Horses have another part to play in Ireland’s drive for medals in Rio when Natalya Coyle and Arthur Lanigan O’Keeffe go into action in the Modern Pentathlon on Friday and Saturday. However the Irish competitors will not get to ‘meet’ their rides until 20 minutes before competing with them over a jumping course of twelve obstacles.

Forty horses are in consideration for the jumping part of Modern Pentathlon and are due be put through their paces today. The horses have been sourced locally by organisers, and will jump in trials under the watchful eyes of the local organising committee and team representatives before eighteen are selected to be ridden in the competition. Organisers will have the say on which eighteen are chosen, but team officials are allowed to watch proceedings to evaluate the performance of each horse. Captain John Ledingham, who is President of Pentathlon Ireland, will be monitoring affairs on behalf of the two Irish athletes.

However, the athletes themselves will not get to ride the horses until the competitions on Friday and Saturday are underway. Furthermore, they will not know which horse they are going to ride until a draw is made one hour before jumping begins, and will only get to mount their rides 20 minutes before taking to the arena.

Modern Pentathlon, which has been part of the Olympic Games for over 100 years, consists of fencing, swimming, equestrian jumping, shooting and running. “It’s a sport that tests all elements of the Olympic movement”, said James Bailey, who is Chairman of Pentathlon Ireland.

Arthur Lanigan O’Keeffe was European Champion in 2015, while both himself and Natalya Coyle won Gold at the UIMP (Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne) World Cup in Florida in May where they took the Mixed Relay event. The Irish pairing were silver medalists at the World Cup the previous year. Lanigan O’Keeffe did not defend his European crown this year ahead of the Olympic Games. There is no Mixed Relay element at the Olympics this year, but it may become part of the competition for Tokyo.

The men’s and women’s Pentathlon competitions are run on separate days, with the women’s event being held on Friday, while the men’s competition gets underway on Saturday. Mike Dunne


Rio Timetable Modern Pentathlon (Irish time):
Thursday: Fencing ranking event (Women 2.00pm; Men 6.30pm)
Friday (Women): Swimming 2.00pm;  Fencing 4.00pm; Show Jumping 7.30pm; Run & Shoot 10.00pm
Saturday (Men): Swimming 2.00pm;  Fencing 4.00pm; Show Jumping 7.30pm; Run & Shoot 10.00pm