Pentathlon GB’s Kate French proved that she has become one of the best Pentathletes in the world as she cruised into the Women’s World Championships final in Egypt on Friday.
On a day that caused difficulties for many athletes, including fellow British trio Sam Murray, Frankie Summers and Jo Muir who all failed to qualify, the winner of the 2017 World Cup in Cairo, enjoyed another serene day in the African sunshine as she looks to improve on a World Championships record that she admits “isn’t the best”.
Meanwhile, the Men’s final began with the fencing ranking round and another Rio Olympian, Orpington’s Joe Choong, propelled himself into contention for a strong finish with 22 victories and 13 defeats from his 35 bouts, leaving him 4th overnight. After a slow start, Romford’s Tom Toolis battled back to pick up 15 victories meaning he sits in 23rd place after the opening discipline of the Men’s final.
The main event of the day in Egypt was Women’s Qualifying with Kent’s French placed in group B alongside fellow Rio Olympian Samantha Murray. The duo started in the pool with both athletes performing well as Murray recorded a time of 2:13.17 and French 2:17.35 to leave themselves well placed after the opening discipline.
It was to be the fencing hall that proved the critical discipline of the day though with 26-year-old French building on a solid start and accelerating onto 10 victories and 5 defeats at the halfway stage. The World number 2 matched that score in her last 15 bouts to finish the discipline on 20 victories and just 10 defeats, tied fourth in the group standings.
It meant that French started the Group B laser run in 3rd place overall and she looked comfortable throughout the 3,200m course. Having led out of the final shoot, the Pentathlon GB National Training Centre based athlete was able to just cruise around the final 800m loop, crossing the line at the head of the group alongside Germany’s 2008 Olympic Champion Lena Schoneborn.
Meanwhile, 27-year-old Murray suffered a slow start to her fencing campaign and it was one from which she never recovered. Having picked up just 4 victories at the halfway stage, the former Ribble Valley Modern Pentathlon Club athlete limited the damage to finish with 11 victories and 19 defeats, meaning she sat in 20th position after the opening two disciplines. Despite a battling effort in the concluding run-shoot, the 2014 World Champion couldn’t make up enough ground, crossing the line 19th and missing out on a place in the final as third reserve.
The final two members of the British quartet, Dorking’s’ Francesca Summers and Dumfries’ Jo Muir were both placed in qualifying Group A, also starting the day in the pool. Summers recorded a solid time of 2:24.78 but Muir was about 5 seconds off her usual time with a 2:24.97 as a recent injury caused problems.
In the fencing hall, former North Kent Modern Pentathlon Club athlete Summers was around the level mark throughout, eventually finishing the discipline with 14 victories and 15 defeats. Meanwhile, former Scottish Saltires pentathlete Muir struggled once again as, despite passing fitness tests in the build-up to the event, an ankle injury sustained in training a couple of weeks ago affected her movement. The 22-year-old, who celebrates her birthday next week, eventually finished with 10 victories and 19 defeats.
It meant both British athletes faced an uphill task to qualify with Summers 20th and Muir 27th ahead of the final discipline. In difficult conditions, the British duo both gave it their all but crossed the line 22nd and 26th in the group to miss out on a place in the final 36.
The Men’s final ranking round opened proceedings today with Joe Choong and Tom Toolis both in action having qualified yesterday. The British duo enjoyed similar starts before a stunning middle third saw 22-year-old Choong propel himself towards the top of the discipline standings. The former Whitgift school student continued his fine form to the finish, eventually matching his Rio score of 22 victories and 13 defeats. In contrast, it was the middle third that proved the undoing for University of Bath graduate Toolis, but a strong finish saw the 24-year-old end with 15 victories and 20 defeats, leaving himself tied 23rd and still in contention for a strong finish.
Reflecting on his opening to the final, Choong commented “I’m pleased with my performance today as it equals my best ever fencing score at senior level with 22 victories. However, there is a long way to go with the rest of the final taking place tomorrow and it is a very tough competition with a very strong field as you’d expect for a World Championships.
“To prepare for tomorrow I am heading for a massage as my legs are tired and running on sand yesterday was a real challenge. I’ll be getting plenty of rest this afternoon and will also be supporting the girls in their semi-finals.
“I am looking forward to completing the final to tomorrow and seeing what I can do.”
Meanwhile, reflecting on his day Toolis said “Unfortunately I didn’t fence at my best today with a few things not quite going right. It was a strong field though and thankfully I had a few good hits to bring the score back at the end.
“I am disappointed but hoping my result is enough to keep me in the mix. I’m looking forward to resting before tomorrow and will give it my all for the remainder of the competition.”
Report courtesy of Pentathlon GB