Kate French claimed gold and Jess Varley bronze on an incredible day for Pentathlon GB at World Cup 4 in Prague.
12 months on from 2018 World Cup 4 victory in Sofia, the venue was different but result the same for French with a supreme display seeing the Brit top the fencing discipline standings to take control of the competition. From there, she never looked back despite a host of top names trying to track her down. One of those who came closest was fellow Brit Varley, an equally impressive display seeing the 24-year-old move up the leaderboard throughout the day, culminating in a brilliant laser run which moved her into bronze and the first ever World Cup medal of her career.
Behind them, Frankie Summers culminated her own impressive 2019 World Cup season with an 18th place finish in Prague whilst Jo Muir came home 22nd, the Scot one of a number of athletes to run into difficulties in the ride, the only thing stopping her also challenging for medals.
The results continued a remarkable World Cup season for Pentathlon GB with six different athletes having now claimed individual top 6 WC finishes. For French, 5th at the Rio Olympics three years ago it was also the timeliest of returns to form with Tokyo qualifying opening in seven days and a reminder to the rest of the field from the current European silver medallist of her position as one of the top modern pentathletes in the world.
Commenting on her performance French said “The first two competitions of the season didn’t quite go to plan for me so I needed a good result. I’m super happy that I pulled everything together today, it’s been a good day all around and I’m obviously delighted to end it by taking victory.”
French added “The support has been brilliant this week. A lot of our families have come out to watch and you could hear them cheering us on in the run along with the coaches and support staff who were all around the track.”
Varley was understandably just as happy as her teammate saying “I’m absolutely over the moon with my performance today. I’ve been working for this for my whole life and I’m so excited that it’s finally happened and I’ve finished on a World Cup podium.
“This year I’ve gone from not really being anywhere to 7th at the last World Cup and now 3rdhere, so it’s all coming together at the right time.”
Varley concluded “I didn’t really think about the podium until the last run when I came out of the range in third. I had a wobbly shoot in the semi-final so I knew I had to shoot much better today and thankfully I did.”
Story of the Day
The women’s final began in the pool where all four British athletes began with strong displays. It was Dumfries’ Muir who led the way in 2:11.40 with French (2:13.12), Summers (2:18.27) and Varley (2:20.37) all in touch.
It was to be the fencing hall where the dynamic of the competition took shape, Gravesend’s French topping the discipline with 24 victories and 11 defeats in the ranking round before adding two victories in the bonus round, vaulting her to the top of the overall standings.
A best ever fence at World Cup level of 21 victories and 14 defeats saw Varley also make major ground with Summers (18 victories) and Varley (17 victories) also both well placed and inside the top 20 after the opening two disciplines in the Czech capital.
The early starters showed things were going to be tough in the riding arena and at the discipline’s conclusion, no athlete had managed a perfect clear round. However, Fotheringhay’s Varley still put in an extremely good performance to lead the Brits with a score of 290 points. French, last into the arena as the competition leader, knew the pressure was on but the 28-year-old has become accustomed to being in the limelight in recent seasons and another assured display saw her score 289 points to maintain the competition lead. Dorking’s Summers scored 282 to remain in the middle of the pack but it was Muir who was one of the athletes to lose out, unusually struggling in the riding arena as she could only score 246 points, seeing her drop down the overall standings.
Once again, French was calmness personified in the laser run, extending her advantage over those behind her throughout the 3200m course. A confident final shoot ensured there would be no dramas and the Brit eventually took victory by 14 seconds to claim her third World Cup victory in the last three seasons after wins in Cairo (2017) and Sofia (2018). In the same period, no other female athlete has recorded more than a single World Cup triumph.
Behind her, former World Champion Gulnaz Gubaydullina took silver but the battle was for bronze with a plethora of athletes in contention for the final spot on the podium. In the end, it was another Brit who came through, a rapid final shoot seeing Varley vault herself into third, a position she held to the line despite pressure from Korea’s Sunwoo Kim over the last 800m. After a best ever World Cup result of 7th last time out in Szekesfehervar, it was another major step forward for the University of Bath graduate.
Not deterred following the ride, Summers and Muir both made ground in the laser run too, with Summers crossing the line 18th and Muir 22nd.
French’s success meant athletes from four different European nations have taken women’s World Cup victories this season, a demonstration of the strength that will be on display when August’s European Championships are held at the University of Bath.
Sunday sees the men’s final taking place in Prague with Jamie Cooke, Joe Choong and Tom Toolis all in action for Pentathlon GB.
Courtesy of Pentathlon GB