After a nine-hour drive across Southern Europe, Ireland's Sive Brassil is aiming to plot a course for Tokyo as she steps up her bid for Olympic qualification over the next fortnight.
Brassil and her Irish team-mate Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe left Budapest after competing at the opening event of the UIPM 2021 Pentathlon World Cup season and drove straight to Sofia for the next two legs of the competition.
Taking place from tomorrow and 15-18 April, the two competitions in Bulgaria will have a big influence on the outcome of the UIPM Olympic World Ranking, with only two further events to follow before the rescheduled Games this summer.
Brassil, 27, finished 18th in Budapest and now sits 23rd in the Olympic rankings, with a World Cup Final and World Championships still to come after the double-header in Sofia.
In the circumstances, everything has gone largely to plan so far this season for the Galway pentathlete, and a three-strong Irish support team will be on hand in the Bulgarian capital to keep her on track.
The race to qualify for Tokyo is intense, but Brassil is feeling better about her prospects of reaching that coveted first Olympics after her first competition in 13 months.
"We had a long trip to Sofia – we drove straight from the competition in Budapest, through Serbia, for about 9 hours until we reached Sofia," said Brassil. "It has been great so far, there was a training camp on so I got to do some quality fencing sessions with some of the other nations.
"There were aspects of my competition that I was very pleased with. Unfortunately, the horse riding let me down in the final. Other than that, I had one of my best fencing results and I managed to put together strong back-to-back performances in the swim and Laser Run. It was a solid start with room to improve.
"I think the standard is always high in an Olympic year, so this year is no different. I was quite anxious before the start of the competition but it felt so good to get back into the swing of things.
"This week I’m just looking to continue my form from the first competition and hopefully have a bit more luck with the horses!"
With Natalya Coyle sitting out these two competitions having already qualified for the Olympics, Brassil returns to action tomorrow (11 April) in the women’s qualification round, with Lanigan-O’Keeffe taking part on Thursday (12 April).
Both are intent on reaching the finals and then backing up a good performance with another strong showing next week.
"It is certainly a challenge to have so many competitions in a short space of time, but I know that all the training and hard work is done so it’s about recovering as well as I can in between the competitions," said Brassil.
"I have great support out here in Sofia with my coaches, Martina McCarthy and Andrey Fedotov, helping me with my training. We’re also very lucky to have Ciara McCallion as our physio on this trip, keeping us in one piece!"