Source: Pentathlon GB

French secures back-to-back podiums on journey towards Tokyo

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Kate French has continued to display her fine form and dominance on the world stage by taking Silver at the World Cup in Sofia, Bulgaria. The silver medal is an impressive result for the Brit who now boasts back-to-back World Cup medals after her incredible Gold medal winning performance in Budapest just two weeks ago.

Despite a challenging day, French was able to maintain her focus ahead of the laser run, where she put on a sensational performance to make up her 21 second handicap and move from 6th place to head of the race ahead of the final shoot. An exhilarating battle with Marie Oteiza from France, including light-for-light shooting, made for an exciting watch for the coaches and support staff permitted to attend the closed event in Sofia.

Whilst a second Gold was just out of reach, the back-to-back podium for French, is yet another example of the form she finds herself in as she moves towards Tokyo in the summer.

Speaking of her achievement, French said “I’m really pleased. It’s been quite a tough day – nothing had been easy – but I’m just really pleased with 2nd place.”

Fellow Brits, Jo Muir, Francesca Summers and Jess Varley also found success throughout the day, with all three finishing in the top 11.

Pentathlon GB’s Performance Director, Jan Bartu was incredibly pleased with all four British women’s performances

“It was another excellent performance from Kate. She showed consistency, focus and self- confidence throughout the day. To secure another podium and know we still have some room for improvement, is a great place to be ahead of our journey towards Tokyo”.

With the World Cup series providing crucial Olympic Ranking points, today’s results for Muir, Summers and Varley are another step towards the elusive hunt for quota places for Tokyo.

Tomorrow, Joe Choong, Sam Curry and Tom Toolis will compete in the Men’s finals.

Women’s final – Story of the day

The British quartet started well in the pool, amongst a high calibre group of athletes who had made the final. Varley and Summers matching their semi-final swim times of 02:20.28 (18th) and 02:23.65 (28th), whilst French (02:18.65) and Muir (02:15.12) improved theirs to finish 14th and 9th.

All four athletes also moved through the fencing with confidence too. Muir and Varley both produced 19V/16D for 13th and 14th position respectively, but it was French and Summers who really found form on the piste. Both Brits produced dominant displays of technique and guile producing final scores of 22V/13D, finishing the discipline 2nd and 3rd respectively, after French stole 3 additional points in the fencing bonus round.

Ahead of the ride, French (2nd), Summers (5th) and Muir (9th) sat in top 10 positions, with Varley – competing in her first final of 2021 – finding herself in a solid 18th.

With only a handful of athletes having gone clear, negotiating the riding course was going to prove critical ahead of the laser run and the British athletes certainly demonstrated some top calibre during their rides.

First up was Varley, who put on a beautiful display of horsemanship, carefully and calmly coaxing her horse around the course to achieve maximum points and 1st place with an elusive clear. Muir too had a successful ride, picking up just one obstacle penalty to finish 9th (293pts).

Summers and French were both put to the test as both riders found themselves being challenged early on by their horses. Despite the difficulty, neither rider looked phased and whilst both picked up penalties, they certainly did enough to minimise the damage with confident and collected riding displayed by both (French – 2 obstacles, 286, 22nd, Summers – 3 obstacles and 1 time penalty, 272, 31st).

The results in the ride had set up an interesting final combined event, with the British athletes all having work to do to if they wanted to contend for medals or top 10 positions; French (6th), Muir (8th), Varley (10th), Summers (18th).

Varley held position well throughout the race (12:36.60), holding off several challenges throughout, until teammate Summers just pushed ahead after making a remarkable dash from 18th to 10th ahead of the final shoot. Having steadily made her way up through the pack during the first few laps, Summers put on one final push to produce the 4th fastest run of the day (12:14.20) and secure herself another top 10 finish.

Muir too made up positions early and soon had her eye on a podium spot. Despite making up some fantastic shooting and determined pacing out on the course, the gap to third was just a little too much to find for the Scottish athlete, but with a time of 12:25.00 (6th fastest), a fourth- place finish was a fantastic final result.

But it was out in front where the real drama unfolders. Having started 21 seconds after the leader, Marie Oteiza (France), French’s sub-10 second shooting and determined running saw her swiftly move into 2nd place where an exhilarating battle for 1st and 2nd with Oteiza began.

The Brit moved into the lead during the penultimate run, but with the French competitor never far from her shoulder it would come down to the final shoot to determine the Gold and Silver medals. A minor pause in her final shoot, saw French lose her slight advantage over Oteiza, and with the two competitors now shooting light for light it really was a case of who would blink first.

The Frenchwoman just managed to get away from the range first, and with a clear track ahead opened the gap between herself and French in the final 300m. Whilst Gold was just out of reach for French, the Silver medal in Sofia is a well-earned result for the Brit, as she secures back-to-back World Cup medals, proving her incredible form in an important year ahead of Tokyo.

Courtesy of Pentathlon GB