It’s one thing being good at a single sport, but throw a further four more into the mix - including competing on a horse you barely know - and you start to get a picture of the challenges facing modern pentathletes such as Britain’s Jamie Cooke.
Cooke announced himself on the international stage back in 2011 when he struck gold at the World Junior Championships in Argentina.
Multiple world records across youth, junior and senor level have followed with his 200m swimming time of 1:49.59 minutes in a 25m pool set back at the senior European Championships in the same year remaining the benchmark to this day for others to beat.
A first World Cup medal arrived then in 2013 when he took gold in Budapest – including with a then new fastest single-heat shooting world record.
However, as any athlete who has attempted to piece together a series of winning performances across fencing, swimming, show jumping and then the final combined event of pistol shooting and a cross-country will testify, it’s never all plain sailing.
Cooke’s wait for second World Cup podium finish in fact extended almost two years before he helped Great Britain complete a historic double back February as he and Samantha Murray won the men’s and women’s competitions in the opening competition in Sarasota.
Since then, the 24-year-old has struggled to replicate those dizzy heights again though, with 32nd, 27th and 24th place finishes coming in three subsequent World Cups, while there was also the disappointment of coming home 22nd in the World Championships last month.
The latter’s performance in Berlin represented Great Britain’s offering as a whole as the squad failed to pick up a single medal.
Although they get a chance to bounce back – on home soil no less – for the European Championships in Bath for August 18-23 and Cooke intends to take full advantage.
“We had a disappointing Worlds, it’s definitely something we want to improve on as a team,” said Cooke, who is selected as part of a four-strong male team including double Olympian Nick Woodridge, Joseph Chong and Tom Toolis.
“We’re not just going to the Europeans to make up the numbers, we want to be there competing at the top end.
“The Worlds served as a bit of a wake up call. There are things we need to take forward and improve on but on the whole we are feeling positive.
“I’m massively excited for the Europeans and having it in my home town of Bath. It will be fantastic to see my family and friends come to support me.
“I think it actually takes the pressure off, you’re a bit more relaxed, you know your surroundings and you have your family and friends close by.”
Next month’s competition will be Cooke’s fourth European Championships – his best individual performance the fourth place he managed when Great Britain last hosted the event in Medway four years ago.
That finish saw him achieve the Olympic qualifying standard for London 2012 but his dreams of representing Team GB in front of his home crowd were dashed after Woodbridge and Sam Weale were given the nod by selectors for the two male spots.
No British pentathlete has yet qualified for next year’s Olympics in Rio, adding further significance to the forthcoming European Championships, although Cooke was not looking too far ahead.
“I have been there and bagged an Olympic spot before and then did not get picked for London,” he added.
“I came away with fourth in 2011 which was the Olympic qualifier for London. That was huge and one of the highlights of my career. That’s pretty much the aim for this time around.
“I know not to get too ahead of myself though. There is still a lot of hard work to be done.
“I’m 24 so I’m not exactly a bag of bones. I know where improvements need to be made. My swimming times are not any where near my PB, there’s work on my fencing and I’ve been working hard with my coach on the running the last couple of months. But I’m generally feeling in a very positive place.”
© Sportsbeat 2015