GB Modern Pentathlete Eda Onay on staying positive and motivated in lockdown

My name is Eda Onay. I am a year 11 student at King Alfred’s Academy and a Modern Pentathlete trying to cope with the challenges of staying motivated during lockdown.

The Modern Pentathalon consists of five disciplines: running, swmming, shooting, fencing and horse riding. I have competed for GB several times and my aspiration is to reach the Olympics and hopefully win a medal. The sport is my life, and with the pandemic cancelling all my competitions, it has been hard to keep a positive attitude towards training. But it has also taught me a lot about myself and motivation.



When the Prime Minister announced that school would end on 20 March and all exams were to be cancelled, we students felt frustrated and worthless: our lives had been geared towards these exams and our purpose in this world had abandoned us overnight.

On the final day of school, tears were shed, hugs were given – the last time in a long time – and we said our sudden goodbyes to those who were not to return to our school next year, whose paths and aspirations in life had altered due to Covid-19. I speak for all the year 11 students at King Alfred’s Academy when I say that we were all cheerless and worried about what was going to happen with our GCSEs. As we now know, we’re going to get our teacher’s predicted grades, but for lots of students that is a concern as not everyone revised for their mocks and coursework was still yet to be completed – especially in art. It still is a worry. But there’s nothing we can do now.

Now that school has been out for nine weeks, I’ve had to occupy myself at home. At first it was difficult to not think about all the effort I had put into revising for my GCSEs and the fact that I would not be competing in pentathlon competitions this year. Pentathlon GB cancelled all the national rankings competitions and UIPM (the world organisation of Modern Pentathlon) postponed the European and World championships. Thankfully it wasn’t the Olympics I was aiming for this year. I can only imagine how the Olympic hopefuls are feeling.

I am also grateful that there’s a lot that I can do at home. My running coach has been very productive in sending me sessions to do each week, which I then upload to Strava (a sporting app that logs training sessions for all your followers to see), so he can see how it’s going and give me tips via text.

My mum bought a two by three meter paddling pool and a bungee that we’ve strapped to the tree and to myself so that I swim in one place the whole time. I’m so thankful for this as it means I can carry on swimming, and so can my mum, who was set to swim the Thames in June with her swimming partner. At this time I’m able to work on perfecting my technique so that when I go back to normal swimming training, my technique will be phenomenal: all that I’ll be missing is my speed and endurance.

With shooting, I can set up my target at home and run around the block so it is doable to train in laser run, but I just feel alone whilst training. It’s not the nicest feeling, but then I just remember how lucky I am to be able to be training at home, doing what I love, and being safe with my family.

But the hardest discipline to train in at the moment has been fencing. Oh, how I miss fencing! I miss the competition nights, my one-o- one sessions with my coach, the sweat of the movement, the tension in each match, the concentration needed for each hit. But I’ve changed how I train. I do two footwork sessions each week and two sessions using the hanging ball from the tree. This helps me to imagine being in a competition fight. I make up scenarios in my head and use moves that I think best fit the occasion. Every so often my mum lets me kit her up and I hit her like she’s a dummy. What the neighbours might think I can’t guess but we haven’t had the police turn up yet.

And finally, I have recently started riding lessons again, which is brilliant as this is my newest discipline.

Hopefully, by the end of lockdown, my riding will have improved dramatically and my technique will help me for the future in riding. This, at any rate, is what I’m aiming for.

My sport has given me hope for the future and is a distraction for now, but I do have days where I just don’t want to do anything, when I wonder what all this training is for. That’s when I have to remind myself to look at the bigger picture. 

What I do now isn’t just going to help me for the next few months, it’s going to help in the years to come.

I think that’s what all athletes should remember during this time. 

I know that our goals have been shattered through Covid-19, but we’ve got to set new realistic targets for now and make sure to put something in the mental trophy cabinet each week. It could be the smallest thing: “I ran two miles without stopping”, or “I perfected a dribble in football that I’ve been working on for a long time”. 

It’s good for an athlete’s mental health to congratulate yourself on small goals that you’ve accomplished each week or month. That’s how we’re going to get by this time and what’s going to make us into better athletes.


Of course, keeping up with school work is mandatory. Some of the year 11 students have started learning the first bits of their A-level courses (including me), or have started their EPQ. Others are revising for their GCSEs that they want to retake and the rest are looking for colleges, other sixth forms or apprenticeships they are interested in doing. However, students in year 10 and 12 have been feeling the pressure of learning their courses at home on their own without a teacher there to support them. Thankfully, we have emails and zoom calls which are great, but it’s not the same as the teacher being present in the room and being able to help the student at any point during the day. But everyone has adapted to the new “normal” for now.

Because I don’t have my exams to revise for anymore, I took it upon myself to find a job. Amazingly, I got one at Home Bargains in Wantage. I feel proud to be working there at a time like this where food stores are most probably the only place where people go out to and interact with others. I like to talk to customers at the till and ask how they’re doing. I think it’s important to be kind to everyone as you never know who’s living alone and a single act of kindness can go a long way for some people. Smiling can do the job. However, we all have to remember to keep our distance and stay safe. Every time I get home, my mum washes my clothes, I wash my hands, have a shower and change clothes so that the germs I may have picked up don’t spread to my family. We all have to remember to stay safe. Safety is our number one priority.

Stay safe. Stay happy. Stay home.

Keep positive and stay negative.



2 Responses

  1. Eda, as your tutor for the last few years, and knowing how hard you had been working within your sports, it is amazing to hear how you are keeping up with it all. You

  2. Eda you are an inspiration to all young people. I will watch your progress with interest, I look forward to seeing you in 6th form at
    King Alfred’s Academy hopefully in September.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up to the free weekly

Penny Post


For: local positive news, events, jobs, recipes, special offers, recommendations & more.

Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale