Modern Pentathlete Ed Fernon's wild story out of Olympics retirement

Modern Pentathlete Ed Fernon is competing in his second Olympic Games in Tokyo Hanna Hassen/Getty Images

Rain battered down the Mongolian Steppe as Ed Fernon rode through near cyclonic conditions.

He could barely see beyond his horse, let alone the hundreds of kilometres that lay ahead. And it was only the second day of the Mongol Derby, the longest horse race in the world.

Yet the Australian pushed on because he knew the torrential conditions could work in his favour.

That mindset is what led him to conquer the 1100km Mongol Derby in 2017.

It's also what makes him an Olympian.

"I rode further than anyone had ever ridden in a single day on that particular one because I knew everyone would be concerned about that," Fernon told ESPN.

"It was quite cool, the horses weren't getting hot in situations being summer as well. I tried to use the conditions as much as I could for my benefit.

"It was an incredibly challenging event, very rewarding and a personal satisfaction. Australians have had very good luck and results in that particular race.

"We rode 28 different horse, most of which are semi-wild. And also slept under the stars. I was able to win it and break a world record at the same time, so it was an amazing experience."

The five-week trek wasn't the only challenge the modern pentathlete set himself following his intial retirement from the sport in 2015.

After finishing 27th at London 2012, Fernon decided to set aside his riding boots, sabre and pistol. And that, he thought, was that.

His family became four, with the New South Welshman becoming a father to two boys while focusing on his property development business.

But he never lost his competitive edge.

And so he climbed Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere. He embarked on another horse trek, retracing the legend of Archer from Braidwood to Melbourne to raise awareness and funds for rural mental health.

"After I competed at the London Games, I really wanted to come back as an Olympian and do something in the area of mental health," Fernon said.

"My mum suffered depression for a long period of time and I saw the impact, and also with a lot of people in the country.

"We raised $55,000 for rural depression, but most importantly we were raising awareness. It was an amazing experience and something I'll never forget."

So it didn't take much for the 33-year-old to back track on his retirement when his old coach Dean Gleeson called in mid-2019, encouraging him to try to qualify for his second Olympics.

Three months later, Fernon took out the Olympic trials in Wuhan and became the sixth Australian to officially book a ticket to Tokyo.

"I never thought I'd make a comeback. I thought that part of my life was finished," Fernon said.

"We had two boys at that stage, I think for me my priorities were my family and business.

"After a discussion with my family, it took three months to train and I had nothing to lose at that stage. I thought I'd come in, give it a crack and whatever will be will be.

"I did very well in that competition and was able to qualify for my second Olympics."

A few weeks after that event, the first cases of Covid-19 emerged in the Chinese city. Within months, Tokyo 2020 was delayed.

"Knowing I'd already qualified, it gave me another 12 months to train," he said.

"I'd been out of the sport for four years, knowing I had that extra year up my sleeve and trying to stay positive about it was important for me."

Fernon will make his long-awaited Olympics return this week, with the modern pentathlon scheduled for August 5-7 at the Musashino Forest and Tokyo Stadium.

The event is made of five disciplines; fencing, show jumping, a 200m freestyle swim and a laser run. The starting times for the last event is staggered based on scores, meaning the first athlete to cross the line is the overall winner.

The fencing ranking round will take place on Thursday afternoon, with the remaining disciplines of the men's individual to culminate on Saturday.

"I've had a lot of hard training. I was very much looking forward to my taper as we got closer... it's focusing on being able to put the best result out there," Fernon said.

"My wife is pregnant with our third child which is very exciting, it's something to look forward to when I get home."