An interview with Samantha Murray

As she joins Team-i as an associate and prepares to help businesses to take on board the lessons of teamwork and development learned in elite sport, top pentathlete SAM MURRAY tells Tim Thurston about her pathway to success.

For pentathlete Sam Murray watching the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 as a 14-year-old was the moment when she knew the sporting path was what she wanted to follow.

And it was a path which took her to silver medal-winning glory at her home Olympics in London a remarkable 8 years later…with her target now set on more medals as she develops her career as one of the best athletes in the world in modern pentathlon.

Always sporty as she grew up in Clitheroe in Lancashire, Sam was already adept by the age of 12 at athletics, swimming and horse riding, three of the pentathlete disciplines. A parent who ran Clitheroe Modern Pentathlon Club then approached her Mum after reading of her exploits in the local paper. He was looking to make up a team for the national championships and enquired whether Sam would be interested in taking up the five-discipline sport.

Sam tried it out and was hooked. “I was really excited to shoot and instantly loved fencing,” she explains. “I remember competing at my first pentathlon competition just before my 13th birthday – I loved the full day and diversity of the event. It suited my energetic personality and competitive spirit.”

Clearly, she showed a talent for the five disciplines which made up the sport…but at 14 she faced some choices as to how she was going to take things forward. And it was watching those iconic Athens games which made her mind up.

“I had to choose at 14 which sport to focus on,” she reveals. “I needed to put more time into pentathlon in order to compete with the best girls in Europe. I had become part of a talent pool for aspiring pentathletes and found more of my weekends were being taken up with training camps and comeptions overseas.

“The Athens Olympics were a turning point for my focus to pentathlon. Watching the pentathlon on TV, I knew I wanted to be an Olympian and be competitive enough to be a real medal contender.”

That determination was clearly well placed as by 2010 she finished second at the GB selection trials and therefore was selected for the senior internationals. And all this aged just 20. This put her on the path to Olympic selection for the London Games in 2012, which proved to be a life-changing event for Sam. She recalls it as the best moment of her sporting career to date.

“Running that final 1km loop in the silver medal position through Greenwich Park was a life-changing and unbelievable moment that still gives me shivers as I think about it today,” she says.

It raised the bar, both in terms of her public profile and the expectations of her performance for Sam, but she takes it all in her stride and is striving to achieve further success in the sport – and to promote it the wider public. Often seen as an individual sport, Sam is keen to point out it takes a large team behind the scenes to get her ready to compete.

Now based out at the National Training Centre for Modern Pentathlon in Bath, she is surrounded by elite coaches and infrastructure to plan her development. But she still cites her Mum, Deborah Pearson, as her biggest influence: “She was always my main supporter. She drove me to all my training sessions before I could drive and always believed I could make it.”

A graduate from the University of Bath in French and Politics, Sam is as content away from her sporting environment as she is in it. And she still has that fierce determination to succeed and develop her career, despite the challenges.

“Pentathlon is a constant challenge as you must train for the physicals – the run and the swim – which is absolutely brutal. And then you must also focus on your skill development for the ride, fence and shoot.

“There is also a mental toughness and balance required to manage yourself under pressure and expectation plus a bravery and courage to go out on your own and bring it home. Pentathlon is often called the ultimate challenge.”

It appears it is a challenge Sam is up for and she will always look back on those days growing up in Lancashire with affection and she never wants to forget those roots which made her who she is.

“My ambitions now are to have a beautiful home and enjoy a happy and healthy life with those who mean the most to me,” she concludes. “I’ve always hoped to inspire people from my hometown, Clitheroe, to pursue their dreams and believe that they can achieve.”