Pentathlete Cooke shooting sharply in lockdown

Pentathletes know all about sharp shooting but for Jamie Cooke, lockdown has allowed him to take it to a whole new level.

The 2018 world champion has enjoyed a glittering career at the summit of his sport, claiming overall gold at the 2016 World Cup before going on to represent his country at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.

That experience ended in a disappointing 14th-placed finish but World Championship nirvana soon followed, as the 29-year-old ended a 25-year wait for a British man to conquer the globe.

The current European champion also knows how to let off steam, however, and says lockdown has given him and his teammates the chance to channel one of their five disciplines in a slightly different, more virtual, form.

“I go for my run, eat, do all the odd jobs I need to do round the house, and then always meet up with my my teammates Myles Pillage, Sam Curry, Joe Choong and Bradley Sutton on Call of Duty: Warzone every night without fail!” he said.

“That period is Call of Duty time, which is a very, very important time - we’ve all got headsets to be able to communicate with each other, which is the only way to do it.

“That’s how me and the boys that I train with keep in touch with each other - I would say we’re training together, but at the moment we’re basically just gaming together.

“I’ve actually been incredibly lucky that lockdown happened when it did as I’ve recently bought a flat, that needed a hell of a lot of work renovating it.

“This has given me the perfect time to do that - I’ve been painting, decorating, putting up shelves and wardrobes throughout the period.

“It’s about keeping the mind busy and keeping yourself ticking over, and that for me - like I tell all the next generation athletes - is key, in keeping that discipline.”

Cooke had already secured a spot for Tokyo before the Games were postponed, having enjoyed a thrilling 2019 that culminated in European Championship glory in Bath.

But it’s not always been plain sailing for the versatile star, whose running, swimming, riding, shooting and fencing dexterity was waining after his eighth-place finish in the 2016 World Championships and disappointment in Rio.

Cooke is an avid rugby fan away from pentathlon, with his brother, Mark, currently representing Blackheath in England’s third tier after previous spells at Bristol Bears, Rotherham Titans and Jersey Reds.

And it was the influence of a famous figure in the rugby world who helped propel the pentathlete to glory, as Cooke joined forces with Jonny Wilkinson’s kicking coach, Dave Alred, in 2017 in a bid to reignite his career.

“I was reading Sir Clive Woodward’s book, Winning!, which made regular references to this guy called Dave Alred,” he added.

“This was at a time when I’d lost my mojo in shooting a bit, and I always thought goal-kicking in rugby was very similar to shooting.

“I asked Dave to come along and help, and he really changed my whole perception on pressure, how to handle it and how to put yourself under pressure in training.

“It’s not just Dave, as there are a whole network of coaches around me that help, but his influence definitely helped in making me world champion in 2018.

“The way he phrases things is something I really admire, so I take a lot away from him and still work with him now, to be the best person I can be.”

Cooke knows he has won almost all there is on offer in the modern pentathlon world, developing a bulging medal cabinet that includes World, European and domestic titles.

But he hopes to augment that collection further next summer, as he enters the twilight of a career that has seen him indelibly etch his name into British pentathlon folklore.

And while the Games’ postponement could have derailed his pursuit for a maiden Olympic medal, he is as motivated as ever to bow out on a high.

“I’m massively hungry for success in Tokyo - it’s the whole reason I’m doing the sport and continue to train day in, day out,” he said.

“There’s no chance the Games’ postponement has extremely affected how I feel - these things are out of our control, but I always think you can continually better yourself.

“I want to be able to look back on Tokyo, which I've always planned to retire after, and say ‘I did everything I could do to put myself in the best shape possible’.

“I’m in a good club in that there aren’t many pentathletes who have won a World, European and World Cup title, so I look back on my career incredibly proudly.

“Medals in pentathlon are great, but winning in the Olympics is the sole thing we go for, and if I can go to Tokyo in the best shape I can be and deliver my processes, there’s every reason I should have a good competition.”