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'I'm really confident heading into the Games': The Olympian from Meath who's living out her dream

Modern pentathlete Natalya Coyle is the third and final athlete to be profiled in our series with Indeed.

A09I0284-1 Indeed ambassador Natalya Coyle. Source: Indeed

WITH THE RESCHEDULED Tokyo Games upon us, The42 is running a new series with Indeed, proud partner of Team Ireland. 

Talent Unleashed: The Series tells the stories of three Irish athletes aiming to make a big impact in Japan, exploring how they have dealt with wins and setbacks along the way — from their humble beginnings to the Olympic Stadium in Shinjuku.

Our final focus is on modern pentathlete Natalya Coyle, who is aiming to peak at her third Olympic Games. Ciarán Kennedy of The42 profiles the 30-year-old from Tara…

Natalya Coyle doesn’t like the word sacrifice. It suggests she’s missing out on something, when in reality she’s living the dream. Nothing compares to being an Olympian.

Tokyo will be Coyle’s third Olympic Games, and the pentathlete has a track record of delivering on the world’s biggest sporting stage. On her Olympic debut in 2012, she finished ninth. Four years later in Rio, Coyle climbed up the top 10 to finish sixth. The disruption of the last year has been unkind to some athletes, but Coyle is approaching the Tokyo Games with a positive mindset.

Each Games is a unique experience, and Tokyo will be the most different really, for so many reasons,” she explained, after her selection for this summer’s Olympics.

“The extra year has worked well for me, it gave me an extra bit of time to work on my running and fencing, so I am really confident heading into the Games.”

natalya-coyle-celebrates-finishing-7th-with-friends-and-family Celebrating at the Rio Games with friends and family. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Modern pentathlon consists of five events – fencing, swimming, riding, running and shooting. Like many athletes who compete in the sport, Coyle’s Olympic journey started with an interest in just one of those disciplines.

The Meath native took up horse riding at a young age and slowly added more sports to her plate. Coyle was already a clearly talented international tetrathlete by the time a team-mate suggested she added an épée – the sword used in fencing – to the mix.

Coyle developed her skills as a pentathlete while also attending Trinity College, balancing a heavy training workload with her studies.

The demands required to be an elite pentathlete leave little room for a social life. A regular training week for Coyle would involve up to eight hours of swimming, four or five runs, a couple of gym sessions, some hours of horse riding and a couple of fencing sessions.

It’s the type of schedule which only becomes feasible through wholehearted dedication.

A09I0018-1 Fencing is one of the five events in modern pentathlon.

“When I was younger, it was just all about having fun and to this day as well, if I’m not having fun in training I’m not training well and I won’t compete well,” Coyle has said.

Ultimately I’m just really a big kid playing sport for a living, and I suppose that’s the best job you can have.”

All those hours of training quickly began to pay dividends. In 2011, just two years after her first international modern pentathlon event, Coyle finished 20th in the World Cup final, and then secured her place for the 2012 Olympics by finishing 21st at that year’s World Cup final in China.

natalya-coyle Competing at London 2012. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

She travelled to the Games as the 29th ranked pentathlete, and Ireland’s first modern pentathlon representative since the 1980s.

The last member of Ireland to compete at the 2012 Olympics, a superb performance saw the 21-year-old finish ninth after the gruelling 11-hour event.

Four years later in Rio, she delivered the performance of her life to finish sixth, catapulting her back into the limelight as an Irish sporting hero, yet the competitor in Coyle was disappointed not to have brought home a medal.

“It’s difficult to understand,” Coyle says of the Olympics.

Your whole world is centred on two weeks and if you’re lucky enough to qualify for it, amazing – and then suddenly you get to compete in this world-class thing that no one else can experience and no one else can understand.

“No one else can comprehend what you’re going through and you’ll go and do well, mediocre or bad and then you come home and it’s all gone away.”

natalya-coyle In the pool at the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Coyle has learned how to manage the highs and lows of her sport, with a sizeable support team providing a strong foundation for what could otherwise be a lonely pursuit. Training for five different sports involves working with five different coaches, not to mention the network of nutritionists, physiologists and psychologists that are behind every Irish Olympian.

The delayed Tokyo Games has felt a long time coming. Coyle qualified for the 2020 Olympics by finishing fifth at the 2018 European Championships.

She won her first individual World Cup medal in Sophia in 2018 and added World Cup silver in Egypt a year later. Across 12 years of competition in modern pentathlon, Coyle has reached the World Cup finals nine times in total, but the Olympics has always remained her main focus.

A09I9934-3 Coyle at Indeed's Capital Dock office. Source: Indeed

“Both of my lifetime bests have been at the Olympics and it’s obviously something I’m really good at peaking at,” Coyle told The42 in 2016 

“Rob Heffernan knows how to peak and I remember talking to him and he told me that nobody will remember what you do in the middle, but as long as you know how to peak for the big thing then you’ll be remembered.

The Olympics is the pinnacle, the holy grail of sport.”

No better place to save your best performances for.

Natalya Coyle is an ambassador for Indeed, who are proud partners of Team Ireland at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She competes in the women’s individual modern pentathlon on 5 and 6 August. Achieve your own dreams by searching millions of jobs online with Indeed, right here.

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