University of Bath graduate Mhairi Spence made a stunning start to the modern pentathlon season by winning silver at the opening World Cup of the year in Palm Springs, the USA on Saturday.
The 25-year-old’s only other World Cup medal was a bronze won on home soil at Medway in April last year.
And in a terrific day for the University of Bath-based British pentathlon programme, the other three women competing in Palm Springs all secured top-10 finishes, with Katy Burke just missing out on the medals in fourth, Samantha Murray finishing seventh and Heather Fell 10th.
Spence (pictued with the bronze medal she won at Medway last year), originally from Inverness but now living and training in Bath, produced a solid performance throughout the day and ended with a strong run/shoot, holding off a late challenge from Germany’s Olympic gold medallist Lena Schoneborn.
“In the combined event I had to focus on my running as I could hear the long legs of Schoneborn behind me,” said the Coach Education and Sports Development graduate. “I was so tired, but luckily the end of the run was downhill and it gave me a bit of courage to just go for it.
“Winning silver means a lot to me. I missed out on the World Championships team last year and that made me even more determined. I trained extra hard during the winter and it has paid off.”
Spence started the day with 880 points from the fencing for joint 11th place, while Burke (16th, 832 points), Murray (22nd, 760 points) and Fell (26th, 736 points) all left themselves with plenty to do.
Murray, studying French and Politics at the University, and Burke, a Coach Education and Sports Development graduate, both shone in the pool. Murray’s time of 2:12.40 for the 200m freestyle was the third fastest, while Burke’s 2:12.74 was fourth quickest.
Spence kept up her momentum with 2:17.67, the 10th best time of the day, while Fell clocked 2:20.08. Spence dropped just 20 points from the maximum 1200 in the riding arena, with Murray adding 1140 points to her total, Burke netted 1112 from the equestrian challenge and Fell added 1100 points to her score.
Devon’s Fell excelled in the final event of the day, the combined run/shoot. Her time of 12.20.52 was the second fastest of the day and was enough to secure her a top-10 finish.
The British women all fared well in the discipline. Spence had gone into the run/shoot in fourth and 56 seconds off leader Caze. She clocked 12.30.77, the sixth best time, to finish four seconds ahead of Olympic champion Schoneborn and take the silver medal.
Burke was eighth going into the run/shoot and her 12:30.67 was fifth best, ensuring she ended the day in fourth overall, equalling her best World Cup result. Murray’s 12:40.33 was the seventh best performance of the day.
On Sunday Nick Woodbridge followed up the women’s performances by finishing seventh in the men’s final – his best result of the current Olympic cycle.
Team-mate Jamie Cooke finished 21st just days before his 20th birthday.
Pentathlon GB’s high performance centre is at the University of Bath.
World Cup 1 women’s results
Gold: Amelie Caze (FRA) – 5284 pts
Silver: Mhairi Spence (GBR) – 5208 pts
Bronze: Lena Schoneborn (GER) – 5192 pts
4th: Katy Burke (GBR) – 5152 pts
7th: Samantha Murray (GBR) – 5072 pts
10th: Heather Fell (GBR) – 4996 pts
World Cup 1 men’s results
Gold: Pavlo Tymoshchenko (UKR) – 5740 pts
Silver: Adam Marosi (HUN) – 5720 pts
Bronze: Mikalai Hayanouski (BLR) – 5596 pts
7th: Nick Woodbridge (GBR) – 5556 pts
21: Jamie Cooke (GBR) – 5396 pts
14th semi-final B: Robert Flack (GBR) – 4144 pts