The bird’s nest in Beijing saw Moiseev achieve living legend status in his homeland as he added the 2008 Olympic gold medal to the one he had already scooped at the 2004 Athens Games, becoming in the process only the second pentathlete in the history of the Olympics to retain their title. Equaling Sweden’s Lars Hall’s record, which had stood for over 50 years, Moiseev confirmed his status as a true modern great.
Looking back on an impressive career, the Russian boasts a haul of 9 individual gold medals, besides the two he won at the Olympic Games, with the 2011 World Championships and 2 European titles (2008 and 2011) as well as 4 World Cup gold medals in his impressive collection. He collected 17 individual medals overall, having won 6 silvers and 2 bronzes, including silver at 2001 World Cup Final in Moscow and silver and bronze at World Championships. To many of his rivals, at times he was just unbeatable. A big team player, he was integral to Russia winning many more medals in both team and relay events.
After battling back from injury following a car accident in 2009, Moiseev returned to full fitness, defying the critics which had said that his large frame would not able to cope with the rigours of not only coming back from injury but adapting to the newly installed combined event and having to deal with a hungry field of pentathletes all eager to take his crown.
Prior to 2012 London Olympic Games, Moiseev came back into his own, winning both the 2011 European and World Championships. Looking close to his peak, he was selected to the Russian squad and headed to the London Olympics as one of the favourites. With two silvers added to his medal collection in the 2012 World Cup Series, the decision by the Russian Federation to select him ahead of Ilia Frolov seemed to be vindicated. In such form, he was primed for a hat-trick of golds. In the end though, a 7th place finish in London though denied Moiseev a fairy tale end to his career.
The question of what distinguishes legends from those who are simply just very talented and successful, is not answered by measuring medals. That is not enough. Every pentathlete is a multi-tasker, able to excel in five different disciplines, as Coubertin said ‘the perfect athlete’, and Moiseev was top class. The Russian was one of the very best, but also what set him apart was his attitude, his will to perform with great confidence, never arrogant, always humble. Maybe his status was also achieved through courage, a fearless approach mixed with respect towards his peers and fellow athletes. There is no single and simple answer but one thing that cannot be denied is that Moiseev was a true gentleman and a great ambassador for the sport.
This tribute is a more of his character than his achievements. His retirement is a big loss to the sport but his legacy will live on, having inspired a whole new generation of athletes to take up the sport. Emulating his outstanding success will be almost impossible. His character on the field will be missed. Many of us fans would now like to wish him the best of luck in his next steps and in the transition from being a professional athlete to the new challenges and projects that he will embark now that he has hung up his epée, goggles, whip, pistol and running shoes. Thank you very much, master!