As an Olympic sport – and we can say a special one, closely linked to the competition because it was idealized by Pierre de Coubertin and made its début at Stockholm 1912 Games.
The yearly competitions, like World Cup Series and World Championships, were packed in the first semester. Some spice was added since many pentathletes were looking for qualifying for the Games and a place in their teams, also building form straight to the Games, the most important competition of the year.
The year started in March at Charlotte, NC, United States, with German Lena Schoneborn and Russian Ilia Frolov winning World Cup #1 in a new venue to the sport. Within a week, World Cup #2 was hold in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the winners under the tricky tropical weather were Russian Aleksander Lesun and French Elodie Clouvel.
After a one month rest, pentathletes were again in action in Szazhalombatta, Hungary, for World Cup #3, where Italian Nicola Benedetti sprinted to victory and French Amelie Caze added another gold medal to her large collection. Rostov, in Russia, hosted the World Cup#4, and in the city of living legend Andrei Moiseev the junior Ilia Shugarov stunned the field to win the competition, while speedster Anastasia Prokopenko, from Belarus, was the champion among the women. The World Cup Final happened in Chengdu, China, where Frolov claimed his second win in the season and Lithuanian Laura Asadauskaite took her first title of the year.
Between the WC#4 and World Cup Final, Roma hosted the World Championships. Lesun confirmed his commanding form and became world champion ousting his teammate Moiseev in combined event. South Korea won the men’s relay and Jung won the bonze medal in individual competition, beaten only by the Russian pair. In the women’s competition, British Mhairi Spence was the eventual winner, former world champion Qian Chen, from China, was enough for silver and Samantha Murray was another Brit in the wall with her 3rd position. Germany was the winner of the relay competition in Italy and the Ukrainian pair of Mordasov and Buriak climbed the highest position in the mixed relay podium.
In the beginning of June UIPM and the federations announced the 72 pentathletes qualified to the Olympics. Some big names like Frolov, Fell, Cooke and Petroni were not selected by their teams as there was room for only two pentathletes in each event. Some prestigious competitions were held before the Games, like the European Championships, Open Senior Hungarian and Kremlin Cup. The Junior World Championships were held in Poland (September) and American Margaux Isaksen and French Vincent Belaud were crowned the best juniors of the year.
The Olympic Stage
After a long and winding road, 72 pentathletes finally reached the Olympic Games. Modern pentathlon is presented in the last two days of competition, which meant a nervous wait for athletes, staff and fans, with men performing before the ladies, unlike the usual schedule. Representing their countries in the most important sports competition of the world is an extra motivation and pressure for the athletes. London was a privileged stage for the show with the great facilities, big fan support and climatic and cultural atmospheres, with mild weather and concealing the tradition and the contemporary with an eye on the future, just like the sport itself, which brings legacy towards innovation.
Lithuanian Laura Asadauskaite and Czech David Svoboda were the big names of the competition by winning, respectively, the women and men events. Both countries had good performances in previous two Olympic Games in the men’s event, collected some medals but didn’t manage the gold until this year. This time their athletes finally won the first gold medal in modern pentathlon for their countries, which was a result of the individual talent and hard work but also an outcome of the collective effort. Asadauskaite arrived in London as a hot favourite due to her recent results, while Svoboda wasn’t showing the impressive form of recent years and was under the radar. The Lithuanian missed a full season due to pregnancy and taking care of her baby with two times medallist Andrejus Zadneprovskis, leaving the circuit when she was world #1, and made a fantastic comeback to the competitions; Svoboda had to deal with the disappointment of previous Olympic Games, when a nightmare ride spoiled his chances of a medal, and was looking not bothered in post-Olympic competitions, but couldn’t keep the top performances heading to the new Olympic Games.
Asadauskaite’s best event is the combined event, and topping the fencing in Olympics was a perfect start for her; if she could climb some positions in last event, by starting in first position she would be unbeatable. Svoboda needed to rely on a good fencing to keep his medal hope alive in the competition, having struggled with this discipline recently; by topping the field, the Czech showed he was back to his good form, but still would have to prove mentally tough in riding competition. The next two events, swimming and riding, went pretty well for both of them, and at the start of combined event they were the names to be beaten. For both winners, their excellence meant a smooth path to the gold with a strong performance the whole day. Asadauskaite won with a massive 13 seconds margin over home favourite Samantha Murray, while Svoboda finished 6 seconds ahead of Chinese Zongrong Cao.
Of course the Olympic competition is always place for thrill, joy and drama, so it wasn’t all smooth in the last weekend of competitions in London. The Russian men’s team, represented by world #1 Aleksander Lesun and double Olympic champion Andrei Moiseev, were the hot favourites prior to the competition and eventually finished in 4th and 7th positions, respectively. In the women’s event, some big names like the current world champion Mhairi Spence, performing in front of home crowd, defending champion Lena Schoneborn, from Germany, triple world champion Amelie Caze, from France, past Olympic medal winners, like Victoria Tereshuk (UKR) and Elena Rublevska (LAT) and Egyptian talent Aya Medany were looking for a podium place; if there weren’t enough places for all of them, in the end none of them managed a place in the podium as they were beaten by ascending athletes.
British Samantha Murray and Hungarian Adam Marosi honoured their countries’ tradition in Olympic Games. Marosi, the more experienced, won the bronze medal in men’s event, while the young Murray confirmed her rising form by clinching the silver medal in the women’s event. Brazilian Yane Marques and Chinese Zongrong Cao also didn’t come out of the blue, but will have a special place in their countries’ history books by winning the first medal ever in modern pentathlon Olympic Games for their countries and regions, Latin America and East Asia. Cao was only beaten by Svoboda and claimed the silver medal, holding off world champions Marosi, Lesun and Moiseev, while Marques managed to grab a bronze medal in a close finish, prevailing over American Isaksen and Chinese Chen.
Some other highlights were, in the men’s field, Austrian Thomas Daniel in 6th position – his country surprisingly failed to win a medal at the Games and Daniel was one of the closest to a medal position in his team; in the women’s field, Australian Chloe Esposito (7th) and Irish Natalia Coyle (9th) also impressed with a great show and made their countries proud.
Asadauskaite’s titles through the year were enough to put her back as world #1, while Lesun can celebrate not only his world championship title, but also his accomplishment of keeping the world #1 status for the third year in a row (2010, 2011 and 2012).
By Eduardo Valle