by Ben Roberts
Hartpury modern pentathlete Harry Sykes has been selected to represent Great Britain at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.
At the age of only 17, it will be Harry’s first major championships with the Great Britain junior squad and he will be one of the youngest competitors. The tournament, which runs from May 24th to 31st, will see the Hartpury A-level student challenge himself against the best Under-19s competitors from around Europe.
Harry will represent Great Britain in both the individual and team events at the championships, looking to build on a fine run of recent form in both overseas and home internationals.
Ninth place finishes in the Junior Czech Republic International and Youth European Cup in Barcelona and a silver medal in the team event in Barcelona have seen Harry produce his best season to date.
Harry said: “I was surprised to be called up for the championships squad because there are so many top quality modern pentathletes at the junior level and I’m only 17. The selectors feel that I have earned my selection though and, having been given this opportunity to prove myself, I’m determined to give it my best shot.
“Being a top level competitor means putting in long hours training and travelling to competitions and it’s fantastic to feel that all of that effort and dedication is being rewarded.”
Travelling to Bulgaria’s capital on May 24th, the team will get a chance to taste the culture of Sofia while horse inspections take place and final preparations for the championships are made.
The competitors will be tested over the five events of fencing, swimming, show-jumping, pistol shooting and cross-country running with the men’s event reaching its climax on the penultimate day.
Harry added: “I’m determined to still be involved in the latter stages. My aim is to qualify for the individual final, which would be a massive achievement for me. Hopefully it will be a springboard for me to claim a qualifying spot for the Junior World Championship and the Youth World Championship teams.
“I also want to just gain as much experience as I can from the competition, soaking up the atmosphere while learning from my fellow competitors and coaches.”
Mat Dewey, Hartpury’s programme manager for Modern Pentathlon, said: “Harry's selection is a credit to him and the hard work he has put in. He will gain vital experience competing in an age group two years above his own, further cementing his position as one of the top youth athletes in the country. The competition will be tough but I’m sure he will rise to the challenge.”