We are delighted to introduce to you Joe Choong, a Great British pentathlete who has been on the scene for over 10 years, since becoming the first British pentathlete to win the European U16 modern pentathlon title. He is currently world number 1, and we will more than likely see him in Tokyo for the upcoming Olympic Games.
Hey Joe! Great to meet you. Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m 25 and I’m from Orpington, south east London. I competed at Rio 2016 when I was 21 and I’m currently World Number 1. I’m hoping to be selected for the Tokyo Games when they finally go ahead later this year.
Not many people can say they are good at so many different sports! How did you first get into modern pentathlons?
I joined my secondary school as a national level swimmer and played rugby. When my brother was chosen for the school biathlon competition I didn’t want to be outdone so I signed up myself and I think I did ok… the GB talent scout came up and invited me to a few Talent ID camps. I enjoyed picking up the other sports (shooting, fencing and horse-riding) and eventually I was given the wildcard slot for the U17 Europeans, where I won Gold. This success encouraged me to keep going with pentathlon, so I kept improving and training which has taken me to where I am now.
Do you have a particular element of the pentathlon that you think you’re best at?
My strongest two events are swimming and fencing. I used to be a decent swimmer, so that probably edges it as my best event but I’d also like to qualify for some fencing world cups in the future too.
You have stormed onto the scene winning the GB Open title and British Junior Championships in 2013. What was your mindset at the time?
Honestly so much has changed since then. I was still competing at U19 level back then, so winning the senior nationals didn’t mean so much because the idea of competing internationally at that level just wasn’t on my radar. Obviously I was really excited about what I could achieve in the future when I did win that medal and it definitely reinforced my self-belief that I could be one of the best in the future.
Being a part of the Rio 2016 Olympics must have been incredible. How memorable an experience was it at your first Olympics?
Rio was definitely something I’ll never forget. I went into it having taken a year out from my degree, so I was fitter than ever and despite not having made a huge impact on senior competitions up until that point I still thought I could medal there. Ultimately I went from 2nd to 10th in the last event, the laserrun, thanks to some bad shooting. I feel like I missed an opportunity but overall I just loved every moment of being in and around the Olympic village. When I think back, the whole event is definitely a very positive, happy memory for me.
Your events are often in such beautiful countries and cities. Do you have a dream race location?
The Olympic test event in Tokyo was amazing – great food, great culture, and I won gold there so I’m looking forward to competing there again soon (hopefully!). Also, America is always a good country to compete in. There’s usually great weather and shopping there is cheap, so it’s a great opportunity to update the wardrobe.
How has your training been affected by all the lockdown breaks? Is there anything you’ve been doing from home instead of the Sports Village in Bath that you never would have done before?
Not really. I’ve played more video games than I ever have done before, but training wise it’s stayed pretty simple really. When we couldn’t access facilities I just had to do whatever I could from home, which was running and shooting in my back garden and everything else just had to be left out for a while!
We know you’re working towards Tokyo 2021, do you have any personal goals for 2021 and beyond?
I’d love to try something a bit different. I like the idea of seeing how good I could be at individual events, so I definitely want to do some fencing world cups and grand prixs. Also I feel I’ve done the whole swimming thing when I was younger but I’d love becoming just a track runner for a while. I’d have no idea how to get into that at the moment so we’ll see.
We imagine that you’ll be very competitive over the next 12 months! Is there anyone in particular who you’re keeping an eye on that could be your number 1 rival?
There are 5 sports so it’s difficult to be consistent at every competition. There’s always more than just one athlete competing for the top spots. The German’s have a strong team, especially Marvin Dogue, who I’ve been competing with since we were both 17! Also Alex Lesun, the Russian, is always dangerous but I haven’t seen him competing since before COVID.
And finally, if you were to host a dream dinner party, or perhaps a trip to the pub with 5 guests past or present…who would they be and what are you eating?!
I’d definitely choose the pub for a good roast and a few beers. This is the longest I’ve taken to think of an answer so far… I’m torn between saying some of the guys from the team from when I first joined the training centre, or something a bit geeky – Henry Caville, Brandon Sanderson and the cast of Avengers would be frontrunners for an invite.
A lot of the guys I grew up with in the sport have moved away, doing other things in life and we don’t often get to see each other these days but at the same time I’m definitely a bit of a geek when it comes to book and films. I love most things from the fantasy genre, so to meet the guys who helped bring those stories to life would be pretty cool too.