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Genevieve @ The Coalface

At just 20 years old, Singleton-born Genevieve Janse van Rensburg is about to achieve her ultimate goal – competing in the Modern Pentathlon at the Paris Olympics.

What is the Modern Pentathlon you might be thinking. Well, it consists of four events, fencing, swimming, equestrian (show jumping) and the oneLaser Run (running and shooting).

The fencing is a round-robin tournament with each competitor having to bout against every other competitor, the swimming event is a freestyle race over 200-metres with athletes seeded in heats according to their personal best time, and the show jumping portion of the Modern Pentathlon involves jumping over 15 obstacles of up to 120cm in height on horses selected from a random draw.

Lastly, the oneLaser event is a handicapped start, with athletes running 600-metres to a shooting range where they’re required to hit five targets before beginning another 600-metre run, that’s repeated three further times.

Genevieve has played sport for most of her life and loves it.

“Mum made us swim from 6-months old because we were living in Singleton where there are a lot of open dams. Then I started netball when I was 5 years old and horse riding at 6, and then tried a little bit of everything during high school.

“I came across Pentathlon when Chloe Esposito came to our school to talk about it. I realised I already did three out of the five sports so what’s another two to learn!”

Genevieve, her parents and her sister moved to Newcastle when she was 8 years old.

“Most of my training is in Newcastle like my swimming and running. I go to Sydney twice a week for fencing and then head to the Central Coast for horse riding.

“My first international competition was in 2018, the Asia Oceania Championships. International competition was put on hold during the pandemic, but I was able to compete in multiple fencing competitions.”

Genevieve @ The Coalface
Genevieve preparing to take part in the fencing portion of the pentathlon. Image: UIPM & Türkiye Modern Pentatlonu Federasyonu.

In 2022, Genevieve was back on the international circuit, placing third at the U19 European Championships and brought home gold from the Australian Modern Pentathlon National Championships.

All those events were preparing Geneveive for her ultimate goal: Paris 2024.

“There are several ways to qualify for the Olympics. There is one regional quota spot for Oceania, or you can qualify through world rankings or if you come first at the World Cup Final for this season or last season.

“I qualified through the regional quota spot. For me it’s relaxed now, I’ll do the World Championships and train in the UK for the next five weeks or so and then head over to Paris for a week and then it’s straight into competition.”

Last year Genevieve was the recipient of the Tier 3 Scholarship within the Sport Australia Hall of Fame Scholarship and Mentoring Program which provides encouragement and funding for 12-14 months.

Modern Pentathlon as a sport isn’t hugely popular in Australia which Geneveive said has its positives, but also negatives.

Genevieve @ The Coalface

“Currently competing in Australia opens are one girl and three guys. We had a lot more last year but with injuries and retirement they’ve dropped off.

“It’s good and bad. It does mean there are more opportunities for me because I’m just the one girl and I don’t have to worry about being accepted to go to competitions or struggling with the number of athletes allowed, but it also means the sport itself doesn’t get the recognition or the funding it deserves. We have a limited number of young athletes coming up, so the future of the modern pentathlon is worrying.

“The Laser Run as a sport individually has a lot more popularity in Australia than the Modern Pentathlon. So, we have a lot of younger athletes coming up which is great because hopefully they will come over to Pentathlon and give the sport a boost.”

For now, Genevieve is focused on Paris. The Modern Pentathlon will be run over four days from August 8th.

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