LONDON 2012: Woodbridge believes Olympic destiny could be decided early
NICK WOODBRIDGE is en garde and ready to put his rivals to the sword early at this summer's London 2012 Olympics.
SELECTED: Nick Woodbridge and Sam Weale have been named as Great Britain's men's modern pentathlon team for the second consecutive Games
Great Britain have medalled in modern pentathlon at the last three Games - but it's always women who have climbed the podium.
But British number one Woodbridge is determined to change that stat and is brimming with confidence after his bronze medal at last year's World Cup final, which was also staged at the Olympic venue.
However, he knows that the difference between success and failure could be decided at the start of a long day of competition in five sports.
“Leading off with the fencing is a massive plus for me," said Woodbridge.
"Looking at my results this season, if I’d have had just a slightly bigger fence in some of the competitions I’d have been on the podium for sure.
“It’s a big part of my game plan, getting off to a good start and getting a big fence in the bag. It’ll be the difference between getting a medal and not getting a medal.
“The biggest threat is the Russians – they’ve dominated this season - but we fence everyone; we all have one hit, so I’m looking to pinch the hits off those guys too.
“The other big threat is the Italians. If they start in the top ten, their combined run-shoots are unbelievable, so for me the fence is a chance to take them out before they get there.
“We’ll take fencers with different styles over to our training camp in Font Romeu - it will be like in a boxing camp. We'll be prepared for all the guys we’ll face in London."
But Woodbridge, who finished 25th in his Olympic debut four years ago, admits he has struggled to adjust to the new run/shoot combined event, which makes its first Games appearance in London.
He will use simulated crowd noise in training to prepare – but insists the experience of competing under pressure in Beijing will be his strongest asset.
“The run-shoot’s completely changed the sport," he added. "It will be crazy to shot in that noise, it’s just a case of trying to relax and prepare as best you can.
“You come into that range and for every shot you’re getting huge cheers – putting that out of your mind completely will be really difficult.
“But having been to Beijing - competing in front of 40,000 people - will help me a lot."
Meanwhile, Sam Weale admitted he feared he wouldn't make the team after he failed to progress through his semi-final at the recent World Championships.
That put world junior champion Jamie Cooke in control of the selection race until Weale produced a strong performance at the World Cup final in Chengu to remind team officials of his worth and superior all-round skills.
“There’s definitely been times I thought I wouldn’t make it - and not qualifying for Athens in 2004 was devastating, so this would have been awful," he said.
“After missing Athens I took a year out of the sport and came out of funding. Financially it was probably a pretty stupid decision but mentally I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t done that.
“I think I needed to lead normal life, experience what a normal 21-year-old does – I needed to get it out of my system to realise I wanted to carry on and go to the Olympics.
“I don’t want to say I’m going to retire now but it might be one of my last opportunities to win a medal.
“After Beijing I’m not get carried away. I’ve been there and done it, and learned from the experience. However, it feels quite natural to be in the big moments.
"After the worlds, I thought that my chance had gone but I performed well in the last competition and luckily that was enough."
Weale knows better than anyone how Cooke – who broke the modern pentathlon world record in the swimming discipline at last year’s European Championships – will feel having to watch the Olympics as a spectator.
But he insists that the 21-year old has a bright future in the sport.
“It is tough, he’s a fantastic athlete. It may just be a year too early for him with the fencing and the riding, he’s just not quite there yet,” he added.
“I think he’s got a lot to give in this sport and with his swim – he’s always going to get extra points there.
“He’s got a good head on him and in the next few years, leading up to the Rio Olympics, I think he’ll be very strong.
"I shook Jamie’s hand the other day – he was surrounded by other people so I couldn’t really talk to him but hopefully we'll have a proper chat soon."
© Sportsbeat 2012