Joanna Muir made it a dream start to 2019 for Pentathlon GB by taking gold at the Budapest Indoor International, the opening competition of the new season. The 24-year-old, who finished as the highest placed British female at last year’s World Championships, produced a supreme display in the Hungarian capital, maintaining a place inside the top 3 throughout the day before extending her advantage with a trademark laser run.
It was a fourth individual international medal of the Scot’s career and a first since taking bronze at the same competition back in 2016. However, it was a performance that triumphed all of those with the Brit beating reigning World medallist Annika Schleu into silver and seeing off an extremely strong field which had assembled in Budapest ahead of a pivotal season in the modern pentathlon calendar.
Although the final results weren’t as eye catching, there was also significant encouragement for the remainder of the Pentathlon GB team with some impressive discipline performances undone by struggles elsewhere. That meant Jess Varley came home 18th with Zoe Davison 24th, Charlie Follett 30th and Olivia Green 31st in the first final of 2019.
Reflecting on her victory Muir commented “I’m delighted to start the season by winning a gold medal. Today I felt like everything just clicked which is an incredible thing as an athlete.
“I was a little bit disappointed with my swim in qualifying so it was nice to improve on that and get my day off to a good start. I was actually slightly in disbelief when I saw the time because it was a one second PB.”
Muir added “Fencing is something I’ve struggled with in competition but also something I’ve been working really hard on, so it was nice to see the hard work paying off today.
“I was quite nervous going into the laser run because I’d never started in first before and I also knew that I had Annika (Schleu) right behind me who’s one of the quickest laser runners in the world. However, I knew my shooting in training had been going well so I just put my confidence in that and focussed on my own drills.”
The competition starts a busy period for Britain’s modern Pentathletes and looking ahead Muir said “I can’t wait for the rest of the season. I knew the winter block of training had gone well but you never actually know where you are until you’re up against your competitors, so this result has given me a huge amount of confidence. We’ve got a huge year coming up with Olympic qualifying starting and the European Championships coming to Bath so it’s great to start the year with a victory.”
Story of the Day – Jo Muir
The women’s final started in the pool with the 200m swim, Scotland’s Muir setting the tone for the day ahead with a blistering time of 2:11.59, placing her third in the early standings. It has always been the fencing discipline which has proved to be the achilles heel of Muir, but after a strong performance in qualifying, she backed that up with one of her best ever international fences as the 24-year-old recorded 21 victories and just 12 defeats from her 33 bouts.
That moved the Brit up to second in the overall standings before another excellent discipline performance in the ride saw the National Training Centre based athlete score 294 points. That moved Muir into the lead of the competition as former leader Luca Szarka struggled.
With her favourite discipline, the laser run, to come things were looking good for Jo but reigning World silver medallist Annika Schleu was still a significant threat. There were to be no such worries though with Muir demonstrating brilliant early season form to record the third quickest laser run time, extending her advantage to 14 seconds by the line. That made it a perfect start to the 2019 for both Muir and the whole Pentathlon GB squad, maintaining the momentum that has been created by Jamie Cooke’s World Championships triumph and Jess Varley’s Under 24 European bronze at the end of last season.
Story of the Day – GB athletes
There were strong swims from all five Pentathlon GB athletes to begin the day with Stroud’s Davison (2:13.13) and Bristol’s Follett 2:16.20 both inside the top 12 of the discipline standings. Saddleworth’s Green, the youngest member of the squad in Hungary stopped the clock in 2:16.93 while Fotheringhay’s Varley, fresh off the back of a PB in qualifying, recorded a 2:18.48.
After the serene progress of the opening discipline, the fencing proved to be more of a mixed bag for the British athletes. In addition to Muir’s charge, there was also a very strong performance from University of Bath student Follett who was just one hit further back (20V 13D), whilst Varley ended the discipline with 15 victories and 18 defeats to her name. Green, who had already done extremely well to make the final on her senior modern pentathlon international debut finished with 11 victories from her 33 bouts with Davison securing 8 hits.
19-year-old Davison performed well in the ride with just a single knockdown seeing her score 293, whilst Varley picked up 274 points for her round. There was more difficulty for the other Brits though with Follett and Green both being eliminated, ruining their chances of finishing higher up the leaderboard, particularly Follett who had been situated in 7th before the third discipline.
As a result, it was a battle for the minor places in the laser run but the British contingent all performed well with Varley recording the eighth quickest laser run time as she moved up to 18th and inside the top half at the finish. Davison also made ground in the final discipline, moving up to 24th with Follett 30th at the line. There was also a fine end to Green’s senior debut as the 19-year-old moved up to 31st with a rapid run-shoot of her own.
The remainder of the women’s team will next be in action on Saturday 9th February when they all compete at the second Pentathlon GB National Ranking Competition of the year at the University of Bath.
Courtesy of Pentathlon GB