Old boy bids to inspire pupils

MODERN pentathlon's chief executive Peter Hart has told pupils at the Royal Hospital School that his multi-discipline sport could provide them with a pathway to becoming an elite athlete.

MODERN pentathlon's chief executive Peter Hart has told pupils at the Royal Hospital School that his multi-discipline sport could provide them with a pathway to becoming an elite athlete.

The 48-year-old attended the Holbrook-based school himself as a child, but it was only after he joined the army at 16 that he became aware of the pentathlon.

A self-confessed 'failed runner' Hart quickly found that his all-round abilities meant he excelled at the sport which combines the disciplines of show-jumping, fencing, shooting, swimming and running.

And just nine years after being a complete beginner in many of the disciplines, Hart was winning an Olympics bronze medal in Seoul.

Now Hart wants to make sure that other young sportsmen and women, especially those that are struggling to break into the elite tier of their chosen sport, get the chance to try their hand at pentathlon.

“When I left school I ran but that was about it,” said Hart, who returned to RHS last Wednesday to run an introductory training session for a selection of pupils.

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“I had this ambition to be stood on the podium but seeing as I couldn't even get in the district cross-country team I knew I had to look at other options.

“With pentathlon you need to have a good balance. You're not going to be an Olympic standard swimmer, more likely you are going to be a club standard swimmer. I know I couldn't even get onto the army's swimming team.

“That's where pentathlon can come in for some youngsters who might otherwise have walked away from sport altogether. Certainly in swimming there is a massive drop out rate around the ages of 15 and 16.

“It's a sport that requires a lot of focus and commitment. You've got to be mentally strong to adapt to five different sports. Fencing is like a physical game of chess, you have to really slow yourself down for shooting, while you obviously have to be a good athlete for the swimming and running.”

Hart, who leads the Modern Pentathlon Association out of Bath University, led RHS pupils through a quick swimming and running competition last week before introducing them to the basics of shooting and fencing.

He said: “Let's be brutally honest, the sport gets a bit of TV coverage every four years and that's it. I just want to make youngsters aware that pentathlon exists, give them the opportunity to try it and just see what happens.

“I'm delighted that the Royal Hospital School have shown interest in the sport. They have got a lot of the facilities in place with an indoor pool and cross-country track and I'd be happy to arrange for a shooting range if they required it.

“I think there is a huge amount of untapped resource in schools and this is a great time to be involved in the sport.

“I went to Beijing this year and it was the first time I have been since I competed in 1988. Because of the lottery there is so much more money in the sport and, as a result, everything is so much more professional.

“Great Britain has won pentathlon medals at the last three Olympics now and, with one of the best coaches in the world and a young team, things look good for London.”

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