Natalya Coyle - 'I get to travel the world and do something that I really enjoy'

Thu, Aug 10 2017

London's Olympic Stadium Credit: Macdara Ferris (ETPhotos)

Extratime.ie caught up this week with Modern Pentathlete and Olympian Natalya Coyle. She spoke on our latest Sportscast from her current training camp in Poland ahead of this month’s International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) Senior World Championships which take place in Egypt.


The eyes of the sporting world are on London this week with the IAAF World Athletics Championships taking place in the Olympic Stadium. There is no Premier League football in Stratford for a fortnight as the stadium’s anchor tenants West Ham are forced to play elsewhere until September.


Unsurprisingly there has been much discussion about drugs this week. Usain Bolt was looking for a fairytale end to his career in the venue where he became the first man to defend the 100m and 200m titles. However that narrative was ‘ruined’ by the pantomime villain that is Justin Gatlin.


Only 20 or so Russian athletes are competing – and only as authorised neutral athletes - as their federation is banned for doping violations. A number of athlete attended medal ceremonies in the stadium to receive medals from previous championships as their positions were upgraded following retrospective bans that were put in place on athletes who failed legacy drug tests.


A very interested television spectator on events in London this week is Irish Modern Pentathlete Natalya Coyle who competed as a 21-year-old in her first Olympics at London 2012. Last year, she finished seventh in the Rio Olympics…actually make that sixth as over the summer her position was upgraded following a retrospective doping ban for China’s Chen Qian.




In Poland back in May, Coyle won a mixed relay gold with Arthur Lanigan-O’Keefe at the UIPM World Cup IV event and last month in Lithuania the pair retained the mixed relay title in the UIPM 2017 World Cup Final which they had also won last year in America. She is currently training in Poland in a pre-World Championship training camp.


“We have come here as it is a really good place,” said Coyle speaking to Declan Marron and Dave Donnelly on Episode 89 of the extratime.ie Sportscast. “It is quite warm at 28 to 32 degrees and in Cairo it is going to be lows of 38 to 42 so we are trying to get some of the Irish skin used to it!


“We are glued to it,” said Coyle about watching the athletics from London. “There is a group of six of us here. In the evening, it is perfect as we’ve finished training and we can switch it on and watch it and recover.”


Justin Gatlin has been the lightning rod for the boo boys and girls in the London stadium with the athlete, twice sanctioned for doping offences, winning the gold medal in the mens 100m final last Saturday night.


“I’d never take drugs,” said Coyle who favours lifetime bans for athletes who dope. “It is who I am. It is against my morals. I don’t agree with Gatlin returning to the track. People boo him on the track and yet don’t boo other people who have come back from bans. The media have made him the villain against Usain Bolt when people forget that there are other people who have come back from bans.” 


Last Sunday evening British Heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill was able to stand on the top step of the podium once again in the venue where she won gold in London 2012. On this occasion Seb Coe was on hand to award her the gold medal from the 2011 World Championship after the retesting of samples from Russian athlete Tatyana Chernova saw her stripped of her title and Ennis-Hill upgraded from silver.




As well Coyle’s promotion in position from the Rio 2016 Olympics, she will also soon be receiving an upgraded World Championship medal herself so it was interesting to get her take on this new process.


“This year was a good year for me as I got a bronze medal as well from the 2015 relay with Arthur Lannigan-O’Keefe as the Russian team got done for doping and we got moved up. Back in the Worlds when we came fourth, Arthur’s family came out to watch him and he came fourth and so it was disappointing (not to make the podium) but look we will have a shiny medal soon enough.”




“This is the first year that I’ve had any retrospective results put back. It hasn’t been on my mind before. I don’t really try and think about it as there is a whole load of other things to think about in a whole day of the pentathlon so I think you would ruin yourself if you go onto the track with that (in mind).”


Coyle is well used to the testing regime in Ireland. “We probably have one of the best in the world. We are tested really regularly. I’m on a ‘whereabouts system’ where they know where I am for an hour of every day, 365 days a year.


“They make it really easy in Ireland. You can update by email, by texting or online or by fax! If that means that I can compete knowing that I’m doing the best I can to have a clean sport, then that is fine with me.”


Coyle and her pentathlon relay partner Arthur Lanigan-O’Keefe were disappointed with the recent decision by the Olympic movement not to include the mixed relay event in the Tokyo Olympics. While mixed events were added on the track and in the swimming pool, there was no place for the mixed teams in the modern pentathlon who compete in fencing, swimming, show jumping and the combined pistol shooting and cross country run.


“We were really hoping that it would come in and we would have a medal chance in two events and not just one. We are very good at it but you can’t dwell on it too much. Our goal this year was in the World Championships relay to win a medal. That is coming up soon and that is what I’m focussed on.” 


The progression for Coyle has been helped by being able to use the extensive new facilities at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown according to the 26-year-old Olympian.


“Coming up to (the Olympics in) London, I would have been driving all around Dublin for each session. I would do three or four sessions a day. I would have been traveling back and forth from UCD to Trinity and back to the NAC (National Aquatic Centre) for swimming and into town for the gym. That was really hectic and it takes a serious toll when you are trying to do that amount.


“The facilities we have (now) are second to none. I’m out in Abbotstown six days a week. There is everything here that we need. There is the indoor running track, swimming pool, cross country trails, fencing, shooting, horse riding and there is the gym in the (Sports Ireland) Institute. The only reason we are in a training camp in Poland is that I need the heat! We’ve always been really well supported by the Sports Council and the Irish Olympic Council.” 




“I didn’t set out to be a modern pentathlete. I kept getting better, training harder and I really enjoyed it.  I’m lucky to do a job I love. I get to travel the world and do something that I really enjoy.”


The latest extratime.ie Sportscast also includes interviews with Shamrock Rovers’ new signing Lee Grace and the new man in Richmond Park Paul O’Conor.



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