SportsAid is aiming to shine a spotlight on the next generation of household names across Great Britain….your local heroes! Our blog series, entitled ‘Inside My World’, will look to offer you an insight into the lives of the country’s most talented young athletes while also offering them the platform to express themselves to a wider audience.
This time....it's Annabel Denton, 17, from Plymouth in Devon. She is a modern pentathlete, currently supported by the Backing The Best programme through SportsAid, who represented Team GB at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games. She is aiming to study Medicine or Biomedical Sciences at the University of Bath after completing A-Levels in Maths, Biology and Chemistry at Plymouth College.
Here, Annabel takes you into her world as she blogs about her early journey in modern pentathlon, experiencing the Youth Olympics in Argentina, how she juggles training for five disciplines, adjusting to life in lockdown and the future ambitions she’s striving to achieve.
“From an early age I really enjoyed swimming but got invited to a modern pentathlon training camp at Plymouth College - my current school - and learned so much about what the sport comprised. I really liked how it’s so different and the five sports element really created a unique sense of variety.
“I fell in love with the sport from the start - I thought it was so good having something different rather than just competing in one sport, and that really intrigued me. I did a few early competitions but didn’t really put any pressure on myself as I know you can have a long career in the sport and you can peak at an older age.
“I started improving over the years, and a key highlight for me was placing first in a Youth Olympic Games qualifier in Portugal in 2018, which gave me a lot of points to qualify for the real thing. But my biggest highlight was the Youth Olympic Games itself in Buenos Aires in 2018 - it was an unforgettable experience. I came eighth in the individual event and fifth in the relay despite being the youngest competitor in the field, so that made me really proud.
“It was amazing and one of my most memorable experiences - I’ve never been that far away before so to learn about different cultures was amazing, while I loved being in the village with so many athletes. It whet the appetite to hopefully compete in the real thing one day! It was a little teaser for what the Olympics will be like, and that’s definitely my end goal.
“Pentathlon’s given me a role and purpose in life - I’m able to live my dream, and it’s so good for both my mental and physical health. It’s so refreshing and takes my mind off the pressures of school and life in general. It’s given me more confidence because I used to be a very shy person. I’ve grown because of the sport and it’s enabled me to travel to so many countries and has given me a lot of independence.
“It can be very hard to balance training for the five disciplines, and I struggled at the start. The riding is definitely my weakest so that’s the one I’ve had to work on a lot recently. It definitely is a tough balance, but you have to prioritise your weakest discipline even though you want to do the opposite and prioritise the things you’re best at. You just have to try and balance that and do more of the stuff you’re less good at.
“I’m studying A-Levels in Maths, Biology and Chemistry - it’s a big workload so it is quite challenging balancing those with my training, but my teachers are very understanding, lenient and supportive. I’m thinking about studying Medicine or Biomedical Sciences at the University of Bath, where Pentathlon GB is based. That’s been my dream - to be able to train with a massive group of athletes and also be at university.
“Lockdown has been quite a struggle for me because there was a really important competition - the first Pentathlon GB ranking event for the World and European Championships - that I was training for since the start of the season that got cancelled. That was a struggle and hard to cope with because I was training for that exact moment, but I’ve just had to adapt.
“I do feel like lockdown actually benefitted me in a way though - rest and recovery are so important, and I was getting quite tired before the start of lockdown. I feel like it’s given me more motivation for next season. Thanks to SportsAid funding I’ve been able to buy a target to shoot outside and if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be able to shoot at all during lockdown. I haven’t properly fenced since lockdown, however, so that’s been difficult. I’m still shooting by myself, am able to run with a group sometimes while swimming has just started again.
“At home, my mum - Emma - is my number one supporter! She’s always there, taking me to training and I’m so grateful to her. She comes to all my competitions and is amazing. We’re like a team - she was a competitive swimmer when she was younger so can understand the struggles I go through. In the future, I’d love to compete at either the Olympic Games in Paris or Los Angeles. I’ll try my hardest to make that possible and I just want to remain consistent.
“Competing at the Olympics is my ultimate goal - it would be the highlight of my life - I can guarantee that! But before that, getting on the podium at the Worlds and improving every year is what comes next - just improving every year and being consistent in every competition.”
What will you do to #SupportTheNext generation of British sporting heroes? SportsAid needs your help to ensure talented athletes can continue receiving the backing they rely on. Find out more about how you can support the charity and have a significant impact on the country’s sporting future!