Samantha Murray is celebrating winning Team GB’s last medal of the London 2012 Olympic Games when she took modern pentathlon silver today (Sunday).
The 22-year-old produced a terrific all round performance to capture the fifth Olympic medal won by Britain’s pentathletes from the four Games since the sport for women made its Olympic debut in Sydney. It was Team GB’s 65th medal of the London 2012 Olympics.
Her success today followed the gold won by Steph Cook and bronze by Kate Allenby at Sydney 2000, the bronze won by Georgina Harland in Athens and the silver by Heather Fell four years ago in Beijing.
Mhairi Spence, Britain’s reigning world champion, ended today’s competition in 21st.
Murray, who combines training at the Pentathlon GB high performance centre with studying for a degree in French and Politics at the University of Bath, said: “I’m completely elated, it was such good fun today. It’s been an amazing day.
“It was an honour to compete in front of a home crowd, it was a complete dream to have them screaming for me. I was enjoying running in front of them so much I could have gone on for another 10 minutes. I’m so glad I could give something back.
“I feel humble and so very content. I’m also so happy for all the people who have stuck by me and supported me.”
“It’s really tough when you think we’ve won a medal at every Olympics Games since Sydney. You have to deal with that and cope with the pressure, but I’ve always believed in myself. You have to to perform at this level.”
And she paid tribute to the support she had received from her tutors at the University. “They’ve been really accepting of my sport, they’ve moved exams and deadlines for me.”
Murray started the day badly, losing her first seven fencing bouts in the morning. She revealed she went into the bathroom and screamed at herself – before returning to the piste and putting together a decent winning run to put her day back on track.
Spence had to cope with a difficult horse and then a target malfunction during her first shoot.
“I proved a couple of months ago at the World Championships that I’m good enough to stand on the podium, but I couldn’t do that today,” she said. “The crowd were amazing today but I’m disappointed I couldn’t put on a better show for them.
“It’s great for the sport that Samantha got an Olympic medal today, it will help to build on our legacy from the last three Olympic Games.”
Murray made an impressive comeback, after trailing badly early in the fencing. The 22-year-old was in last place seven bouts into the fencing with no wins and seven defeats.
But she produced a typically battling performance to win five bouts in a row with wins over Narumi Kurosu and Shino Yamanaka of Japan, Adrienn Toth and Sarolta Kovacs of Hungary, and Natalie Dianova of the Czech Republic.
That run was ended by Elena Rublevska of Latvia, who won the fence with 25 victories. But Murray went on to finish strongly, with further victories over Germany’s Olympic champion Lena Schoneborn and France’s three-time world champion Amelie Caze late on to end the fencing with 18 wins from 35 contests for joint 16th place and 832 points.
Spence started the better of the Brits, winning five of her opening seven bouts, including victories over Russia’s Evdokia Gretchichnikova and Ekaterina Khuraskina.
She also scored a win over Caze and ended the fencing in joint 11th place with 19 wins from 35 bouts for 856 points.
Murray stepped up her challenge with a fantastic 200m freestyle swim. Her time of 2:08.20 was only bettered by the Olympic modern pentathlon record of 2:08.11 set by Hungary’s Sarolta Kovacs.
Murray timed her swim perfectly, producing a powerful second 100m. It added 1264 points to her score to take her total to 2096 points and put her in third overall, with Adrienn Toth of Hungary leading with 2132.
Spence also swam well, finishing third in heat four with a time of 2:16.51 to add 1164 pentathlon points to her total. She goes to the ride in ninth on 2020 points.
Murray kept up her challenge in the ride at Greenwich Park. A clear round in the allowed time earns 1200 pentathlon point, a feat that was only today achieved by one athlete, Iryna Khokhlova of Ukraine.
Murray had two fences down and accumulated 20 time penalties to add 1140 pentathlon points to her score after the fence and swim. That was enough to ensure she went into the run/shoot in fourth place with 3236 points, just eight seconds off the lead.
Spence earlier had four fences down and accumulated 24 time penalties to take 1096 points from the ride, going into the run/shoot in 14th place, 38 seconds off the lead.
Lithuania’s Laura Asadauskaite and Brazil’s Yane Marques led the field, with Caze in third, two seconds behind the leading pair.
Everything looked set for a thrilling climax to the London 2012 Olympic pentathlon.
And cheered on by a huge crowd, Murray provided it. She paved herself carefully on the opening 1k run and then pressed ahead. By the final shoot, Asadauskaite had already wrapped up the gold. But Murray left the shooting range in third, just behind Marques, but soon overhauled her and then ran clear of her. She was strong enough to hold her off to win a stunning silver.
Meanwhile, University of Bath graduate Lee Merrien was the highest placed GB finisher in the men’s marathon, coming 30th with a time of 2:17.00.
He said: “I am pleased. I had a target of top 20. Given the strength and depth of the field, I felt that was achievable. I didn’t quite achieve that, but it was a strong field. I feel I justified my selection.
“The British public were absolutely phenomenal. I heard everyone talk about the atmosphere this week. I knew it was going to be good, but it was better than anticipated. My ears were ringing. No British athlete will experience anything like this again.”