Laura Asadauskaitė, Lithuania’s pentathlon powerhouse
In August 2012, Lithuanian Laura Asadauskaitė underlined her all-round prowess by becoming Olympic women’s modern pentathlon champion.
Having emerged victorious from the European Championships in Sofia in July 2012, Laura Asadauskaitė (LTU) was already top of the UIPM world rankings when she went into the initial fencing portion of the individual modern pentathlon competition in London on 12 August.
Solid performances in both the Copper Box Arena, where she won 23 bouts, and the Aquatics Centre, where she posted a 200m time of 2:18.67, saw her occupy fourth place in the 36-woman field ahead of the riding event.
At Greenwich Park, the Lithuanian recorded a faultless performance to take the overall lead. During the combined running/shooting segment, she put her formidable speed to good use, winning gold and setting a new Olympic record points total of 5,408. Her husband, Andrejus Zadneprovskis, who won silver and bronze in the men’s modern pentathlon at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 respectively, was among the first to congratulate her.
Following sage advice from her father, a teenage Asadauskaitė got her first taste of competitive sport in the swimming pool, where she obtained some impressive results.
“I was Lithuanian champion, but I'd never have made it to the highest level,” she admits. “Sure, it didn't seem that way back then. I imagined myself as an Olympic champion and thought I could swim as fast as the best in the world. I later realised I would have never done it. I was tiny, I didn't have a swimmer's body, and my good results were down to excellent health and strong will. One day, the results stopped improving.”
Switch to pentathlon
Asadauskaitė then took up running, a discipline that would become her most powerful asset, and it was at this point that her coaches suggested she try her hand at the modern pentathlon. Capable of enduring long, intense training sessions, she worked her way up towards the elite echelons of the sport, finishing second at the 2008 European Championships, 15th at the 2008 Olympic Games and third at the 2009 UIPM World Championships.
After marrying Zadneprovskis in 2009, the Vilnius native took time out to have a baby, giving birth to a daughter the following year. Despite concerns she might not be able to regain her previous form, she came back strongly, winning a bronze medal at the 2011 Worlds and earning the Lithuanian Female Athlete of the Year award.
“I’ve always been strong,” she says. “Motherhood certainly didn't drain me of my strength. Perhaps it even added to it – everything’s as good as it was before.”
Subsequent to her London exploits, Asadauskaitė landed her first world title in 2013 in Kaohsiung (TPE) – a remarkable achievement given that she went into the final running/shooting event in 19th place. Another gold medal in the 2014 World Championships in Warsaw (POL) followed, this time in the mixed relay with Justinas Kinderis.
Currently sitting second in the global rankings, the reigning Olympic champion now has her sights firmly set on Rio de Janeiro 2016, where she will attempt to secure an unprecedented second successive modern pentathlon title.