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25 Apr 2007
IOC News

Alexander Parygin: concentrated success

Alexander Parygin, who is 34 today, must still remember Tuesday 30 July 1996. He won Oylmpic gold in the modern pentathlon, which, for the first time in the Olympic Games, took place on a single day. We also remember Alexander very well!

Winning by the skin of his teeth
On that Tuesday in Atlanta, it was seven o’clock in the evening when Alexander Parygin, aged 23, took to the 4 km cross country course in Georgia International Horse Park. The running race was the last of the five pentathlon events. Twelve hours earlier, the Kazak athlete, just like 31 other competitors from 22 nations, had taken up the compressed air pistol and aimed 20 shots at the target 10 metres away. Then, at regular intervals, came the fencing, swimming and show jumping. Moving from one competition venue to the other was the only moment that the athletes could a break from the competition. Thanks to the good results he had obtained in the previous events, Parygin started the running race in second place, with a 15.33-second handicap. At the end of the race, he managed to catch up with the leader, Russia’s Eduard Zenovka. With a final surge, the Kazak overtook him only 10 metres from the finishing line. Surprised, Zenovka quickened his pace, but unluckily fell over. Result: Parygin won the gold medal ahead of Zenovka and Hungary’s János Martinek, the winner in Seoul in 1988.

A very significant medal
The gold medal won by Parygin was very significant for him, the country he represented, and Olympic pentathlon.
In 1996, Kazakhstan took part for the first time in the Olympic Summer Games as an independent nation. It sent 96 athletes to Atlanta (72 men and 24 women). Parygin’s success added to that of the 10 other Kazak medalists at this edition of the Games. This was Kazakhstan’s most fruitful medal harvest to date.
Modern pentathlon was introduced onto the Olympic Programme at the Games of the V Olympiad in Stockholm in 1912, under the impetus of Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Sweden and Hungary are the two nations that have won the most titles, with nine and four victories respectively in the 21 editions of the Games. Parygin’s gold enabled Kazakhstan to take its place in the closed circle of eight National Olympic Committees that have won the pentathlon (individual men’s event). For Kazakhstan, it was the only pentathlon medal ever won at the Games.
Having emigrated to Australia, Parygin had to wait until the Athens 2004 Olympic Games to take part again, as a member of his new country’s team. He did not manage to reproduce the exploit he had achieved eight years earlier, and came 27th in the Men’s individual event.

An absolute all-rounder
For Parygin, 30 July 1996 remains synonymous with Olympic victory. On this day, he completely mastered pentathlon’s five sports, which give it is demanding character. This mastery earned him the greatly coveted gold medal. Surely a pentathlete of his calibre will have no problems blowing out the 34 candles on his birthday cake!
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