Modern Pentathlete Edward Fernon has been selected to the Tokyo 2020 Australian Olympic Team, the sixth athlete named to the Team by the Australian Olympic Committee.
The 31-year-old father of two will make his return to the Olympic arena after debuting at London 2012.
Fernon, who splits his time between Sydney and his family farm in Galong in south-east New South Wales, stepped away from Modern Pentathlon in 2015 to concentrate on his family, business and conquering other sporting pursuits, including winning the epic 1000km Mongol Derby horserace in 2017.
After finishing 27th at London 2012, Fernon took on a solo horse trek from Braidwood to Melbourne, riding 1100km to raise more than $55 000 for the Black Dog Institute and promote awareness for depression in regional areas.
Fernon won the Oceania qualifying event in Wuhan, China in November 2019, after an intensive training program to return to elite fitness and achieve his comeback to the international stage.
Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman said Fernon’s selection and successful comeback was testament to his drive to achieve.
“The AOC is proud to select Ed to his second Olympic Team,” Mr Chesterman said. “His determination and fantastic contribution both on and off the Pentathlon arena exemplify the Australian Olympic spirit.
“Ed has shown he has what it takes to compete at the highest level, and has used his position as an Olympian for vital causes close to his heart.
“Congratulations not only to Ed, but to his family, coaches, community and Modern Pentathlon Australia for everything you have done to contribute to this fantastic milestone.”
Fernon is ecstatic to be making his Olympic return.
“It’s a surreal experience to be back,” Fernon said. “The Olympics is what drives me on all those difficult training days when you’re sore and you’re tired, you don’t want to get out of bed. Knowing that you’ve got the Olympics there is incredibly motivating.
“I’ve come back as a much more mature athlete – I’ve got two young boys, I’ve got a business and a lot more going on than in 2012. Knowing that my two young boys will be able to watch their dad compete at an Olympics is truly special.
“I’m much more aware this time that the Olympics is about so much more than just my performance – it’s such an opportunity to inspire other people, including friends and family, to know that they can go out and achieve their goals.
“I’m incredibly grateful for my wife to give me the opportunity to chase qualification, and for all my coaches who believed in me that I could come back.”
Those coaches include Olympic fencer Bill Ronald and Dean Gleeson, Fernon’s swimming and laser-run coach who was instrumental in encouraging him to return to international competition.
Fernon’s exceptional riding skills were pivotal to his win at the combined Asia/Oceania qualifying event, finishing on top in the show-jumping discipline.
“My favourite discipline is definitely horse riding – as a young child we had a farm in Wagga Wagga, I couldn’t wait to get down there on school holidays to ride and I went jackarooing in north Queensland when I left school, riding’s always been a real passion of mine.”
Modern Pentathlon Australia President and Sydney 2000 Olympian Kitty Chiller has seen Fernon go from a rookie first trying Modern Pentathlon in 2007 to achieving his Olympic dream in 2012 and returning to the Olympic Team in 2020.
“When Ed rang me three months before the Oceania qualifier, saying he was thinking of making a comeback to the sport, I was very surprised but also very pleased,” Ms Chiller said.
“Ed is a highly talented athlete and I knew that the maturity he had gained in so many areas of his life since the London Games would hold him in very good stead for another Olympic experience.
“Ed’s performance in the qualifier in China in November last year was outstanding, in fact it was one of his best ever international performances – after only a few months training. So I am very excited about what he can achieve in Tokyo with another eight months training under his belt.”
Fernon’s passion for riding has seen him conquer remarkable challenges since his London Olympic debut, including winning the gruelling 1000km Mongol Derby in 2017.
“It’s incredibly challenging, riding across Mongolia for 10 days with 28 semi-wild Mongol horses. I brought all the things I had learnt through modern pentathlon to this challenge, and was able to win the race in a new record time.
“I’ve learnt so much about how to find comfort in the discomfort. I’ve been able to put myself into these difficult pressure environments and realised nothing can happen to me which I can’t handle. It gives me a huge amount of confidence to know I can walk into that Olympic space again, when all the pressure’s on and know that I can get through it and compete well.
“As an Olympian, being able to use that experience to lend a helping hand is amazing. After London, I really wanted to make a difference in rural depression – my mum suffered from depression and I’ve seen first hand the impact it has. It takes a huge toll wherever you are, but the services for people living in the bush are much less.”
Recreating legendary racehorse Archer’s journey from the horse’s birthplace in Braidwood to Flemington where he won his two Melbourne Cups, Fernon rode 1100km across the Snowy Mountains to raise more than $55 000 for mental health.
“We rode for five weeks, meeting amazing people and raising money along the way and importantly raising awareness about rural depression – letting people know it’s okay to not be okay.
“There are a lot of people in the bush really hurting at the moment with drought and bushfires so the message is as relevant as ever.”
Fernon’s pursuit of excellence also extends to the business world, building a successful property development company, and working on making rental accommodation more flexible and affordable and reducing loneliness.
After conquering challenges in business, the Modern Pentathlon arena and around the world, Fernon knows he performs his best when he stays in the moment.
“I think my biggest successes have come without putting any expectations on myself, just to stay really focused on my process, my training and fitness. And I think when you’re take that expectation off, I can be really dangerous.”
Australia’s top female modern pentathletes have battled injury disruptions to their Tokyo 2020 qualification campaigns, but reigning Olympic champion Chloe Esposito and Tokyo 2020 hopeful Marina Carrier can secure their place at Tokyo through securing one of six places based on the Olympic ranking list on 1 June 2020, or by finishing in the top three of non-qualified athletes in May’s World Championships.
The Modern Pentathlon competition in Tokyo will see 36 athletes per gender compete in fencing, swimming (200m freestyle), show-jumping, and the final combined run and laser shoot (3200m and four shoots of five targets), in the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza and Tokyo Stadium.
The fencing ranking round for men and women will be held on Thursday 6 August, before the women’s competition is held on Friday 7 August and the men’s medals decided on Saturday 8 August.