Modern Pentathlon: Allenby proves she can surpass the bronze age

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The Independent Online

Britain's Action Women turned in a five-star performance in yesterday's modern pentathlon international at Bath University and can now look optimistically towards Athens with the glint of gold in their eyes.

Britain's Action Women turned in a five-star performance in yesterday's modern pentathlon international at Bath University and can now look optimistically towards Athens with the glint of gold in their eyes. Their rivalry will be intense, for Kate Allenby turned the tables on Hungary's Szuzsa Voros, who pipped her for the gold medal at the World Championship in Moscow, to win with a storming finish.

Her Bath colleague and Olympic team-mate Georgina Harland was third and Jo Clarke, who travels as a reserve to Athens, fourth. No wonder team manager Dominic Mahoney pronounced himself "very satisfied - almost a perfect day". But he warned that yesterday's results should not be taken as a definite form guide even though Allenby, Harland and Clarke excelled among the 13 thoroughly modern British pentathletes taking on the rest of the world at the University's Sports Village. However it seems that either Allenby or Harland could be belles of the Olympic ball where British success is likely to be fashioned by a woman's touch.

Allenby, a bronze medallist in Sydney behind Britain's now-retired Dr Stephanie Cook, is running into form at just the right time. She brilliantly held off Voros over the 3km run on a maze-like course designed to replicate the twists and turns of Athens. She was helped along the way by some friendly pace-making from American Mickey Kelly. "Micky tugged me along and gave me a gee-up when I needed it most," said Allenby. "I suppose it was a way of repaying me as she had been staying at my home for the past few days." She began the run with a six-second advantage over the Hungarian after an unblemished showjumping round. The horses are drawn by lots. "I was lucky because I had a very genuine horse who tried his heart out."

Harland, the current European champion and World Cup winner, was also happy with her work after making up some 30 seconds on the run and recording her best ever swim. "I didn't want to over stretch myself and risk injury," she said. "I was content to treat this more as a stepping-stone towards Athens." As with so many competitors in the so-called minor sports the British girls had to do their thing on a shoestring.

The event took place in Bath because plans for a full-blooded international in London's Greenwich Park had to be abandoned when the hoped-for funding was not forthcoming. A pity because the occasion might have provided a fillip for London 2012, and shown the capital's eagerness to promote real Olympic dreams and not just pander to the pipe-dreams of Bernie Ecclestone.

Instead the day was reduced to a women-only competition featuring 26 athletes from 11 nations. Greenwich could have accommodated twice that number. While attractive, it was something of a sideshow, sandwiched between the South-West Youth Games and Sport Relief events.

"Without funding we obviously had to cut our cloth," said Mahoney. "But we were determined to go ahead because it provided a vital training exercise before Athens." Ten Olympians were among those exercising minds and muscles in a quintet of disciplines from pistols at dawn, via fencing, swimming and riding, to the gruelling final run as a rain-drenched dusk crept over the Mendips cheered on by Cook, who rounded off the splendour of Sydney with Britain's 11th gold medal of those Games.

Harland, 26, popularly known as "George", has emerged since Sydney, where she was a reserve, as arguably Britain's supreme all-round sportswoman, though demonstrating the fact proved a tough assignment with 30-year-old Allenby determined to emphasise her seniority.

After the first two events, shooting and fencing, Harland trailed in 10th place with Allenby leading the field from Voros. But a magnificent 200m swim in a personal best time of 2min 13.76sec hauled her into fourth, Voros nudging ahead of Allenby with a narrow four-point lead. Although one senses that George's best is yet to come in Athens, a clear showjumping round for Allenby put her in pole position for the run, an advantage she accepted to clinch overall victory.