Early next week, Aussie Modern Pentathletes competing for a chance to qualify for Tokyo 2020 will feature a cross-generational challenge and if there's one saying that defines the process of becoming an Olympian, it's 'never say never.'
Next week 14 of Australia's Modern Pentathletes will compete for a shot at Tokyo 2020, with the senior and age group events taking place in China on November 12 and Olympic qualification on the line.
This is likely to be Australia's biggest travelling team to a major international competition and features an exciting contest between London 2012's Ed Fernon, who is on the modern pentathlon comeback trail, and 18-year-old National Champion Rhys Lanskey.
The competition will be historic, as this is the first time two Australians will compete against one another. Competition will be of the highest calibre, as the top placed Oceania athlete at the UIPM Asia/Oceania Championships in Wuhan books their place at the Games.
When Max Esposito, who was seventh at the Rio 2016 Olympics, was ruled out of the qualification event with injury, Lanskey’s chances of securing a spot at the Olympics improved. He says he's excited about his duel against Fernon.
"We were originally thinking we would be going up against Max at the Trials in China. But we got quite a big shock when he wasn’t going to be there, which opened a small window. But Ed is not going to be easy. He’s a world-class athlete and all I can do is do my best. I’ve got nothing to lose!”
Lanskey was impressive in winning the national title in March 2019, off only a few months solid training, and got great experience when representing Australia at the World Juniors and World Youth Championships in Europe across July. He has been back training full-time with his coaches at the Queensland Academy of Sport since returning from Europe.
“It should be a great experience in China and I’m looking forward to competing for Australia again.”
After a four-year break, 31-year-old Fernon was convinced by his athletics coach, and then his wife, to come out of retirement. Fernon’s last competition was in 2015 at the World Championships. He has achieved other sporting conquests though. In 2017, Sydney businessman and father of two won the Mongol Derby, which is the longest and toughest horse race in the world. And also climbed some of the world’s highest mountain peaks. Fernon has got himself back into great shape in less than three months of hard training. He has surprised himself with how his body has responded to elite training again.
The fencing is going to be very important in China. Both men are training extremely hard for their epic face-off. Lanskey, who had never tried fencing before he took up the sport, is training hard with Australian fencing high performance director Paul Crook in Brisbane, and Fernon has reactivated his fencing muscle memory with his old fencing coach, Olympian Bill Ronald.
"At the moment I’ve been fencing really well and my running and shooting is going well. It’s been really enjoyable getting back into training,” Fernon explained. “I’ve got nothing to lose here in this competition. Really for me, if I’m unsuccessful in China the worst-case scenario for me is I just got fitter over the last three months. This would really be the icing on the cake and being able to go and do another Olympics. I’ll go over there pretty relaxed about the competition to be honest and we’ll see what happens."
Experience against youth manifests itself differently for Australia's women, as the scene is set for Marina Carrier to claim a spot for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. She finished as the second Oceania Athlete in this event four years ago to Chloe Esposito, who'd go on to become Australia's first Olympic gold medalist in modern pentathlon. However, due to injury, Esposito will not be on the starting line in China, making the mountain easier to climb for Carrier.
Although the Oceania spot appears to be a two-woman contest, the field will be tough with the top five athletes from Asia earning their Olympic spot for Tokyo 2020. In China next week Carrier needs to complete the competition ahead of New Zealand’s Rebecca Jamieson. The 28-year-old finished 67th at the 2019 World Championships in Budapest in September, after finishing 8th in the Laser-Run World Championships a few days earlier.
"Towards the back end of last year, I had a solid training block which really consolidated my work and I was really moving forward and was really excited for this year.
"I started the international season this year at the French and Polish Nationals which I really enjoyed," she said. "I was on the podium again in Poland and I had the fastest laser-run of the competition. It was really exciting to know that I was now at that level.”
Since those competitions, Carrier has battled injuries and recovery treatment, but is adamant that she's competing right where she wants to.
"I had a couple of (injury) niggles but nothing huge. But following on from that comp the niggles grew and we sat back and said ‘somethings not quite right here.' It turned out to be bone stress in my femur (thigh bone). It wasn’t a break and we caught it at a good time, so that with rest and care it wouldn’t become too serious."
Carrier and her coaching team have been very cautious to give the injury the best possible chance to heal. Her running and normal fencing training had to be stopped and she focussed her training on events with low impact such as swimming and shooting. She was given the all-clear to resume full training a few weeks back and she found her running fitness had been maintained, with her extra swimming sessions. She is now set for the Olympic qualifier.
Her good mate and inspirational companion Ed Fernon has been a steady source of encouragement and welcomed competitive energy. The pair do swimming and shooting training together.
"It’s nice to have someone else for the coaches to pick on!” Carrier said with a laugh. “We compete against each other to a point. It’s quite funny, we push each other hard. He’s a really great guy and a really great athlete and his improvement since returning to the sport has been amazing.”