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Twenty-year-old Korean Jun Woongtae topped the podium, but for Svoboda, who finished in 16th, it was not about the results. “This is all about training, testing, looking around and getting information,” said the 30-year-old, adding that he “missed virtually two seasons” because of a stress fracture in his left leg and muscle problems in his back that were difficult to diagnose and caused him psychological stress too.
Svoboda, who is serving in the Czech Army and studying PE at Prague’s Charles University, said his performance in Rio had been better than he expected. “I’m very happy, but I also know that my shape has to improve for the Olympics. My goal is to be in the top-10 again and the dream is to win a medal. I will do everything I can to be at 100 per cent and hopefully all the work will pay off on the one day of Olympic competition.”
“This is my fourth or fifth time in Rio and I really like Latin America and Brazil especially, it feels close to my soul,” he added.
Svoboda became something of a celebrity in his homeland after winning the Olympic title in 2012, and his good looks also make him something of a pin-up for his sport. “After London some people started to see me as something of a symbol, but I was only famous for a few months,” he said. “It’s not very significant for me and now it’s over. I think that smart people don’t take it very seriously.”
With the world’s best modern pentathletes in town, world no.7 Woongtae emerged from a strong field to win the men’s event. Egypt’s Omar El Geziry took silver, while London 2012 bronze medallist Adam Marosi of Hungary came in third.
Meanwhile, the women’s event took place in a dramatic tropical storm, with Italy’s Claudia Cesarini (ranked 57th in the world), maintaining her focus during the decisive shooting-riding combined finale to take gold, ahead of Germany’s world no.2 Lena Schoneborn and Russia’s world no.4 Donata Rimsaite. Home favourite Yane Marques finished ninth.