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Starostin enters modern pentathlon record books

31 Jul 1980
Moscow 1980, Modern Pentathlon, USSR

The modern pentathlon is that classic Olympic event testing a competitor’s ability in rounds of shooting, swimming, fencing, riding and running.

The brainchild of Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee, it is an event traditionally stretched over five days and which throws a unique set of challenges to the field.

The event at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow was of the highest standard, with the leading 25 all passing the landmark 5,000-point barrier.

The battle for gold fell between two men; the baby-faced 20-year-old Russian Anatoly Starostin and the Hungarian athlete Tamas Szombathelyi.

Szombathelyi took an early lead after an outstanding shooting round was bettered only by Swede George Horvath, who became the first person to fire a perfect round since the 1936 Games in Berlin.

He extended his lead after a narrow victory over Starostin in the 200m freestyle swim but the Russian reversed the tables with a tight victory in the fencing.

It was in the riding that Starostin made the crucial breakthrough, garnering 72 more points than his Hungarian rival and opening up a lead that he would never relinquish.

He clocked the eight fastest time of the final running round, and started with a big enough cushion over the Hungarian to reach the line first.

At 20, he became the youngest man ever to win the Olympic title.

The combined scores of Starostin and team-mates Pavlo Lednyov and Yevgeny Lipeyev was enough to give Russia gold in the now defunct team event.

Starostin helped Russia to a team silver in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, and he finished just outside of the medals in fourth in the individual event at the age of 32.

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