The last time Samantha Murray competed in front of her family, she was bringing home Team GB’s historic 65th, and final, medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games in Greenwich Park.
Next week 25-year-old Murray and rest of the British squad will be hoping to capitalise on an even closer to home advantage as they compete in the Modern Pentathlon European Championships at the national training centre in Bath.
Murray, originally from Preston in Lancashire, was unable to defend her 2014 World crown at the recent World Championships in Berlin, but was the lone British athlete to claim a coveted Rio 2016 qualification spot.
With further Olympic spots at stake, Murray is confident the squad, which includes newly crowned World Junior Champion Francesca Summers, will be back on form for the Europeans, and believes there will be plenty of success for British fans to enjoy.
“With five events it’s extremely hard to make every one of them consistently good on the same day,” Murray explains.
“I had four excellent events [in Berlin], but then I had one that was quite weak and that was why I didn’t make the podium on that day.”
After being joint fastest in the pool (Murray is a world record holder in this discipline), a near perfect ride in the show jumping and making up six places in the final combined run-shoot event, Murray can take huge confidence from her fifth place finish.
“Four great events and one weak one; with just four extra hits, which would still be classed as a ‘weak’ fence, I would have made the podium. I know I don’t have to make some miracle happen in training, I just need to get a little bit better and focus on the day.”
The Pentathlon GB squad have been training at altitude in Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees since the Worlds, giving them ample opportunity to take stock from Berlin and refocus on their homecoming in Bath.
“I’m looking forward to the European Championships; we’ll have a really strong team, and we’ll be hoping for a team medal and some individual medals too.”
In a sport that is modelled on the skills of a cavalry soldier, encompassing five different disciplines across a gruelling day of competition, it is no wonder that mental as well as physical preparation is key to getting it right on the day, but Murray believes this element of jeopardy also makes it a truly compelling watch.
“It’s not an event where there’s just a start gun and a finish line. It’s all day, five events, and each of those events is crucial to your final result.
“It’s a real test of your focus and perseverance - who can be the ultimate all-round athlete?”
The biggest hurdle for any pentathlete is the show jumping where horses are drawn at random just 20 minutes before the start of this third event of the day.
“As a pentathlon horse rider you have to be adaptable; all the horses are test jumped before the competition but every horse is different. That’s what makes it difficult for a lot of people, pushing us right out of our comfort zone.”
And while the athletes are pushed to their limits, fans can enjoy the rollercoaster of emotions alongside them as they experience each event up close and personal in the world class facilities of the University of Bath, offering something for everyone.
“You’ll see Europe’s top athletes compete in a physical, fast, sprint event in the pool, followed by a combat event in the fencing with lots of tactics, adrenaline and shouting,” added Murray.
With plenty of action for fans to get stuck in to, Murray and her teammates are aiming to give the crowds something to cheer about as they seek to cement their place in Rio.
The European Modern Pentathlon Championships with take place from 18-23 August at the University of Bath. The event is part of UK Sport’s National Lottery funded #EveryRoadtoRio series, which is helping Britain’s top athletes prepare and qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Find out more and buy tickets now >