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Modern Pentathlon wrap: Golden effort by Esposito family

28 August 2016

MODERN PENTATHLON: Winning an Olympic gold medal is undeniably a team effort: coaches, supporters, training partners and family all have a critical role to play.

When that network is all one-in-the-same family unit, it makes the success taste even sweeter, and that’s the experience for Australia’s inaugural modern pentathlon medallist Chloe Esposito.

The Esposito clan – Chloe, 24, Max, 19, and father and coach Daniel – arrived in Rio with a job to do.

Chloe made her Olympic debut at London 2012, finishing seventh in the multi-discipline sporting event.

“I thought If I’m going to go to Rio I definitely want to get a few places better, I know I’ve done the hard training and I’ve given my all… then that could be anywhere up there,” she said.

It was after London that she, her training partner-turned-Olympian brother Max and 1984 Olympic pentathlete Daniel decided to move to Budapest, Hungary, to put themselves in the best position prior to the Rio Games.

Mum Suzanne stayed in Casula, western Sydney, to run the family learn-to-swim business with younger sister Emily who competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in shooting.

The sacrifice was significant but the goal remained clear: execute what they had always achieved in training and believe the rewards will come.

“If you can’t do it in training, you won’t do it in competition,” Chloe recited as her mantra.

“It was a very tough year. I didn't get to do any World Cups or anything because I had a problem with my achilles.

“So I was really disappointed about that and at the beginning of this year I was just really down about that. I didn't think it was going to go well.

“Then… training was going really well, and I've never thought this before ever, but I thought 'you know what, I can win'.

“I just had this gut feeling that 'I can do this'. I just believed in myself and it happened."

The main reason for the move to Budapest was to improve Chloe and Max’s fencing. It was the one discipline that had proven problematic at most international meets, so they decided to dedicate their effort to working with some of the world’s best coaches and having greater access to world-class competition.

It was a move that clearly paid off with Chloe finishing the fencing ranking round in 13th position with 19 victories and 16 defeats.

Finishing well above the middle of the field put Chloe in prime position coming into the second and final day of competition including the 200m swim, fencing bonus round, show jumping and her favourite, the combined running and shooting event.

Max did not fare as well in the fencing, finishing 29th in the ranking round. However, he made up significant ground across the swim and the show jumping coming into the combined event in 17th place and crossing the finish line seventh.

Daniel said the past two-plus years in Hungary and the two pre-Olympic altitude training camps in Mexico had prepared the athletes – his children – as best as possible.

"The whole family [made a lot of sacrifices]. We've had difficult times. But it's been fun as well and it worked out," he said.

“Sure, it’s hard leaving the family behind, and the family business, but we had a job to get done.

“Working together and training together has its ups and downs, as with anything in life. It’s a job we had to get done and so you just go with the flow.

“It’s kind of second nature for all of us, we have all been together pretty much since we started the family swim business (and) the kids were born into it.

“I don’t think we’re any more special than any other family who try and help their kids achieve their dreams.”

Chloe’s gold medal was Australia’s first podium finish in modern pentathlon. The women’s event was only introduced at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when Australia’s 2016 Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller represented the country in the dynamic sport.

There is hope that the Esposito’s success in Rio will spawn a new passion for pentathlon among young Australian athletes.

“I hope a lot of young people have seen this and want to start pentathlon,” Chloe said.

And as for the Espositos?

“Tokyo (2020)? Absolutely! Bring it on,” Max said.

Candice Keller

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