Andoversford's Jamie Cook confident modern pentathlon can stand the test of Olympic time
By Laura Fell
MODERN pentathlete Jamie Cooke remains unfazed by proposed radical changes to his sport.
Cooke's speciality was in danger of being dropped from the 2020 Olympic Games, and in response to that threat, the International Modern Pentathlon Union has proposed that the five disciplines take place in one stadium in just five hours.
The International Olympic Committee this week announced wrestling would be dropped instead, much to Andoversford-raised Cooke's relief.
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"It was in the back of our minds, and we were all discussing it," he explained.
"We're all very glad it's still in, said Cooke, who won the Junior World Championships in 2011.
"It's surreal – modern pentathlon was invented by the founder of the modern Olympics and has been included since the first modern games. It seems the Olympics is changing.
"People loved watching modern pentathlon in London. It is fantastic to watch.
"I am gutted for wrestling. The Olympics are the pinnacle of a career, and now that has been taken away from them."
The 21-year-old is intrigued by the stadium plan, but believes changing venues is integral to the sport's excitement.
He continued: "Spectators and athletes got to see lots of different venues. It was awesome for our athletes to compete in the Olympic pool, and the Greenwich venue was absolutely stunning.
"The stadium is an interesting idea, and I don't know if it will happen. I am just going to keep rolling on with training, and if it happens, we will adjust to it. It's human nature not to like change, but when it comes we have to go through a period of re-adjustment. We're not that worried."
The ex-Gloucester City swimmer was first introduced to the sport by former modern pentathlete Graham Brookhouse, a 1988 Olympic bronze medallist now based in Cheltenham. Cooke narrowly missed out on selection for the London 2012 Olympic Games in a selection battle with team-mates Nick Woodbridge and Sam Weale that lasted a year and a half.
He said the competitive rivalry never got in the way of their friendship.
"We knew we were in a selection process, but it was respectfully known," he said.
"As soon as I got the news about selection, they immediately sent me messages of support, as I did to them.
"No one, including myself, really expected me to qualify for selection at the Europeans, where I finished fourth. The hard work started from there and I had to keep performing.
"I crumbled under the pressure I guess. I am still young."
Cooke, who took up the sport at Hartpury College, now harbours ambitions for Rio 2016 and has flown to Florida's Palm Springs for the first World Cup of the season.
Keen not to put any pressure on himself, he enters the season with few expectations.
He went on: "I am just going to try to get back on track. I had a great year two years ago, whereas last year wasn't good. I know I need to work on my fencing and build on what I've done over the winter."
Training up to five times a day, six days a week in Bath, Cooke's schedule is full-on and he must balance his degree in business management and geography around this.
"If my parents read this, I balance everything really well," he joked. "I am studying part-time at university, I have a lighter schedule and the lecturers at Bath Spa are very understanding."