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Tokyo Olympics: Kate French from Meopham wins gold in modern penathlon for Team GB


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Kate French admitted it was a dream come true as she landed gold in the modern pentathlon on Friday.

The brilliant 30-year-old from Meopham won Team GB's 18th gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Meopham's Kate French crosses the line to win gold on Friday. Picture: UPIM Media (49974477)
Meopham's Kate French crosses the line to win gold on Friday. Picture: UPIM Media (49974477)

"Winning Olympic gold has been on my mind for a long time," she said. "It has always been a dream and I cannot believe it has come true.

“I just thought I cannot believe I have done it when I crossed the line. That was all - and that it was very hot.”

Modern pentathlon is an unloved and unnatural sport which meshes together swimming, fencing, showjumping, shooting and running all in one day.

But Friday night at Tokyo Stadium was sport at its best - high stakes, high drama and an inspired champion at the top of her game.

French was flirting with the medal positions for much of the day, with a solid swim, underwhelming fence and impressive show jump - her strongest suit.

But her laser-run finale, where athletes complete four laps of an 800m circuit and stop to hit a target five times with a pistol at the end of each one, was a breath-taking display of speed and composure.

She started 15 seconds behind and finished 15 seconds in front.

Kate French takes aim in Tokyo. Picture: UPIM Media (49974495)
Kate French takes aim in Tokyo. Picture: UPIM Media (49974495)

“I really tried to stick to my plan and stay focused,” she said. “I knew I could be in contention but I tried not to think too much about getting a medal.”

Britain has a strong record in the women’s event since it was added to the Games in 2000. Steph Cook won gold in Sydney, Georgie Harland bronze in Athens, Heather Fell silver in Beijing and Sam Murray the same in London.

Rio 2016 was the first time Team GB left without a medal but the wait was worth it.

“I can’t say I remember Steph, but I know her and have met her many times. She is an inspiration in so many ways,” French added.

“And then Georgina Harland, I do remember her and meeting her. All the British women have been an inspiration to me.”

Kate French gets to the front of the field. Picture: UPIM Media (49974492)
Kate French gets to the front of the field. Picture: UPIM Media (49974492)

The manner of French’s win is also a boon for those who argue for its preservation in the Olympics.

It often ranks near the bottom when it comes to TV ratings and some believe to be outdated. But it would a challenge for anyone to watch the laser-run and not be swept up in the drama.

Athletes start in leaderboard order after a 200m swim, a winner-stays-on fencing competition and a showjumping round with a horse they are randomly drawn with 20 minutes before competing - which often leads to hilarious and disastrous results.

French, starting fifth and 15 seconds behind, was up to fourth at the end of the first pistol shoot and then steadily made her way into a slender lead at the end of the first lap.

With four athletes so close together, it looked like an all-time classic was brewing but French took it out at the front, stretching a gap on the track and consistently hit the target with the gun.

She was sensational and roared to victory after a slow start to the day. She was eighth after the swimming and fencing rounds but it’s on horseback where the game really changed.

Golden girl Kate French from Meopham with the Olympic medal. Picture: UPIM Media (49974471)
Golden girl Kate French from Meopham with the Olympic medal. Picture: UPIM Media (49974471)

She and her temporary friend Clintino went round smoothly but, demonstrating the unpredictable nature of the format, Germany’s leader Annika Schleu could not sweet-talk the badly-named Saint Boy - who was more a sinner than a saint.

They were eliminated after he refused to play ball, throwing her from first to 31st overall, her chances of gold gone up in smoke, leaving the door open for French.

“I was holding it together okay until I rang my husband, that was quite emotional,” she said. “I can’t believe I am the champion.”

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £36 million each week for good causes including elite and grassroots sport. Discover more about how playing The National Lottery supports Team GB’s athletes by visiting www.national-lottery.co.uk/tokyo2020 and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen

Read more: All the latest sports news in Kent

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