Modern pentathlon in Nanjing: Sharp shooters win gold
Zhong Xiuting (CHN) and Aleksandr Lifanov (RUS) both kept their cool throughout the modern pentathlon competitions to earn individual gold medals, while the newly introduced mixed relay united athletes from around the world.
Fast finishing Zhong Xiuting scoops gold
China’s Zhong Xiuting finished with a strong performance at the Modern Pentathlon Field in the combined running and shooting event - the final event of the modern pentathlon in Nanjing – to overhaul her rivals and take gold.
© Xinhua/Nanjing Pool (9)
Zhong, who showed early promise as a swimmer, took up modern pentathlon aged eight. In Nanjing, she finished just 17th out of the 23 athletes in the swim, but her impressive performances in the other components underlined that she has a great future in the multi-event sport.
Zhong was by far the most consistent of the performers in the combined shoot and run, where the athletes alternated between completing laps of a winding course and showcasing their marksmanship on the range. The Chinese athlete crossed the finish line ahead of second-place athlete Francesca Summers (GBR).
“This has taught me to never give up,” said Zhong Xiuting, who scored 1,054 points overall to beat Summers by just 10 points. “This is the most important victory of my life. Until I was eight I used to swim, when a coach spotted me. Today I’m slow in the water and the others are really good.”
Zhong admitted she was attracted to the sport because of the chance to take up equestrianism, the fifth element of modern pentathlon, which is only added to competitions at senior level. “This victory is really important for my future in the sport. It’s really special to win a gold medal in China,” she added.
For her part Francesca Summers, one of five athletic sisters, said, “It was the hottest conditions I’ve ever run in and I need to train a bit more. I’ve never raced on such a windy course. You had to go quickly then slow down for the right angle bends. It was really tiring and I could feel the lactate in my legs but it was the same for everyone.”
It capped a great year for the British athlete, who also won the World Youth and Junior Team title and took bronze in the individual event at the World Youth Championships.
Tight victory for Lifanov
Aleksandr Lifanov of Russia made an incredible comeback to take the gold medal in the men’s competition. The 18-year-old attacked the combined event, which takes place after the fencing and swimming, where he started in fourth place 16 seconds behind the leader. After just 25m of running and the first shoot he was already tied in third with Gergely Regos (HUN) who set off in the lead.
From then on Lifanov made up for lost time thanks to his sharp shooting and high tempo on the run. He admitted afterwards however that early on he was a little worried about his performances. After coming third in the fencing he could only manage 16th in the 200m swim.
His poor performance in the pool may have dented his mood and confidence going into the final event but Lifanov was all smiles once again after his victory, although surprised by the way he’d managed to turn things around.
“I still don’t understand. Maybe later? I don’t know,” he said after winning the gold, standing with a Russian flag draped around his shoulders.
The Russian’s brilliant shooting was undoubtedly key to victory, as he hit every single target on the first three shoots to take the lead.
His form dipped slightly during the final shoot, where he missed three targets, but by that point his lead was big enough for that to be irrelevant. With time to spare he was able to raise his arms to celebrate his victory coming down the finishing straight.
Regos ended up with silver after winning the fencing and coming 10th in the swim, which gave him a 10 second lead going into the combined event. Although he slipped down a place, the Hungarian was also overjoyed with his result.
The bronze medal went to Dovydas Vaivada of Lithuania, who described himself as “crazy excited” to take third place. “I’ll have to clear some space on my shelves for this one,” he joked.
Mixed relays prove power of teamwork
Maria Migueis Teixeira of Portugal and Anton Kuznetsov of Ukraine won gold in the international mixed relay. The power of teamwork was evident, as all of the medallists improved hugely on their individual results.
Teixeira and Kuznetsov finished 13th and 12th respectively in the individual competitions and none of the medallists in the relay had made it onto the podium in the previous days.
Kuznetsov had barely crossed the line before his Portuguese team-mate ran over to give him a hug. “It’s fantastic. It was really special because he’s from a different country,” said Teixeira, who went on explain that the pair had used hand signals and body language to communicate.
Going into the last lap of the combined event, Kuznetsov and Mexican athlete Ricardo Tamil Vera Reyes were both still in the hunt for gold as they left the last shoot almost neck and neck.
The Mexican left the shooting range just in front but Kuznetsov quickly overtook him and maintained a lead of 10 metres right to the end. After the tight finish Vera Reyes and his partner Anna Toth (HUN) had to settle for silver.
“It’s still a good result,” said the Mexican. “We did really well in the fencing but not quite so much in the swim.”
Bronze went to Aurora Tognetti of Italy and Park Gilung of the Republic of Korea.