TOKYO, Aug.6 (Reuters) – Sharpshooter Kate French fled with the Olympic gold in the women’s pentathlon on Friday, bringing Britain back to the podium after being excluded from medals for the first times in the Rio 2016 Games.
The victory also marked the first time Great Britain had held first place since Stephanie Cook’s victory at the Sydney Games in 2000, when the women’s pentathlon became part of the Olympic program.
A medal was sweet redemption for French, who finished fifth at the Rio Games and took responsibility for ending the British medal in modern pentathlon.
“I’m so glad I got to do it, especially because I was there in Rio when we kind of broke the medal chain for British women winning Olympic medals,” French said. “I’m glad we were able to get this back on track.
“British women have been so successful in the past, it was in my head in Rio, you want that to continue.
“To be in Rio and not be on the podium, I couldn’t be happier to be on the podium at these Olympics.”
Fifth after three events, 15 seconds behind Uliana Batashova of the Russian Olympic Committee before the last laser run, French closed the deficit before reaching the shooting range for the second time, then moved away from the field for a victory undisputed 15 seconds ahead.
In the laser race, athletes complete four laps of an 800-meter circuit with four shooting laps where they must hit a target five times before returning to the course.
If the French have had a mad race for gold, 2012 Olympic champion Laura Asadauskaite’s comeback from 52 seconds to silver will be one of the great efforts of the Tokyo Games, the Lithuanian crossing ahead of 2016 world champion Sarolta Kovacs from Hungary.
“I believe I can, push, push, I say Laura, come on, come on,” Asadauskaite said. “You can, you can, I thought today is May Day, my luck.”
Modeled after the skills of the ideal soldier, pentathlon is the only sport created especially for the modern Olympics, introduced by the Games founder, Baron Pierre de Coubertin in Stockholm in 1912. It has remained relatively unchanged since.
In 1964, when the Games were last held in Tokyo, the modern pentathlon was held over five days, but this time the 200m swimming, fencing, equestrian show jumping, shooting and running were packed into an action packed afternoon at Tokyo Stadium.
Competitors score points in the first three events (swimming, fencing and show jumping), which are translated into times and decide their starting position for the final laser race.
The first athlete to cross the line wins the gold medal.
Reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Ken Ferris and John Stonestreet
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