In the absence of UIPM President Dr h. c. Klaus Schormann, UIPM Secretary General Shiny Fang was on hand to answer most of these questions, explaining, “The rule changes will help Modern Pentathlon. We have worked very hard to make it more attractive for spectators. The laser shooting and combined event make the time much shorter, five hours, this is what makes it very exciting”. She answered further questions on preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as well as giving her thoughts on the strength of the Chinese team.
Sitting either side of Mrs Fang were; Yang Bin, President of the China Sports Bureau; Li Yujin, Vice-President of the Chengdu Sports Bureau; Sha Ying, Chinese Equestrian Federation President and Chinese Modern Pentathlon Association (CMPA) Secretary General Jiang Guofeng. The athlete representatives were Nicholas Woodbridge from Great Britain and local star Xiaonan Zhang.
Also sat at the top table was Wang Bin, General Manager of the BlueSword Drink & Food Holding Co., Ltd. Sichuan Group, the event title sponsor. He was very enthusiastic about the competition, declaring, “Modern Pentathlon is exactly the kind of sport that our brand wants to be associated with, high end athletes for our high end products”.
When asked about his opinion on the competition, Woodbridge declared, “For a World Cup Series level event, this is one is so well organised. For us, it is great to have all the venues in one place. The athletes really enjoy coming here”.
Pentathletes from all over the world will compete from 17-21 April with valuable New Balance World Ranking up for grabs in the Chinese city. The race to reach the World Cup Series Final in Nizhny Novgorod will be hotting up with 23 nations expected to take part and 68 men and 57 women set to battle it out in the qualifying events on Wednesday and Thursday.
Hosts China will have 26 athletes competing, with all harbouring hopes of challenging for honours, none more so that Women’s World Cup #1 Palm Springs revelation and Fencing World record holder Xiaonan Zhang. With home advantage and a raucous local support, the 20-year-old will be looking to step up a level and finish on her first ever podium.
Lithuanian winning-machine and Olympic Champion Laura Asadauskaite will be the outstanding favourite amongst the women after she came second in Rio for World Cup #2, her first competition since her triumph at London 2012. Yane Marques, World Ranked No. 2, failed to shine in Brazil but after being the model of consistency in recent times, and away from the pressure of competing on home soil, she will also be gunning for gold.
In the men’s draw, the competition should be wide open. All eyes will of course be on Aleksandr Lesun, the World #1, but after struggling in Rio, the Russian could find his supremacy challenged by a very strong field. His compatriot, Sergey Karyakin, will be keen to get one over his teammate if he can qualify for the Final and get it right in the riding event. Team GB’s Woodbridge, unstoppable in the pool, will view Chengdu as his best opportunity of finishing on the podium since claiming third place at the World Cup Finals in London back in 2011. Zhongrong Cao, who finds himself in the top ten ranked men in the World, will surely be there or thereabouts come Saturday.
The French duo of Valentin Prades and Christopher Patte came third and sixth respectively in Rio so will also be keen to finish on the podium. Prades, 20, will be one to really look out for with him having shown great maturity and tremendous consistency across each discipline last month.
The Mixed Relay on Sunday will be sure to capture the imagination of the public in Chengdu with thousands expected to fill the stadia during competition.
Full competition schedule is available HERE