlete icon that she has come “full circle” from aspiring to be like her sporting heroes: Sonia O’Sullivan, Fionnuala McCormack and Paul O’Connell, to now becoming a role-model herself for future generations.
“I was a big Sonia O’Sullivan fan and Fionnuala McCormack as well. When I go into schools, I’m there to inspire them [the students] and tell them my story but I come away feeling inspired from just talking to them.”
After visiting a school in Louth, Brassil was excited to come “home from training the other day to find a bunch of cards in the post from all of the kids and they’d shown me all their Olympic size dreams whether it was sport or any other dream that they had”.
Covid-19 put a halt to many sporting events back in spring of this year, and the 2020 international pentathlon season was no exception.
The 26-year old used the first lock-down to hone in on her technical skills such as fencing and shooting, while keeping up running to maintain her fitness levels, but had to lose out on preparing for the swimming and horse riding sides of the sport due to strict restrictions.
“I was feeling good about qualifying like kind of continuing on as I was going and qualifying last year. That didn’t work out, but I think the extra time has only kind of benefitted me” says Brassil.
This time around the Galway native is grateful her and her fellow elite sporting colleagues can continue with their training and develop their skills together for their upcoming events.
“Even for just like the mental side of it having someone beside you and having someone to talk to is nice, nicer than doing all the work on your own” she says.
Training partners are a welcome benefit to the change of restrictions on a competitive basis and she hopes to use this time to strengthen and prepare for the “chockablock” year 2021 will be for her.
Having already logged one competition in 2019 and another at the start of February of this year, Brassil has five more events next year before she knows if she will have qualified for the Olympics in Japan.
These contests include three World Cups, one World Cup Final and also the World Championships, of which her best three results will be accumulated, although some athletes qualify automatically due to their world ranking.
Brassil says “it’s quite complicated but it’s kind of all I can do is my best and getting some good performances and then at the end when they close the qualification period you’ll see where everyone’s ranking is. It’ll just be my job to do enough to be within the ranking”.
Her training partner and competitor Natalya Coyle who finished sixth in the Rio Olympics has already qualified and so Brassil is keen to capitalise on the other spot available as she feels it “would be lovely to have a kind of full team of Irish women competing in Tokyo”.
As she has given numerous talks in schools thus far, Brassil has reiterated to the children to “find something that you love, something that you are passionate about and really just work hard at it and keep it up…stay doing it as long as possible and never stop”, something the Irish public are hopeful this promising athlete never does.