Published: 12:41, 06 August 2021
| Updated: 21:32, 06 August 2021
Kent's Kate French has stormed to victory in the modern pentathlon to earn Team GB's 18th gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
The 30-year-old, from Meopham, dominated the last of five events - a 3,200-metre laser run which sees competitors stop to shoot at targets at four points - finishing 15 seconds ahead of the reigning Olympic champion.
She also had stand-out performances in the 200m freestyle swim, setting a personal best, and equestrian to lift her into fifth going into the final event.
The sport also consists of fencing and has been a staple at the Games since 1912.
French finished fifth on her Olympic debut in Brazil but has gone from strength to strength since, climbing to No.2 in the world rankings and winning gold at the World Cup final in May.
And having also won World Cup gold and silver earlier in the year in Budapest and Sofia, French feels her performances on the international stage show how far she’s come since Rio.
“I think I’ve learnt so much from competing in Rio," said University of Bath-based French before the Games.
“I think my performances since Rio have definitely improved, I think it gave me the belief that I can be competitive for medals at the highest level and the belief I can be up there.
“Going to Tokyo obviously the goal is always to be on the podium but I’ll try not to think too much about the outcome and just stick to my plan. If I do that, I think I’ll be in contention.
“I always want to get the swim over and done with, luckily it’s the first event so once that’s over I start to relax a bit more. The hardest part is maintaining your concentration and focus.
“With so many sports it’s really up and down so just maintaining the concentration and focus throughout the day and however the first, second sport has gone, putting that behind you.
“You have to be able to reset. That’s the hardest part about pentathlon, doing well in all five and getting that base. You’ve got to believe you can always pick people off in the laser run.”
French recently revealed she was considering retiring from modern pentathlon after the IOC approved an overhaul of the format for Paris 2024, turning the day-long event into a 90-minute competition.
The tinkering would see equestrian crunched into 20 minutes and the other disciplines into 15 but for the time being,.
“I’m not really thinking about the changes for Paris yet as Tokyo is obviously the usual format so I’m just focusing on my performance for Tokyo and the format as it is at the moment,” she said.
“We’ll be doing our best to give a good performance and promote the sport the best we can.”
Like so many others, French has had to wait an extra 12 months for her shot at gold-medal glory after the coronavirus pandemic added an additional year to the Olympic cycle.
But while the 2019 European silver medallist acknowledged that the postponement was far from ideal, she is confident the GB modern pentathlon team are all the stronger for it.
“I think it’s affected all athletes in different ways,” French added.
“It was obviously really hard at first, it’s been the longest time off that I’ve ever had. Even though we tried to do as much as we can, it wasn’t the same.
“But in a way I think it’s been quite good as well for our training. We had the biggest block for training with uninterrupted time for competition and things like that.
“In that sense I think it was really good and being able to train together, we have a great team vibe and I think it’s shown this season - especially with the girls coming out so strong.
“It’s been fun and I think that’s why we’ve done so well. We’ve all put in good performances and each having to prove ourselves. It’s been tough but there have been positives.”