Czech Republic military officer David Svoboda won the centenary edition of the men’s modern pentathlon in London on Saturday.
The 27-year-old Svoboda finished the concluding running and shooting phase of the grueling five-leg event clear of China’s Cao Zhongrong, with Hungary’s Adam Marosi taking the bronze medal.
“It sounds like a cliche, but that is what it was, a dream come true,” the Czech winner said.
Silver-medalist Cao said: “To be the first man to win a medal for China in the modern pentathlon, I feel extremely excited.”
Marosi describing climbing the podium as “fantastic.”
“It was a very hard day, but that is life. I was fighting all the time,” the Hungarian said.
Svoboda, leading after the opening three events — fencing, swimming and riding — took the title with a points tally of 5,928, with Cao claiming silver on 5,904 and Marosi on 5,836.
Russia’s world champion Aleksander Lesun came in fourth on 5,764.
Svoboda set off on the first of three 1,000m laps with a slender one second advantage over Cao, who hit his first batch of five targets quicker to take the lead, only for Svoboda’s strength on the final circuit to prove decisive.
The Czech athlete was adding his name to the modern pentathlon roll of honor after a competition featuring 36 athletes contesting five events spread over 11 hours at three different venues.
Celebrating its 100th birthday, this year’s edition of the sport designed by the Olympic’s founding father, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, underwent a face-lift, with for the first time the shooting and running legs combined.
In another change, laser guns replaced the traditional air pistols.
Not for the faint hearted, de Coubertin’s concept was inspired by the pentathlon at the Ancient Olympic Games, which was based on the training of a cavalry soldier behind enemy lines.
Its status as an Olympic event has been under threat recently, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) twice voting for its exclusion in 2002 and 2005, arguing that the sport is not truly global, is costly to stage and that it generates little media interest.
However, Svoboda had among other IOC members Britain’s Princess Anne and Prince Albert of Monaco to thank for voting to keep a sport described as the one that most accurately conveys the ideals of Olympism on the menu.
Svoboda had led after the opening fencing contest, with an Olympic record, only to be relegated into second by Cao after the swimming at the Aquatics Centre, but he regained the summit after the show jumping and went on to claim his country’s first ever modern pentathlon title in style in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Greenwich Park.
While Svoboda celebrated, there was disappointment for seventh-placed Russian Andrei Moiseev, seeking to add to his titles in Beijing and Athens, but whose bid for a third straight gold was scuppered with a lackluster performance in the pool.