Cooke stays grounded over Olympic hopes

 

Jamie Cooke may be the new golden boy of the Great Britain modern pentathlon team but he is not about to start talking up his chances of an Olympic medal just yet.

The 20-year-old from Cheltenham has emerged as one of the hottest young athletes in the sport after achieving the 2012 qualifying standard last year and then being crowned world junior champion.

Cooke said: "I'm trying to take it one step at a time. We've got the World Cups coming up and then Europeans and World Championships, and then hopefully the Games.

"Any athlete dreams of going to the Olympics, any athlete dreams of going to their home Olympics - fortunately we have both but I'm just trying to keep my feet on the ground and keep everything going.

"But you do wake up in the morning and think, 'This is 2012, this is the Olympic year, so it is exciting'."

Cooke's fourth place at last year's European Championships in Kent earned him a provisional spot in London this summer but, with only two places available for each nation, there is still a chance, albeit a remote one, that he may miss out.

The world number 14's rise has been remarkably swift for such a complex sport and his put him ahead of Beijing Olympians Sam Weale and Nick Woodbridge in the race for the two spots.

Cooke was, though, quick to give credit to his training partners - and housemate in Woodbridge's case - for their part in his success.

He said: "Last year was fantastic for me. I learned a lot. It seems to all be going well but I have Sam Weale and Nick Woodbridge to thank the most because they've got a lot of knowledge and experience so, as a young upstart, I keep trying to nick all their ideas.

"They push me on and I push them on. I think I was more surprised than them when I qualified. They're fantastic athletes, they'll qualify as well."

Cooke knows there are plenty of areas in which he can improve, most notably his fencing, but he has a weapon all his rivals must be jealous of - he is the fastest swimmer the sport has ever known.

The 200 metres freestyle does not normally play too key a role in modern pentathlon but Cooke is so quick that it keeps him in contention no matter how he fares in the fencing, as he proved at the World Junior Championships in Buenos Aires in November when he climbed from 29th to seventh before excelling in the riding and combined run and shoot to take gold.

The 20-year-old added: "My swim is my saving grace. To be able to fence like that and pull it back with the swim was really good because I get most nervous for the swim but I know I can pull out a fast time."

Cooke is not a well-known name in the wider sporting context at the moment but Weale expects that to change come the Olympics.

"He had a fantastic season last season, he's very talented, he's got a fantastic swim," said Yeovil athlete Weale.

"Leading up to 2012 he's a name people should listen out for. I'm not going to mention medals or anything for him because that's putting too much pressure on but I'm sure he'll do well."

Weale and Woodbridge will have their chance to achieve Olympic qualification at the World Championships in Rome in May but they must make the podium or they will be left relying on the ranking list.

Woodbridge added: "Jamie is in pole position, he's got an automatic spot and from the GB ranking list that puts him in a far better position than myself and Sam but it still could be taken away. We're all working hard and we all want to go."

The trio have all been selected for the opening two World Cups of the season in Charlotte, USA, and Rio de Janeiro in March, with Steven Mason making up the British contingent.

PA

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