USA (WC1), Italy (WC2), Hungary (WC3) and China (WC4) hosted the World Cup competitions in 2011. World Cup #2 was supposed to happen in Cairo, Egypt, but was cancelled due to security concerns.
USA hosted a World Cup after eleven years of absence.
Pentathletes were lucky to visit some beautiful landscapes in three continents: the desert and the Rocky Mountains in California, USA; the Mediterranean Sea in Sassari, Sardinia, Italy; the classical architecture and the Danube river in Budapest, Hungary; and the Qionglai Range in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. The venues were also another attraction themselves; Rancho Mirage, in California, was a nice surprise for many pentathletes who haven't been to the famous training center as were the spectacular Chinese facilities for those who missed last year's World Championships. The new Olympic installations of London will crown this World Cup season with the top pentathletes performing in this World Cup Final, which is also an Olympic Test Event.
A great number of competitors and participating countries made the World Cup season. World Cup #2 featured 86 pentathletes in the women's field, while the men's record was of 104 competitors in WC#4. The World Cup Standings show the rise of the sport worldwide as all continents are represented and in the men's standings there is no country with more than 3 pentathletes among the top36 – despite the good display of the traditional teams.
Pentathletes from all ages contested as usual. Some are competing in both junior and senior levels and made their début at this stage this year and are already making the World Cup Final, many of them dreaming of an Olympic appearance at an early age. On the other side veterans keep showing their good form and experience, dreaming of a final Olympic appearance – but a good result may encourage them to try to make to 2016 Olympic Games.
Current Junior Ranking leaders, Bence Demeter and Freyja Prentice, won medals in 2011 World Cups. Annika Schleu (ranked #3) is another junior who grabbed a medal in a World Cup (WC4). Sarolta Kovacs (ranked #2) impressed by clocking the best time of swimming at WC1 and by winning the fencing event at WC4; Remigiusz Golis and James Cooke, ranked #2 and #3 respectively, are also used to topping the swimming events in World Cups.
Former World Cup winners like Jean-Maxence Berrou and Laura Asadauskaite (also former #1 in the world) who missed the 2010 World Cup events are back this year and have shown very good form.
USA WC1 introduced the laser pistol to Modern pentathlon competitions.
Adam Marosi collected 5924 points on his way to the title in WC2 (Italy), the top score among the men. Aya Medany was the top scorer of the season with 5452 points in WC3 (Hungary). While Marosi's win was the most comfortable lead of the season, Medany was the winner who faced the closest rivals in the women's field. Those who also were the first to cross the finish line are Pavlo Tymoschenko (5740) and Amelie Caze (5284) in WC1; Donata Rimsaite (5388) in WC2; David Svoboda (5824) in WC3; Choon-huan Lee (5780) and Khuraskina (5420) in WC4.
Amelie Caze took the early lead twice by winning the fencing event, in WC1 and WC3 (in the last she was tied with Schoneborn). The most solid fencing performances of the year were worthy of 1048 points, notched by Justinas Kinderis (WC2), Caze (WC1) and Sarolta Kovacs (WC4). In the men's field, the other top performances were from Michal Michalik (WC1 – 952 points), David Svoboda and Denis Cerkovskis (WC3 – 952 points) and Aleksander Lesun and Pavlo Kirpulyanskyy (WC4 – 976 points). In the women's field we also had Aya Medany winning the fencing at WC2 (1024 points). By analyzing the points distribution, the most competitive fields were WC4 for men and WC3 for women, while those that looked more one-sided were WC2 for men and WC4 for women.
Remigiusz Golis and James Cooke were the fastest swimmers of the season, with both winning the swimming competition twice. Cooke and Golis faced each other at WC1 (Cooke won) and WC3 (Golis prevailed this time). Golis was the fastest in WC2 (Italy) – clocking the fastest time of the year (1:52.64) - and Cooke was the fastest in WC4 (China). Cooke's teammate, Nicolas Woodbridge, regularly swims under 2 minutes and we can expect a thrilling competition in the swimming. The fastest swim of the year was at the Italian World Cup, with 9 pentathletes smashing the 200 metres distance under 2 minutes in the men's field and 13 pentathletes finishing under 2:15.00 in the women's field. Leila Gyenesei dominated the pools this year, by clocking the best time of the day twice (WC2 and WC4) and the best time of the year (2:05.66 in Italy). Gyenesei will face strong competition as she was beaten at home by French Elodie Clouvel and by her countrywoman Sarolta Kovacs, who was also the fastest at WC1. Except for WC3, all swimming competitions were indoors.
The riding competition can be tricky. The pentathlete's skills sure play the most important role, since the horses are leveled and the riding course and weather conditions are the same, but luck can play a small part. Anyway, an unfortunate ride can ruin a pentathlete's chances of podium, making him/her dropping badly in the standings. The UIPM training camps helped some pentathletes to improve their performance and confidence in this discipline. This year the most difficult and challenging course for the pentathletes was in WC1; in the other hand, WC3 witnessed pentathletes really missing very few points. Margaux Isaksen, Leila Gyenesei, Choon-huan Lee, Dong-hun Nam and Bartosz Majewski managed twice to score inside the top 1200 points, while Donna Vakalis was the only flawless ride of the women's competition in WC1.
The combined event was introduced in 2009 and this year a technologic change was added to the format, with the introduction of the laser pistol. The current UIPM New Balance World Ranking leader, Pavlo Tymoschenko, mastered this twice in the final discipline, which made him achieve gold in WC1 and silver in WC3. Tymoshchenko clocked the best time of the year at WC3, with an amazing time of 10:20.26. Ekaterina Khuraskina was another winner of a World Cup helped by a stunning performance in the combined event, claiming gold in Chengdu with the best time of the day. The best performances of the year, however, belong to Freyja Prentice (WC3) and Anastasiya Prokopenko (WC2, where she finished in 2nd place) who ran and shot right below 11:26.00. Other top performances were of Joanna Gomolinksa (WC1), Dong-hun Nam (WC2) and Bartosz Majewski (WC4).
This year, statistics of run and shoot were brought to the fans so the pentathletes' performances can be presented and dissected. Shooting records were broken event after event. Michal Michalik clocked one round of shooting in 10.7 seconds in the first World Cup of the year, while Tymoshchenko made the overall in 43 seconds in the same competition. Ondrej Polivka broke the overall record at WC2 (37.10 seconds) and the one round shooting as well (by improving 0.4 second) and James Cooke broke Polivka's new one round record of 10.3 by 0.1 second at WC3. The women's records were broken at WC2: Eun byeol Kim with 10.7 seconds in one round and Qian Chen with 39.3 in the overall shooting. The final effort of the last run could be better acknowledged with the run and shooting table released after WC3, which revealed how the pentathletes improved their times despite all their fatigue. Now there's a perfect combination of emotion, by watching the thrilling combined event – at the venue or by livestream or videotape – and with reason, with all the data made available.
Despite all the numbers presented previously here – with all deserved mentions and probably some inexcusable omissions, like the performances at World Cup semifinals and other amazing performances in disciplines that weren't top on the day – the sport is beyond the numbers. It's not only about the physical condition of the pentathlete, since the psychological condition is important. It's not only necessary to be strong, tactics are important. The weather conditions also play an important role. And the British weather is known for being tricky...And that's part of the charm of the sport, it's as hard to predict as the weather forecast for one week. Performances are measured by appropriate methodology, but you can only feel the excitement of the sport by practicing or watching. So don't miss the action this weekend with the best pentathletes of the season in such a privileged stage like the 2012 Olympic venue.
By Eduardo Valle