What is the modern pentathlon? Who is Olympic gold medal winner Kate French?

Team GB racked up another gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. But who is Great Britain’s newest sport star and what is the sport she competes in?

An astonishing display from Team GB’s Kate French handed Great Britain their 17th gold of the Tokyo Olympics, as ‘The Ice Queen’ brought home the top prize in the modern pentathlon.

The 30-year-old athlete stunned viewers with a jaw-dropping performance which saw her starting the day in fifth heading into the final event only to produce a phenomenal showing in the laser run.

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After bursting into the lead by the close of the first lap, French went from strength to strength, smashing her targets with the laser gun and missing just two of her 22 attempts.

CHOFU, JAPAN - AUGUST 06: Gold medalist Kate French of Team Great Britain steps onto the podium during the Women's Modern Pentathlon medal ceremony on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Stadium on August 06, 2021 in Chofu, Japan. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Silver was awarded to Laura Asadauskaite who finished 15 seconds behind French. The Lithuanian was a previous champion having won gold at the London 2012 Olympics.

Her win means she becomes Britain’s second champion in the event following the success of Stephanie Cook, the first ever female Olympic champion at the Sydney Olympic games. Kate Allenby, Heather Fell, Samantha Murray and Georgina Harland have also all won Olympic medals for Team GB.

What is the modern pentathlon?

The modern pentathlon is an Olympic sport that comprises five different events.

Those events include fencing, 200 metre freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping over 15 jumps and a final combined event of pistol shooting and 3200 metre cross country running.

This final event is now referred to as the laser run. It alternates four legs of laser pistol shooting followed by an 800 metre run – for a 3200 metre in total.

The beauty of the modern pentathlon is that no race is won or lost in one individual event.

Inspired by the traditional pentathlon which was held during the ‘ancient’ Olympics – the original events were patterned on the skills needed by an ideal Greek soldier of the era, while the modern pentathlon is similarly patterned on events representing the skills needed by infantry behind enemy lines.

The foundation of the modern pentathlon has been disputed, however.

Founder of the modern Olympic games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, has claimed authorship, however Viktor Balck, President of the Organizing Committee for the 1912 Games, said that he made use of the long tradition of Swedish military multi-sports events, to create a manageable and more modern pentathlon.

Who is Kate French?

Born in Meopham near Kent, the 30-year-old is a British modern pentathlete.

She studied sports performance at the University of Bath, where she later completed her degree, and she trains at the Pentathlon GB High Performance Centre which is also located at the university.

Previously, she won silver in the 2019 European Modern Pentathlon Championships in Bath and picked up bronze at the 2019 World Modern Pentathlon Championships in Budapest.

While she has won gold medals as part of team events previously, her medal at the Toyko Olympics is her first individual gold medal, and she also broke the Olympic record at the same time.

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