Olympic medalist Samantha Murray ready to have fun on modern pentathlon return
London 2012 silver medalist Samantha Murray says she is ready to go out and play as she sets off on the long road back to another Olympics.
The 23-year-old returns to action in the women’s qualifiers at the Rio Modern Pentathlon World Cup today, just over seven months since she brought the curtain down on a glorious Games by winning Team GB’s 65th and final medal.
Murray also won World Championship bronze last year but says she is not feeling under any pressure to repeat those highs in the months ahead, saying Rio 2016 is already her main focus.
“We think in four-year cycles – I certainly did for London,” said Murray, who will be joined in today’s qualifiers by World Champion Mhairi Spence, Katy Burke and Kate French.
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“This year and next year will be about seeing if we can make changes and improve things – it’s about playing and having fun. I think that’s why I’m so relaxed about the competitions ahead.
“Last year, it was always ‘I want a medal, I want a medal’. I was maybe getting too stressed about winning. This year, I’m strong and a lot more experienced, so I can step back and play with what I’m doing, accept that a top-six finish is pretty good.
“At the same time, the next 18 months are a big opportunity because I won’t have lost everything I built up last year. It would be good to compete well and raise my profile, because 2015 and 2016 could be really big years for me in terms of finishing my career on a high and changing my life.”
Murray stressed that talk of a 2016 retirement is premature – “I could do a competition and it kickstarts some keen hunger to keep going” – but she is currently paying serious consideration to life after sport.
She will complete her French and Politics degree at the University of Bath this summer and, having decided not to do a Masters, is planning her post-Pentathlon career.
“I really have to start to thinking about what job I would like and getting some work experience,” said Murray.
“I was recently in Qatar for the Doha Dash and visited the British Embassy. I met the ambassador and his job seemed so interesting, he’d been in Afghanistan before that.
“He offered me some work experience and an internship. It would be really cool to do stuff like that. Ultimately, even if I retire from sport at the age of 30 I’ll still have another 30 years of work ahead of me, so it would be good to find where I feel comfortable and happy.
“My biggest challenge at the moment is finishing my course. It’s just so stressful and so hard, especially as I really want to get a 2:1.
“That would mean so much to me but it’s just difficult fitting everything in. It’s hard when you get back from a tiring training session and then have to read textbooks and write essays.”
Murray, who was back in studies within a month of London 2012, has also had to juggle the extra interest and opportunities which come from being an Olympic medalist.
“You just have to think about what is important right now,” she explained. “I was invited to a dinner at the House of Lords but it was the week before I flew out to Rio so I had to do training.
“That would have been a really nice day but it wouldn’t have helped me reach my goals for this year. I just have to hope opportunities like that come along after I’ve retired from sport or left university.”
Murray does find time to do public speaking and school visits – “I really enjoy that kind of stuff” – and also appeared in a BBC Radio 3 piano recital for Children In Need, as well as on quiz show Pointless Celebrities.
Raising her public profile is important for Murray, who still does not have a sponsor – despite her Olympic success.
“I did think I’d at least get a kit sponsor because the previous pentathletes who have medaled at Games did but it hasn’t been the case so far,” she said.
“I’m not really surprised because modern pentathlon isn’t really a household sport and there was so much British success at the Olympics.
“There were athletes who were high-profile going into London who did well there, like Jess Ennis, so they are the ones reaping the rewards after it as well and rightly so.”
Another way for Murray to stay in the spotlight is keep performing well on the global stage, starting with this week’s World Cup.
“I wasn’t originally going to Brazil but I spoke to my coach and he thought it would be better to get back into it sooner,” she added.
“The Rio Olympics is so far away but I’ve never been to that part of the world before and I can’t picture in my mind what it will be like, so it will be good to get a feel for the place.”
The women's final will take place on Friday. The British men's trio of Nick Woodbridge, Jamie Cooke and Joe Evans will be in qualifying action tomorrow, hoping to reach Saturday's final.