August 7, 2021

By Steve Keating

TOKYO (Reuters) -Joseph Choong won the Olympic men’s modern pentathlon on Saturday to give Britain a sweep of gold medals following Kate French’s win in the women’s event.

Choong led from start to finish during the decisive laser run but needed to dig deep during the final metres to see off a challenge from Egypt’s Ahmed Elgendy who took silver.

South Korea’s Jun Woong-tae snatched the bronze on a stifling night at a sweltering Tokyo Stadium.

After a 200 metre swim, fencing and show jumping, Choong entered the final event, the laser run, with a 12-second lead and needed every bit of it to secure what was Britain’s first ever medal of any colour in the individual men’s event.

In the laser run, athletes complete four laps of an 800 metres circuit with four shooting rounds where they must hit a target five times before returning to the course.

The two golden Britons enjoyed contrasting victories.

While French had to come from fifth, eating up a 15-second deficit during the laser run to clinch her gold, Choong started with the lead and midway through the final lap was shoulder-to-shoulder with Elgendy.

With the Egyptian fighting for the lead Choong responded, digging deep into his reserves on a sweltering night at Tokyo Stadium and sprinting away during the final 100m to cross the finish line five seconds clear for an historic victory.

Modelled after the skills of the ideal soldier, modern pentathlon is the only sport created especially for the modern Olympics when it was introduced by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in Stockholm in 1912 and has remained relatively unchanged ever since.

In 1964, when the Games were last staged in Tokyo, modern pentathlon was held over five days but on Saturday the five events (200 metre swim, fencing, equestrian show jumping, shooting and running) were crammed into Tokyo Stadium for one action packed afternoon.

Competitors score points in the first three events (swimming, fencing and show jumping), which are translated into times and decide their starting position for the final laser run.

The first athlete over the line wins the gold medal.

Amro Elgeziry of the United States was quickest in the pool touching first in the 200m swim ahead of the British duo of James Cooke and Choong.

But Choong would quickly move to the top of the rankings, recording the best mark in the fencing bonus round to go 19 seconds clear of South Korea’s Jung Jin-hwa going into the notoriously fickle show jumping competition, in which pentathletes draw their horse from a hat.

Choong would only deliver the 14th best mark in the equestrian as Jung trimmed his advantage to 12 seconds going into the laser run.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Tokyo, Editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)