The scene is set for Marina Carrier to claim the women’s modern pentathlon Oceania spot for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Asia/Oceania Championships in Wuhan China on 11 November.

Four years ago, at the same event, she was the second placed Oceania athlete behind Chloe Esposito, who went on to create history and become Australia’s first Olympic Champion in the sport at Rio 2016.

Carrier and Esposito Asia/Oceania Champs 2015
Australian athletes Marina Carrier (silver) and Chloe Esposito (gold) at the 2015 Asia/Oceania Championships.

Esposito won’t be on the start line for the 2019 Asia/Oceania Championships, which makes the task much easier for Carrier.

The Olympic Champion is recovering well from a recent injury and is taking a strategic perspective on her preparation for Tokyo 2020. She will be focusing on the World Cups and World Championships in the first half of next year, which provide qualification opportunities for the Games.

In China next week Carrier needs to complete the competition ahead of New Zealand’s Rebecca Jamieson. The 28-year-old finished 67th at the 2019 World Championships in Budapest in September, after finishing 8th in the Laser-Run World Championships a few days earlier.

Although the Oceania spot appears to be a two-woman contest, the field will be tough with the top five athletes from Asia earning their Olympic spot for Tokyo 2020.  

Carrier, who first represented Australia at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, knows how to mix it with the world’s best and showed that in 2018.

“Last year was absolutely fantastic,” the 23-year-old said. “I made two World Cup Finals and was on the podium at the Polish Nationals and starting to really hit my stride.

“Towards the back end of last year, I had a solid training block which really consolidated my work and I was really moving forward and was really excited for this year.

“I started the international season this year at the French and Polish Nationals which I really enjoyed. I was on the podium again in Poland and ran past the world number two in the final 400 metres of the run-shoot which was totally exhilarating. I had the fastest laser-run of the competition and it was really exciting to know that I was now at that level.”

Carrier third in Poland
Marina Carrier was exhausted and thrilled when she crossed the finish line in Poland and third.

After these comps Carrier came back to Australia in early April for another training block and returned to Europe in June for a series of competitions.

“I competed in Belarus and felt pretty good. I had a couple of (injury) niggles but nothing huge. I had a really strong swim and a great run-shoot, which I was happy about so I was feeling good then.

“But following on from that comp the niggles grew and we sat back and said ‘somethings not quite right here, I think we better get a scan and find out what’s going on’.

“It turned out to be bone stress in my femur (thigh bone). It wasn’t a break and we caught it at a good time, so that with rest and care it wouldn’t become too serious.”

Marina Carrier all smiles on the fencing piste.
Marina Carrier all smiles on the fencing piste.

Carrier and her coaching team have been very cautious to give the injury the best possible chance to heal. Her running and normal fencing training had to be stopped and she focussed her training on events with low impact such as swimming and shooting.

She was given the all-clear to resume full training a few weeks back and she found her running fitness had been maintained, with her extra swimming sessions. She is now set for the Olympic qualifier.

“I’m back now feeling great at training and really ready to step on that start-line in China. I’m excited to compete again. I love competing and putting my work to the test.”

With all the swimming Carrier has been doing as she rested her leg injury, she is quietly confident she can challenge her personal best of 2:18 for the swim in China, to get her competition off to a strong start.

Marina Carrier swimming
Marina Carrier swimming during an international competition.

Carrier is treating this event like any other international competition and trying to not think about Olympic qualification too much. 

“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about qualifying for Tokyo but I really am just approaching this like any other competition. I’m excited to compete and I’ll be going out there and doing what I know I can do.”

The day after Carrier competes in China, her good friend and 2012 Olympian Ed Fernon will compete against Rhys Lanskey for the men’s Oceania spot – read preview here>>

Fernon has played a big part in Carrier’s pentathlon progression

“I had a chat with Marina when she came from the UK,” Fernon explained.

“Marina lived down the road from where I grew up in Northbridge and I gave her the same advice that Daniel Esposito gave me when I first started which was ‘if you give 100 per cent and give it your best shot then you’ve got a good opportunity to go to the Olympics.

“She decided to give pentathlon a go and train full-time. She qualified for the Youth Olympics, which was fantastic for her, and while I’ve been retired she’s been competing and it’s been fantastic to see her breakout season last year when she was on the podium in a few competitions and she’s really been doing amazingly well which is so exciting for her.

“It would be very special if we could qualify together,” Fernon said.

Carrier credits her family and Fernon for being the biggest influencers on her carrier.

“Ed convinced me to give pentathlon another go after having tried my hand at it for the year I lived in England,” Carrier explained. “He asked if I wanted to train with him and even when he has been not competing, he has always been on hand for advice and opinions.”

Marina Carrier Laser-Run Belarus Open
Marina Carrier competes in the Laser-Run at the Belarus Open.

The pair do their swimming and shooting training together.

“It’s nice to have someone else for the coaches to pick on!” Carrier said with a laugh. “We compete against each other to a point. It’s quite funny, we push each other hard. He’s a really great guy and a really great athlete and his improvement since returning to the sport has been amazing.”

Carrier does most of her training at Sydney University, where she is two-thirds of the way through her medical science degree. She travels two hours away, twice a week to do her horse-riding training.”

In total there will 14 Australians competing across the senior and age group events in China. This is likely to be Australia’s biggest travelling team to a major international competition. 

Australian competitors for the 2019 Asia/Oceania Championships
11-21 November, Wuhan, China

Nov.11 Female Individual Final (senior)
Marina Carrier (NSW)

Nov.12 Male Individual Final (senior)
Ed Fernon (NSW), Rhys Lanskey (QLD)

Nov.13 Female Relay Final (senior) –
Nov.14 Male Relay Final (senior) –
Nov.15 Mix-Relay Final (senior) –
Nov.16 Male Laser Run (senior)
Liu Yang (NSW)
Laser Run – youth
Female: Zara Temesi (NSW), Grace Healey (VIC), Elya Quinn, Lily Trevorrow
Male: Lachlan Nicholls (VIC), Tom Langdon-Macmillan (QLD), Cohen Wade (VIC), Amos Vagg (VIC)

Nov.17 Girls Individual Final (youth)
Tully Watt (VIC), Genevieve Janse van Rensburg (NSW), Elyia Quinn (NSW), Ella Trevorrow (VIC)

Nov.18 Boys Individual Final (youth)
Rhys Lanskey (QLD), Cohen Wade (VIC), Amos Vagg (VIC), Tom Langdon-Macmillan (QLD)

Nov.19 Girls Relay Final (youth)
Genevieve Janse van Rensburg (NSW) & Zara Temesi (NSW)

Nov.20 Boys Relay Final (youth)
Lachlan Nicholls (VIC) & Tomas Langdon-Macmillan (QLD)

Nov.21 Mix-Relay (youth)
Rhys Lanskey (QLD) & Tully Watt (VIC)

Congratulations to all these outstanding athletes, their coaches, support staff and families. Good luck to all!

Andrew Reid for Modern Pentathlon Australia