After 21 months of no international competition, modern pentathletes Marina Carrier and Ed Fernon were back representing Australia on Thursday at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
For Carrier the enormity was even greater as she made her Olympic debut. But the 24-year-old from Sydney handled the occasion well and produced a fantastic performance in the Fencing Ranking Round to give her confidence going into the full day of competition for the women’s event tomorrow (Friday).
For 33-year-old Fernon, who competed at the London 2012 Games, he started well but then had a long spell of defeats and didn’t deliver the overall result he had been training so hard for. However, the competition has only just begun, and he’ll regroup for the five disciplines on Saturday.
From the 35 round robin bouts, Carrier had 18 victories and 17 defeats to be ranked 17th with 208 points.
Carrier was looking relaxed during the competition and that converted to a strong performance.
“I had so much fun, so much fun. Every time I went out there, this is my dream, it was my dream to be here and every second I enjoyed it. I loved it, had a great time,” Carrier beamed.
“I’m really stoked with that result. I went out there and my goal was just to be in the moment, to have fun and come out the blocks flying and I felt like I did exactly that.”
Carrier’s fencing coach Joseph Racibordki who is with her in Tokyo was pleased they had achieved their goal for the fencing ranking round.
“I think the round went beautifully. We came in after 50 percent and we got over that and that is something we have been chasing for the last five years, and I am just really, really proud that everything went to plan and Marina just fenced superb.”
Carrier will now prepare for competition tomorrow with the swimming, fencing bonus round, show jumping and laser-run.
“I am so excited, you know. I am just here to compete and I get to do that and it has been a really hard journey to get here, so I am just really happy to be here and be competing and doing what I love at the Olympic Games.”
Carrier’s performance is even more impressive given she was finding the whole Olympic build-up quite overwhelming.
“There is nothing that can prepare you for this. I was completely overwhelmed the first 48 hours (in Tokyo), in fact I didn’t think I was coping very well. But I think I just had that reminder to stop and take a breath and do the things that make you feel calm and comfortable like reading your book and having a cup of tea.
“I had a rest day and a reset and then it started to hit me that I am at the Olympics and how proud my 13-year-old self would be. I am just so happy to be here right now in this moment.”
Fernon started well in his fencing ranking round, quickly moving to three victories and one defeat. One of those victories included the French 2019 World Champion. But he then found the wins much harder to come by before battling cramping in his arm.
From there the going got tough and there were long periods of intense competition without victories. Fernon worked hard to regroup and he picked up some late wins to finish with nine victories and 26 defeats to be ranked 35th with 154 points.
Fernon said the cramping impacted his performance.
“I’m pretty disappointed with how I fenced. I had a really good preparation into this. Great fantastic warm-up and had a really good start to the competition,” Fernon said.
“I had three victories and one defeat and I think I just lost a couple and then went on a roll losing too many in a row and my arm was cramping and it was hard for me to reset so that was my biggest issue.
“I wasn’t in the bouts because I couldn’t really hold my weapon which was a shame but that’s alright, we move on. We’ve got a bit of rest time now (before competing on Saturday) and I’m look forward trying to get a PB in the swim and do my best in the other events,” he said.
Despite the disappointment there were some impressive wins for Fernon over high-profile competitors, including the 2019 World Champion Belaud.
And he made sure he enjoyed those moments.
“I was in the right head space, it was early on right in the beginning (beating Belaud). And I beat the Russian who’s an amazing fencer. I felt like I was in it. I was in a lot of the bouts. I didn’t feel like I was outclassed in terms of fencing. Some days you just don’t get the point. You can do all the work and it doesn’t land your way. My hand didn’t help with that. We move on and look forward to Saturday.”
Fernon is confident he can swim well, get through the show jumping unscathed with a clear round and then it will all come down the final event for moving up the placings.
“It’s really going to come down to that combined event. I’ve been running really well, I’ve been shooting really well. I think I’ve got a bit of ground to make up, not making it easy for myself but I’m confident I can do that.”
Fernon finished 27th in London and he is still determined to improve on that performance.
The women’s competition starts on Friday with the 200 metres freestyle. Carrier is drawn in heat two and will swim at 3.30pm AEST. From there athletes will take part in the fencing bonus round, then the show jumping and the laser-run, where the medals are decided at 8.30pm.
All disciplines will be held inside Tokyo Stadium, which is where the Rugby Sevens were held earlier in the Games. The venue looks sensational, and this is the first time all disciplines will be held in the one venue at the Olympics.