Team relay finals at the Modern Pentathlon World Championships 2009 at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London, where the team relay event was run for the first time at a top-level pentathlon
Despite high expectations both the British men’s and women’s teams finished just outside the medals in the team relay finals of the Modern Pentathlon World Championships in London on Monday.
This was the first top-level championship the new team relay format had appeared at, and it made for a stunning race with heart-stopping drama.
Both teams reached the final event – the combined run/shoot – in a leading position after the fencing, swimming and horse-riding. Nick Woodbridge for the men completed his two shooting heats and two 1km runs to hand over to team colleague Samuel Weale in first place, but a difficult shooting round for Weale saw a stream of competitors led by the Czech athlete and world number one Ondrej Polivka race out of the shooting range. Weale hit the race track hard and clawed his way back up the field but it was too late to prevent Polivka from crossing the line to win, with Russia in second place and Amro El Geziry for a euphoric Egyptian team in third place. Weale followed closely across the line to finish fourth.
The same pattern was repeated in the women’s final. Having been near the top of the points table across the day the British pair of Mhari Spence and Olympic silver medallist Heather Fell finished the horse-riding in top spot. In the run/shoot Spence got off to a storming start and opened up a considerable and commanding lead to complete her two shoots and two 1km runs to hand over to Fell. The pressure was now on the world number one to deliver a victory but a poor first round of shooting saw most of the field leave the shooting range ahead of Fell, with Fell eventually timed out by the electronic scoring system for not completing the requirement of five successful hits on target within the allotted time. In a confused state she left the range with a great distance to make up. She surged ahead making up ground but had another difficult second shoot. Luci Grolichova crossed the line to complete an amazing double for the Czech Republic, with Olympic silver medallist Lena Shoenberg winning silver for Germany, followed by Poland in third. The strain of having lost the lead and any chance of a medal combined with the pressure of having competed with a heavy cold became too much for Fell who broke down emotionally at the finish line and was hurried away by team-mate Spence.
The world championships – one of three major sporting events held in London over the same weekend and which were a test of London’s ability to organize and host multiple major sporting events – came to a successful close, but with very few medals for the host nation.