Olympic ambition burns bright for breakthrough act Choong

Joe Choong will be looking to improve on his tenth place finish in the Olympic modern pentathlon in Rio, should he earn his 2020 selection.
Joe Choong will be looking to improve on his tenth place finish in the Olympic modern pentathlon in Rio, should he earn his 2020 selection.

This year has been the breakthrough for modern pentathlete Joe Choong - but he believes 2020 will be even better.

Two World Cup silver medals preceded perhaps his best-ever performance in June when Choong won gold at the World Cup final in Tokyo, his first senior championship title.

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This result secured a 2020 Olympics qualification spot, an early statement of intent for the 24-year-old.

“My first emotion was relief,” Choong said. “It’s a high pressure situation trying to qualify for the Olympics as early as possible. To manage to do it at the first possible opportunity was a massive relief as it takes the pressure off the rest of the year now.

“Once it sunk in, I felt a lot of pride. All the years you’ve worked really hard and now it’s finally paid off. It was my first senior championship gold as well. The overall performance was good and I was ecstatic.

“I’ve been knocking on the door of a performance like that for a couple of years.”

With only a year to go until Tokyo, the current world number two has suddenly hit form at just the right time.

In the past he admitted consistency has prevented him achieving top results, with a tenth place finish on his Olympic debut in Rio.

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“I think it has been a breakthrough year,” he added.

“I don’t think its necessarily the best year I could have had, I think I can achieve more, but it’s definitely been a stepping stone towards what I want to achieve. I’m delighted with it.

“One or two things have let me down before, whether that’s inconsistent horse riding or shooting. This year those events have been very consistent for me so that’s helped.

“Consistent training, each year I feel like I’ve progressed a bit in the running and the fencing and I’ve reached a level there when I can compete with the rest of the world. With the other events I’ve been consistent enough to keep me in contention.

“This year’s been nice but the thing everyone aims for is an Olympic medal. If I could have chosen between qualifying early and winning a medal at the Games, it’s always going to be a medal.

“The hard work is not going to stop, I need to keep pushing myself to repeat what I’ve been doing when it really counts.”

As he prepares for the Olympics with the European Championships in Bath in August and the World Championships in Hungary in September, Choong will be spurred on by the memory of Rio.

“Hopefully it’s a twice in a lifetime thing now,” he said. “In Rio I feel like I had a good opportunity to get a medal. I was second before the last event but it was my shooting that let me down. I was close but not quite good enough.

“I’ve spent the last three years thinking, ‘oh what if I’d shot better there’, so it’ll be really nice to put that behind me and get a medal this time.”

(Only) One Year to Go. Follow the journey to Tokyo 2020 at TeamGB.com and @TeamGB

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