Zhong was persuaded to take up the sport at the age of eight when she was a promising swimmer.
It was good advice. On Saturday at the Natatorium, she finished 17th out of the 23 athletes left in the competition.
If swimming is now her weak spot, chasing down rivals and holding her breath long enough to shoot four lots of five targets is very much her strong spot.
Zhong coped best with an unusually bendy course while shooting in the direction of the grandstand of spectators.
As she crossed the line, her legs gave way, as did those of silver medallist Francesca Summers (GBR). Both women quickly recovered for the victory ceremony.
“This has taught me to never give up,” said Zhong, who recorded 1054 points, 10 ahead of Summers.
“This was the most important win of my life. When I was eight I was a swimmer and a coach noticed me. Now my worst [discipline] is swimming and the others are good.”
Zhong then revealed that she was attracted to the sport because of the horse-riding element, which is included when athletes move from youth to junior level.
She added: “This win is very important for my future and it is so special to win gold in China.”
The intense humidity at the end of a long day certainly affected the athletes. Summers, who is one of five sporting sisters, said: “That’s the hottest I’ve ever had to run in and I need some more practice.
“I have never had a course that was that windy. You have to go fast and then slow down for the corners and it was annoying as it built up lactic acid in my legs, but it was the same for everyone.”
Summers has had an outstanding year, winning world youth and junior team championships and taking bronze in the world youth individual.
“I’ll have to find some more room on the shelf,” she laughed.
Zhong Xiuting (right) competes in the modern pentathlon fencing competition
In a bid to make the sport more exciting, a new fencing scoring system was used for the first time in competition.
There were a few scratched heads at the format, which saw the athletes contest a ranking round on Friday August 22 followed by a knock-out competition 24 hours later.
In effect, this impacted on the better fencers, who would have had far more points under the old system.
The modern pentathlon governing body has promised to look at it for future events.
Karen Myers (GBR), International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) event director, said: “The technical committee of UIPM will be taking recommendations to the executive committee regarding the final fencing round and a decision will be made by congress in November.”
What with the fencing changes and the unusual combined course, it was hard to predict a winner. World youth champion Aurora Tognetti (ITA) could only manage tenth place, for instance.
The bronze medal was won by Anna Matthes (GER) on 1030 points.