SWIM, FENCE, RIDE, RUN AND SHOOT

Olympian Max Es­pos­ito ex­plains how he trains for the five-way de­mands of mod­ern pen­tathlon.

Inside Sport - - INSIDER - WITH MAX ES­POS­ITO – An­drew Mar­mont

RIO OLYMPIAN Max Es­pos­ito is a ris­ing star of the Aus­tralian mod­ern pen­tathlon scene. The 20-year-old was the youngest man in the field at the 2016 Olympics and was only sec­onds away from a bronze medal, fin­ish­ing in sev­enth place. Get­ting to the podium would have em­u­lated the ef­fort of his sis­ter Chloe, who won a stun­ning gold-medal vic­tory in the women’s event. Mod­ern pen­tathlon is an Es­pos­ito fam­ily pas­sion – not only for Max and Chloe, but fa­ther (and coach) Daniel, who rep­re­sented Aus­tralia in the sport at the 1984 Olympics. To bet­ter pre­pare for Rio, the fam­ily moved to Bu­dapest, Hun­gary (mum Suzanne stayed be­hind in Syd­ney) to live and train there in the lead-up to the Games. Ahead of a world cham­pi­onships in Au­gust, we spoke to Max about how he trains for the five dif­fer­ent sport­ing com­po­nents of mod­ern pen­tathlon, over­com­ing fears, and how his sport is truly a fam­ily af­fair.

COVER­ING ALL BASES

“We even-out our prepa­ra­tion across the five sports as much as pos­si­ble. We know that some peo­ple can catch up a lot in the swim­ming, run­ning and fenc­ing – they are the three im­por­tant ones. Ev­ery dis­ci­pline is im­por­tant, but it is even bet­ter if you go well in these three events.

“The com­bined [run­ning and shoot­ing] is the last event. If you train for run­ning a lot, you can eas­ily catch up a lot of places, and if you shoot a lot as well. You get a [points] handicap at the start, so it is easy to build your way up if you run and shoot well.”

HEC­TIC SCHED­ULE

“We swim five days per week, Mon­day to Fri­day from 6-8am; two hours in the wa­ter. With run­ning, it’s five days per week. With these two sports, we like to change it up a bit. Some days we fo­cus on sprint work, other days on dis­tance. We also have easy swims or runs to mix it up.

“We ride three days per week. When in Bu­dapest we do our swim­ming then im­me­di­ately drive out to the rid­ing. Some days it’s flat work, jump­ing or go­ing out on a trail ride. It’s good how we mix it up a bit, so it’s not al­ways the same. We have our rest pe­riod dur­ing our lunchtime. In the af­ter­noon, it’s fenc­ing four days per week – an hour and a half to two hours of free-play – with les­sons on top of this.

“With shoot­ing, we prac­tice five days per week, when­ever we fit it in with all the other sports. For ex­am­ple, on Tues­days and Fri­days, we might do a com­bined event – run­ning and shoot­ing. Fri­day would be our easy run, do a 1km loop – then come in and shoot. Or a track ses­sion, af­ter each 400m.

“Peo­ple ask how can you shoot with a high heart rate from 10m, with one arm? It all comes from prac­tice and train­ing. When in a com­pe­ti­tion, with peo­ple next to you, you’ve just got to fo­cus on your­self, and your prac­tice and train­ing. If you start wor­ry­ing about the other peo­ple, it can all come tum­bling down.”

FENC­ING

“Fenc­ing in Aus­tralia is not that great. When look­ing at fenc­ing re­sults, Hun­gary is high up there in the fenc­ing. Be­fore the Rio Games, we lived over there for two and a half years. It’s a lot of foot­work prac­tice, point work, and keep­ing things sharp. We go fenc­ing here too and work on given tasks to see how we can im­prove.

“The goal is to try and get as many hits as pos­si­ble. With my fenc­ing, it’s like a roller­coaster, re­ally – some days good, some days bad. I want to get con­sis­tency.

“Our dad runs our whole pro­gram. He coaches us with swim­ming, run­ning and shoot­ing. We also have a rid­ing and fenc­ing coach.”

HORSING AROND

“Ev­ery rid­ing ses­sion, we try to get a dif­fer­ent horse each time and do a cy­cle with it. A lot of horses have dif­fer­ent feel­ings. Some you might need to kick more to make it faster, or hold back be­cause it is go­ing too fast. That’s why it is good to ride as many dif­fer­ent horses as pos­si­ble.

“I get re­ally ner­vous in the horse rid­ing. Some­times I get ner­vous be­cause I won­der what the horse is go­ing to do. I have all these thoughts in my head like ‘I hope it’s not a bad horse, not too strong’ or so on. I panic a lot be­cause I want a good horse. It all comes down to train­ing. From what we hear, some pen­tath­letes ride once or twice a week, or some don’t even train un­til two months be­fore they start to hop on a horse.

“We ride three times a week and do it through the whole sea­son, even when it’s off­sea­son as well.”

MIND GAMES

“You need to be men­tally strong be­cause when I do a com­pe­ti­tion, I only worry about my­self – not about other peo­ple. Phys­i­cal – some­times it is go­ing to be dif­fi­cult. Your body can’t al­ways per­form at its best all the time. Al­ways go­ing to be your down mo­ments ...

“I think some­times it helps me a bit to work my­self up – telling my­self I’ve trained re­ally hard and that I just want to get a good time. All the hours put in – all the ef­fort, I hope to get a good time. I al­ways have two dif­fer­ent minds – some­thing neg­a­tive, but then some­thing pos­i­tive. When I com­pete, I try and stay fully calm and col­lected.”

TASK FO­CUSED

“For each dis­ci­pline, I have a set tar­get or task I have to work on. With swim­ming, I found that if I go out too fast in the first 100m, I die in the sec­ond 100m. We had to test the wa­ters – how I could do a good 200m with­out get­ting ex­hausted right at the be­gin­ning. It was about do­ing the first hun­dred com­fort­ably but steady, then bring­ing it home in the sec­ond hun­dred. I work on each lap as a 50m sprint. “We have to pack our own equip­ment – from swim­ming cos­tumes, cap, gog­gles, to fenc­ing swords, out­fits, horse rid­ing out­fits, run­ning gear and guns [air ri­fles with a laser bar­rel]. We pro­vide ev­ery­thing our­selves ex­cept for the horses.”

FAM­ILY BOND

“It’s all my fam­ily to­gether. We all work as a team and help one an­other out. I think our com­mu­ni­ca­tion as a group helps as well. Be­cause we know ev­ery­one re­ally well, we can say our own opin­ions and thoughts.”

PEO­PLE ASK HOW CAN YOU SHOOT WITH A HIGH HEART RATE FROM 10M, WITH ONE ARM? IT ALL COMES FROM PRAC­TICE AND TRAIN­ING.

The Bronte Splash­ers Swim­ming Club claims to be the world's oldest win­ter swim­ming club, dat­ing back to 1921. Mem­bers meet at 9.30am ev­ery Sun­day at Bronte Baths to keep fit well be­fore the warmer months ar­rive.

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