15 year old Modern Pentathlete Eda Onay

Modern Pentathlon is an Olympic sport which consists of five disciplines: running, swimming, shooting, fencing and horse-riding. It was invented by Pierre de Coubertin and is a variation of the military aspects of Ancient pentathlon. It focuses on the skills required by the late 19th-century soldiers and was part of the Ancient Olympic Games.

King Alfred’s student Eda Onay from Wantage is the only modern pentathlete living in our area. Just 15 years old she has been competing for the UK for three years now so we were delighted to find out more about her.

15 year old Eda Onay

I’ve been running and swimming since I was six. My brother (who is five years older than me, and also does Modern Pentathlon), got talent spotted by Pentathlon GB to go and participate on weekend training camps.This then helped him to take the next stage into his career by starting shooting and fencing training. Being the younger sibling, I tagged along with him, joining in with his sessions. 

It turned out to be most enjoyable and much to my surprise, I was rather good at the sports. So, when I came of age to get talent spotted, I made sure I worked extremely hard to be noticed.

 Luckily, I did. I was put onto the talent programme and started at bronze level. Throughout the course of four years, I made my way up to gold level. I did this by competing at main events, completing my training logs every week, enjoying the sport and always having a smile on my face – even when I seemed most frustrated and upset with my performance.

The journey in Modern Pentathlon is a long process. The average age most athletes compete at the Olympics is between 25-40. This is because perfecting the technique of all five sports, so you’re competing at your peak level for all, takes a long time and a lot of practice.

Three mornings a day, I wake up at five am and go swimming training before school. The evenings usually consist of fencing, running or gym sessions. I also practice shooting everyday on a pentashot laser pistol in my garden. This is thanks to the sponsorship from pentatshotuk. And on the weekend, I have an hour horse-riding lesson and tak epart in park run. On top of this, I have to keep up with my school work and events that my family and friends are organising. It’s important to make sure you stay sociable, but vital to put training as my priority. It’s good to get an even balance between the two, so that you’re happier and therfore making training more enjoyable.

The two British Modern Pentathlete’s in the picture to your right are great idols of mine. Kate French (first), came fifth at the 2016 Olympics and has got her eyes set on 2020. Jess Varley (third) performed outstandingly on the day this picture was taken – best International performance of her career.

Like every sport, it takes time, perseverance, determination, and most importantly sportsmanship. I’ve learnt the hard way that you’re not always going to get picked for every International competition. Last June, I missed out on qualifying for the European championships by one point, which is equivalent to half a second. And even when it was my turn to be called up to represent Great Britain, they decided not to take me as I hadn’t impressed them enough. But it takes grit and self-motivation to pick yourself back up and train even harder, so that next time you will definitely qualify. And that’s what I’m doing now.

This picture was taken in Portugal, at the Leira World Cup Series 2019, in April. I finished with my fellow team mate Poppy Clark (far right) in podium positions. She came first and I came third. 

We made friends with a Portugeuse athlete who had finished 5th in our race, with the fastest laser run combined (shooting and running) time out of all of us (middle in picture).This is another reason why I love the sport so much. It’s totally competitive, but then there’s this urge to be friends with your opponents; Modern Pentathlon isn’t as popular as most sports and so your friendship with competitors from different countries grow very strong as you race against each other a lot of the time.

The proudest moment of my life was making it over the finish line, knowing I had given it everything and the pain in training had paid off. That was when I knew for certain that my long-term goal in Modern Pentathlon is to win the Olympics. 

Hungary 2019

At the end of August 2019, my family and I travelled to Hungary, Budapest to compete at the Laser Run World Championships, whilst the World Modern Pentathlon was going on in the same stadium. It was great to be training and competing among so many great and inspirational athletes. 

My training at home relies heavely on my parents. They take me everywhere. Without their help and desire to want to take me training, I wouldn’t be as good at Modern Pentathlon as I am today. I live in Wantage and so most of my club sessions are local, except from fencing. I fence in Reading at Reading Fencing Club where it has an outstanding coach, Mick, and a brilliant turnout each week. I swim at the Didcot wave with Didcot Barramundi’s

I run at Tilsley park, King Alfred’s West Site and along the ridgeway or wherever I want to go. I am supported by my amazing coach, Tom, who is part of the White Horse Harriers Athletics Club. I horse-ride at Blewbury stables, where the motivation to keep every horse fit and healthy is remarkable. And finally, I shoot in my back garden everyday except from Wednesday’s when we go and shoot at the Wantage Target Shooting Range. 

I believe that having a hobby that you’re very passionate about, whether that’s reading, writing, sewing and so on. It can be anything that suits you. The advice I would give to anyone who is intrigued in sport – Modern Pentathlon – is not to stop at the first hurdle. 

You’re going to meet lots of barriers which you’re going to have to overcome, sometimes on your own or sometimes as a team. 

Don’t give up. The feeling of success is worth every moment of hard work.

If you’d like to learn more about Modern Pentathlon, I recommend going and checking out their website www.pentathlongb.org.


3 Responses

  1. Very impressive reading about your journey Eda, keep up the hard work. Good luck to you and your brother for the future. I will be watching out for you both in the olympics.

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