Harland salvages medal from wreckage

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The Independent Online

Britain'S Georgina Harland salvaged a precious bronze from the wreckage of a terrible start in the modern pentathlon here yesterday. She did so with a brilliant final run reminiscent of Stephanie Cook's gold-clinching 3,000m in Sydney four years ago.

Britain'S Georgina Harland salvaged a precious bronze from the wreckage of a terrible start in the modern pentathlon here yesterday. She did so with a brilliant final run reminiscent of Stephanie Cook's gold-clinching 3,000m in Sydney four years ago.

"I am so chuffed... really, really chuffed," Harland said, revealing that her preparations have "not been fantastic at all" because of the beginnings of a stress fracture in her right leg. "But I've just had to concentrate on what I believe in," she said.

After the first four events - shooting, fencing, swimming and show-jumping - Harland was lying in 14th place in the 32-woman field. That meant she started the cross-country run with a massive 1min 31sec handicap behind the leader, Zsuzsanna Voros, and a deficit of 49 seconds to make up to reach the podium at all.

Yet the Bath-based 26-year-old, ranked No 1 in the world, seemed to relish the challenge of her favourite discipline and clocked 10min 17.31sec, the day's quickest time by a margin of more than 27 seconds. Her time was sufficient for her to overhaul 11 other athletes who started the run ahead of her.

The run has a staggered start that reflects the points positions after four events, meaning whoever crosses the line first is the overall winner. Quick though Harland's time was, it was not enough to get ahead of Voros, of Hungary, who took gold, or Jelena Rublevska of Latvia, who took silver.

Harland, who went to the Sydney Games as a reserve and watched her teammates Cook and Kate Allenby win gold and bronze, was evidently delighted to leave with any medal at all last night. She smiled through tears on the podium and then beamed with delight as he hugged and kissed friends and supporters.

"I am just really, really shocked," she said of having managed to retrieve a medal. Having gone from being one of the pre-Games favourites to gold, it seemed unlikely before the run that she would win anything at all.

"The beginning was really shaky this morning but I always know I have got that run at the end, and the swim and the ride," she said. "It's the Olympics and to get a medal is just fantastic. Just to be up there on the podium is a dream come true. On the last lap I knew it was going to be mine."

Voros, the current and twice former world champion, was never going to be caught in the run. Her advantage was so substantial that she was able to stop and collect a Hungarian flag at the side of the course before jogging to the finish.

Allenby had a less satisfying day which was almost the reverse of Harland's. She started well and even moved into the silver medal position after the swim of her career in the afternoon. But then she suffered the agony of a sluggish horse that contributed to her messing up one of her strongest events, the show-jumping, just when a podium position was in her sights.

She subsequently started the run in seventh place overall, with a 1min 1sec handicap behind Voros. She finished the race - and the event - in eighth place.

Harland's day started badly in the shooting, which is not one of her strongest disciplines at the best of times. This year particularly she has had some nervy, below-par starts with the air pistol and those jitters were magnified yesterday. Harland finished the opening event - 20 shots at a target 10m away - in 30th place of 32. She registered the single lowest score on the range, a three (out of 10) with her eighth shot.

"This morning it was all a bit rusty but in the pentathlon you never give up," she said.

"There was pressure on me to get a medal and maybe I lost it a bit in the shooting at the beginning but that's me. I like to keep everyone on tenterhooks right to the end."

Allenby, the only medallist from the inaugural women's modern pentathlon in 2000 to be back for these Games, was 19th after the shooting competition but then climbed the table after coming second in the fencing competition, her strongest event. Every competitor fights everyone else once, for a maximum of one minute, with one hit needed for a win. Allenby won 21 of her 31 bouts. Harland finished with figures of 16-15 to leave her in 26th place overall when the epees were downed.

Both Britons' fortunes looked up when the action moved to the pool, where Allenby swam her 200 metres freestyle heat in a personal best of 2min 17.41sec. That was enough to move her to second overall.

Harland's day started to come good when she clocked 2min 14.60sec in the pool, the second-fastest time of the day, to move up into 19th place.

The show-jumping, on randomly-drawn horses, went pear-shaped for Allenby as she knocked down seven fences and finish penalty-laden in 25th place in the event. Harland had a decent round, finishing sixth in the event to move to 14th overall ahead of her run.

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