Kate French to defend modern pentathlon title at Paris 2024 after 18 months out. NIC DELVES - BROUGHTON

Reigning Olympic champion Kate French is aiming to defend her modern pentathlon crown in Paris this summer as she prepares to return to competition for the first time in almost 18 months, informs the Team Bath/University of Bath.

The British from Meopham, 32, trains with Pentathlon GB at the University of Bath and has only competed twice since winning gold in record-breaking style at the postponed Tokyo Games in August 2021 and took a break from the sport in 2023 to consider her future. However,  the lure of a third Olympics proved too strong and she has returned to training refreshed, recharged and fully focused on competing at Paris 2024 - although she admits it will be a huge challenge. "I didn't want to regret not trying. I don't know what will happen this year, if I'm good enough or not, but I didn't want to watch the Games on TV," said French, who also finished fifth at Rio 2016. 

Kate French, competing in the modern pentatlon at Tokyo 2020. GETTY IMAGES
Kate French, competing in the modern pentatlon at Tokyo 2020. GETTY IMAGES

She won gold in Tokyo with an Olympic record 1,385 points, 15 more than Lithuania's Laura Asadauskaite and 17 more than Hungary's Sarolta Kovács.

"I started training at the end of August and have been building up very gradually. I'm enjoying it and I think I'm doing well so far. There have been ups and downs, as there always are, but the main thing I am trying to do this year is enjoy the journey. That is my focus and hopefully the results will come. 

"The dream is to try and defend my title, but first I have to qualify! It's going to be very, very tough. There is a lot of strength and depth in the women's programme but that has always been the challenge with the British squad, not just to qualify but to be selected. It's no different this year," the Olympic champions commented. 

French took a short break after the Tokyo Games before competing twice in the 2022 season, winning bronze at the UIPM World Cup in Turkey and finishing fifth at the European Championships in Hungary.  She won team gold at the latter event with Charlie Follett and Jo Muir, but decided to take a break in 2023, missing out on the chance to compete in a home World Championships at the University of Bath, to focus on her future. 

French was the best three years ago in Tokyo. GETTY IMAGES
French was the best three years ago in Tokyo. GETTY IMAGES

"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do after the pentathlon or if I should go to Paris, and there was everything that was going on with the pentathlon as a sport too. I just wanted to take a step back and figure it all out," she explained. 

"My coaches and I decided that I needed a break. I was an occasional fencing partner for the girls, but I wasn't training, just doing some running for fitness and enjoyment. It was really nice to have this space and I am very grateful for the continued support of UK Sport and the National Lottery in allowing me to take the time of I needed," remarked French. 

"My husband and I own a property management company in Bath. I have also done some corporate events and travelled with the younger Pentathlon GB athletes to the U17 and U19 World Championships. I kept thinking about Paris. It's a year of training, the last year of pentathlon as we currently know it, and I want to give it my all," she explained. 

With teammates Olivia Green and Kerenza Bryson having already secured Team GB's two women's Olympic quota places for Paris 2024, French's route to qualification - and the chance to put herself in the mix for one of those two spots - will come via the UIPM World Ranking list and her performances on the World Cup circuit. 

Before those all-important competitions begin in March in Cairo, Egypt, French will have an early test at the Hungarian Indoor Open in Budapest from 8-12 February.