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Acting on the advice of her father, Laura Asadauskaité started her sporting career as a swimmer. Yet despite enjoyed plenty of success early on, she later found the going harder and harder. “I was a champion in Lithuania but I didn’t take the step up,” she explained.
“I pictured myself as an Olympic swimming champion, and I thought I could get there as quickly as the best swimmers in the world,” she added. “But I realised that I wasn’t going to make it. I’m small and I don’t have the body of a swimmer, and I only managed to get good results because I was very fit and determined. One day I just stopped improving.”
Asadauskaité then took up running, a discipline in which she would excel, to such an extent in fact that her coaches suggested she try her hand at the modern pentathlon. An insatiable trainer, she made the most of her many qualities to reach the world elite. A bronze medallist at the 2007 UIPM World Championships, she placed second in the Europeans a year later, earning selection for the Beijing Olympics, where she finished 15th.
In 2009, Asadauskaité married the now-retired Lithuanian modern pentathlete Andrejus Zadneprovskis, and had a baby daughter the following year. If there were any doubts that motherhood would cause her to lose a little of her competitive streak, she dispelled by winning another bronze at the 2011 Worlds, an achievement that led to her being named Lithuanian Sportsperson of the Year.
“I’ve always been strong,” she said after collecting the second world bronze of her career. “Being a mother hasn’t made me any weaker. In fact, I’m probably a little stronger because of it. It’s all still there. I’m still the same.”
Asadauskaité provided further proof of that in winning the European title in Sofia (BUL) in 2012, a triumph that meant she went to the London Games as the world’s No1-ranked modern pentathlete.
Making a solid start to her bid for gold in the British capital, the Lithuanian scored 23 victories in the fencing and clocked 2.18:67 in the 200m freestyle swimming event to lie fourth in the standings ahead of the show jumping.
She went clear over the jumps at Greenwich Park to move into the lead. Making the most of her abilities – not least her searing pace – in the final combined pistol shooting/cross-country running event, she cruised to the gold with a new Olympic record of 5,408 points. In topping the podium, she went one better than her husband Zadneprovskis, who won silver at Athens 2004 and bronze at Beijing 2008.
Asadauskaité built on that stunning success at the 2013 World Championships in Kaohsiung (TPE), where she started 19th in the final combined event before picking off her rivals one by one to add another title to her growing collection. Maintaining her momentum, she then teamed up with compatriot Justinas Kinderis to win the mixed relay crown at the 2014 Worlds in Warsaw.
Staying at the top, the Lithuanian took the honours at the 2015 UIPM World Cup Final in Minsk (Belarus), sealing her place at Rio 2016 in the process.
Speaking afterwards, she said: “I am very happy today. I didn’t feel 100 percent in the combined, but I’m thrilled with the win and to be going to Rio next summer. As the reigning Olympic champion, it will be an honour for me to go there and defend my title, and I can start preparing for that now.”
She began those preparations that August, at the European Championships in Bath (GBR), once again showcasing her skills in the combined shooting/running event to pip France’s Elodie Clouvel and Germany’s world No1 Lena Schöneborn to the gold medal.