Georgina Harland: Competing on home ground will spur Britain on
By Georgina Harland - 11 August 2009
In a way it feels quite strange that there is a Modern Pentathlon World Championships starting on Thursday in London and I am not going to be taking part in it.
I used to thrive on competing in front of a home crowd and in fact managed to medal at pretty much every international event I took part in at home, including the last time the World Championships were held in the UK in 2001. I was delighted to come away with a bronze medal.
I cannot begin to explain the feeling of competing on home soil, with all the support from the crowd, even being surrounded by the home volunteers and officials makes a difference.
They say you should always treat major competitions like any training session, so as not to get overwhelmed by the experience. This is so much easier to do when you are competing in familiar surroundings – it can really work to your advantage.
Of course the pressure of a home crowd and environment can also be a contributing factor to your performance – just the slightest distraction can really throw you off - but in my experience the positives far outweigh the negatives. For British athletes, gaining experience of this unique competitive environment and how to make it work to their advantage ahead of the London Olympics in 2012 should not be undervalued.
Although I am sad not to be competing (this is the most important event in the modern pentathlon calendar to take place since my retirement), I am really looking forward to experiencing the world championships from an official’s point of view. Since my retirement last year I have taken on the role of chair of the International Federation’s (UIPM) Athlete Committee.
In this capacity, I will be attending various meetings throughout the Championships, as well as acting as a liaison between the athletes and the event organisers to ensure the they are well looked after, and have everything they need to put in their best possible performance.
Although this role means I have to be somewhat impartial, I will of course be hoping for success for the British team. It’s hard to predict how they’ll do as the athletes have a new format to contend with, but Beijing Olympic silver medallist Heather Fell is in great form and definitely one to watch this weekend.
We have great strength in depth in the women’s team; Katy Livingston was seventh in Beijing last year and won bronze at last year’s World Championships, Mhairi Spence has proven she can medal at major championships and Freyja Prentice is an up and coming athlete showing fantastic potential and could surprise everybody.
The men’s event will be fiercely competitive, but Sam Weale and Nick Woodbridge are both very talented athletes who have both shown they can make the podium, and with the support of the home crowd anything could happen.
There will undoubtedly be a certain nostalgia as I watch the events unfold this week but at the same time I certainly won’t envy the gruelling training regime that the athletes will have undergone to prepare for the event – amazing how quickly you forget all that!
For once I will be able to sit back, enjoy the competition and show my support. I’m sure the crowds at Crystal Palace this weekend will create a fantastic atmosphere for the British team, in what is sure to be a truly world class competition.
Georgina Harland won a bronze medal in the Modern Pentathlon at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens . She is now chair of the UIPM’s Athletes Committee, a member of the UIPM’s Executive Board and a participant on UK Sport’s International Leadership Programme. This blog appeared on UK Sport's website.