Pentathlon: All-round Samantha Murray keeps GB in the medals to the end


Greenwich Park

Samantha Murray ensured that Britain bade a medal-winning farewell to the London Olympics here last night when she won a silver in the modern pentathlon, the final event of the 2012 Games. Amid joyous scenes at Greenwich Park, surely one of the most spectacular venues at these Olympics, the 22-year-old student held off the challenge of Brazil's Yane Marques to finish second behind the gold medal winner, Lithuania's Laura Asadauskaite.

Even if Murray was unable to take Britain's final gold medal tally up to the 30 mark, she could be proud of her performance in this most demanding of sports, which involves running, swimming, showjumping, fencing and shooting.

Murray, who returned to the sport only three years ago after taking a break because of academic pressures, is studying French and Political Studies at the University of Bath, where the Pentathlon GB high-performance centre is located. She took bronze at the World Championships this year, where her fellow Briton, Mhairi Spence, who could finish only 21st yesterday, took gold.

The modern pentathlon, first included in the Olympics exactly 100 years ago, is regarded by many as the event that best embodies the spirit of the Games. The brainchild of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founding father of the modern Olympics, it is based on the 19th-century legend of a young French cavalry officer who was sent on horseback to deliver a message and had to ride, fence, shoot, swim and run during the course of his mission.

Military men won the first seven Olympic titles. In 1912 a 26-year-old American army lieutenant, George S Patton Jnr, who played a significant role in the Second World War as a general, finished fifth. He had prepared for the cross-country run with an injection of opium.

Eastern Europeans have traditionally dominated the men's competition, but Britain has a fine record in the women's event, which became an Olympic sport only 12 years ago. It clearly attracts brainy competitors. Stephanie Cook, a doctor with degrees at both Oxford and Cambridge, won in Sydney, Murray is at university and Spence has a degree in coach education and sports development.

Originally contested over several days, the event is now completed in a single day. It began yesterday with fencing at the "Copper Box" venue, with all 36 competitors facing each other in one-minute bouts, and was followed by a 200m freestyle swim at the Aquatics Centre before the finale at Greenwich Park: showjumping, then the combined running and shooting, in which the athletes ran 3,000m through Greenwich Park, stopping three times to shoot at five targets, which they have to hit before continuing.

The showjumping is arguably the biggest test. They have just 20 minutes in the warm-up arena over five practice jumps to get to know their horses. Several fell from their mounts, including Mexico's Tamara Vega, whose horse managed to jump one fence successfully while she clung to its undercarriage, having been thrown out of the saddle.

The leader after the opening three events starts the combined running and shooting first, with the rest having a one-second handicap for every four points by which they trail, ensuring that the first, second and third competitors over the line win gold, silver and bronze respectively.

Murray, 16th in the fencing, was third overall after a fine swim and looked set for a clear equestrian round until bringing down two late fences, but still went into the finale in fourth, starting 8sec behind the joint leaders, Asadauskaite and Marques.

Thanks to some sharp shooting, Murray went third midway into the finale and second after the final shoot. When the athletes re-entered the main arena for the last time Murray held a narrow advantage over Marques. Roared on by the crowd, she maintained that to take the silver behind Asadauskaite.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis