Samantha Murray is in a good place as she guns for a sixth successive top-five finish at the UIPM Senior World Modern Pentathlon Championships in Cairo this weekend.
Settled in her personal life, the 27-year-old Clitheroe athlete feels in good shape mentally and physically as she looks to build on a remarkable record in the championships –which she won in Warsaw in 2014.
However, she accepts the event could shape her future, as she searches for the motivation to try and win a place at a third Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2022.
She celebrated the fifth anniversary of her Olympic silver medal success in London two weeks ago.
But after finishing ninth in Rio last summer – later upgraded to eighth after a failed drugs test by fourth-placed Chen Qian – Murray admitted to being “very disappointed” and took some time off from the sport.
She has her mojo back ahead of Cairo, and said: “I had a long time in limbo after Rio, bouncing about, thinking about what I wanted to do, and I kind of had a few wake up calls with my training – I hadn’t done anything from August to January and was unfit. I started to do more training and realised it takes a lot to get back to this level.
“It’s been exhausting, but I’m back in shape and feeling good. I’m at the right weight, my shooting and running feel good, and I feel sharp enough to have a chance.
“My personal life is great, I’m moving into my first house with my boyfriend in September, so I’m all settled and it feels good.
“It feels like I’ve come to the light at the end of the tunnel, I have a lot to look forward to – life feels different, it feels great. I’ve booked a holiday in September, and then I’m going away in October with my mum for her 50th.
“I’m happy Sam at the moment! Kieran, my boyfriend, supports me, he listens to me and it’s amazing to come home to someone outside of pentathlon, to give me that balance and perspective. I feel so thankful, life is fantastic.”
And she is eager to add to her impressive form at the Worlds: “I’ve had five-successive top five finishes, so I sound quite good on paper!
“I had a break at the end of last year, and with Sam, I often feel I’m acting as an athlete. I have this alter-ego Olive when I compete.
“But as Sam, I like a bottle of prosecco, a barbeque, enjoying socialising, but I enjoyed it too much.
“I’ve had to get fit again, and it takes time to get right to perform at this level.
“I’ve shown signs, and we schedule to peak at the Worlds.
“I’m generally back in good shape, I’ve won medals at the Worlds before, and I feel confident.
“There are challenges, you can get an awful horse, which can ruin your event, but if my fencing and shooting is up there, I can be in the top five or 10.
“It’s a massive test for me, it gets tougher each year, the heat will be tough, but we’ll try and manage that and execute.”
Her future could be determined by her performance in Egypt, as she explained: “I’ve had my moments this year, I feel like I’m back.
“I won the British championships again, which was lovely, and at the Euros in Minsk I was almost there, but had a terrible shoot.
“It’s been a bit all over the place, but that’s typical after an Olympic year, there have been some really strong moments, so we’ll see.
“It will be very difficult if I have a terrible day, to justify carrying on.
“It will be very hard mentally to come away with a position I’m not happy with.
“Tokyo is in the back of my mind, but it’s a long way away, who knows?
“My focus is on this week and trying to do well.”