Tokyo Olympics: Kate French storms to modern pentathlon gold for Great Britain

Kate French crosses the line with arms aloft
Kate French completed the laser run in 12 minutes 15.34 seconds
Dates: 23 July-8 August Time in Tokyo: BST +8
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button and online; Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live, Sports Extra and Sounds; live text and video clips on BBC Sport website and app.

Kate French stormed away from the field with a dominant run in the final event of the modern pentathlon to earn Great Britain’s 18th gold of the Tokyo Olympics.

The 30-year-old began the laser run – a 3,200-metre run punctuated by four shooting stages – in fifth place but took the lead during the second running section and never looked back.

French finished more than 15 seconds ahead of Lithuania’s London 2012 champion Laura Asadauskaite, who surged through the field from 13th to take the silver medal.

But it was an all-round performance that delivered gold for the Briton after she set a personal best in the 200m freestyle swimming and also starred in equestrian earlier in the day.

French’s versatility was summed up in the final event where her composure and accuracy in the four laser target shoots – missing just twice from 22 attempts – gave her the breathing space needed to leave her rivals in her wake on the running sections.

“I just knew I had to focus, and I knew I could do it if I focused on my shooting and ran as fast as I could,” she told BBC Sport.

After finishing sixth in the opening fencing round on Thursday, French swam her heat in the pool in two minutes 10.18 seconds to remain in contention in eighth.

She jumped up to fifth after a dramatic showjumping round, in which competition leader Annika Schleu saw her medal hopes crumble – the German dropped from first to 31st with an incomplete round after her horse refused several fences.

French keeps proud pentathlon tradition going

Other than at Rio 2016, where French finished fifth on her Olympic debut, Great Britain have won medals in every women’s modern pentathlon since the sport was introduced to the Games in 2000.

French continued that proud record by claiming Team GB’s first gold in the event since Stephanie Cook topped the podium in that inaugural competition in Sydney 21 years ago.

Her showjumping skills established the platform for the triumph, as she went clear over each obstacle and picked up just six time penalties for a score of 294 out of 300.

The equestrian event is always the most unpredictable of the pentathlon disciplines as riders are paired with random horses just 20 minutes before the start – and a number of competitors, including the unfortunate and distraught Schleu, drew the short straw.

Kate French.
Kate French scored 294 points out of 300 in an impressive equestrian ride

French overhauled the German – who was in tears for much of her ride – as well as Ireland’s Natalya Coyle, who had sat fourth but also dropped down the standings after a heavily penalised round.

With points earned in the previous events converted into a time handicap for the laser run, French began 15 seconds behind leader Uliana Batashova but soon whittled that down.

Asadauskaite actually ran the fastest time in the final discipline to come from nowhere into silver, as Hungary’s Sarolta Kovacs took bronze, but the gap French had established was too big to be breached and she crossed the line with a beaming smile.

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