The Irish team of Sionann O’Reilly Collins and Eanna Bailey finished in 9th position in Wednesday’s mixed relay competition at the World Championships in Rome. . The team knew that fencing would be their Achilles heel and they began the day in 9th position after the first event. Fantastic swimming from both athletes saw them win the whole swim event moving them to up to 10th. Further progress in the riding event meant they started the final run/shoot event in 9th position which they maintained to the finish.
Starting in fencing, athletes fenced for two hits against the respective genders from each of the other teams in the competition. For O’Reilly Collins, this was her senior debut (aged just 17 from the Athlone Community College) and was always going to be a tough test. She faced the storm well and took hits off some far more experienced fencers. Bailey performed well to keep the team score ticking over. The pair finished with 13 victories for 640 pentathlon points and 11th position.
On to the swim and the Irish were seeded fastest in the competition. O’Reilly Collins swam a well with a 1:04.53 for the first 100 meters. Bailey changed over with a 5m gap to make up on the lead athletes which he did within the first 50meters and then sustained the lead to touch the wall in first place in an overall time of 1:58.93. Bailey’s 100 meter split was an impressive 54.21. Their efforts in the pool were rewarded with an improvement on the leaderboard to 10th position.
The show jumping was also performed in a relay format and each team drew a pair of horses for the competition. O’Reilly Collins did the first leg but had an unfortunate refusal at the first fence, determined riding from then on saw her complete the course with minimal damage to hand over to Bailey who produced a great clear round. Despite the team incurring 132 penalty points from the 1200 maximum their score of 1068 was enough to gain them another place on the leaderboard, shifting them to 9th position.
The combined/run shoot event was staggered with the overall leaders of the competition beginning and other teams following at timed intervals according to the points they accumulated from the previous three events. O’Reilly Collins led the Irish team off 2minutes and 1second behind the overall event leaders from the Czech Republic. Her first shoot was a nervy affair and she spent longer than she would have liked on the range. After completing her first one kilometre run, O’Reilly Collins lost the nerves and produced an excellent shooting performance to gain ground on athletes ahead of her.
She handed over to Bailey just ahead of the athlete in 10th position. Bailey headed to the range for his first shoot where he shot a perfect round, hitting five from five in 9.9 seconds (the fastest yet by an Irish athlete) strong running and a solid second shoot series of 14.4 seconds saw him leave the range comfortably in 9th position with the 8th placed athlete too far ahead. With the men’s individual event in mind, Bailey cruised round the final kilometre to cross the line in 9th position.