Pentathlon GB’s Joe Choong sets Olympic qualifying standard with glorious gold at World Cup Final in Tokyo

01 July 2019

Joe Choong became the first University of Bath-based athlete to set the Tokyo 2020 qualifying standard when he magnificently won Modern Pentathlon World Cup Final gold in the Olympic host city.

“To get over the line in first and claim my first senior gold medal, as well as an Olympic Qualification spot, is an absolutely amazing feeling,” said the MJ Church Ambassador after his trademark sprint finish in the run-shoot had clinched victory in the men’s individual final on Saturday.

“I was just trying to stay in contention until the last lap where I’ve backed myself all season and did it again here.

“My first shoot was good but the second and last put a bit of pressure on me. Thankfully a few others didn’t manage to hold their nerve either, so it evened itself out and meant I was still up there going into the last 800m.”

Mathematics graduate Choong, who had won two silver medals on the World Cup circuit this year, went into the run-shoot in second place behind Russia’s Aleksander Lesun having performed strongly in the fencing, swimming and riding.

It was a similar situation to Rio 2016, where Lesun went on to take the Olympic title and Choong dropped to tenth, but the Brit used all of the experience he has gained in the intervening three years to keep the leader in his sights.

There was all to play for heading into the final visit to the range, where all athletes had difficulties as the humid conditions took their toll, and Choong exited the range narrowly behind Germany’s Marvin Dogue. He then closed down his rival over the final 800m loop before surging away down the home straight to take the first senior gold medal of his career in one of the sport’s flagship events.

Behind him, good performances in the run-shoot from fellow Brits Jamie Cooke and Tom Toolis saw them cross the line 11th and 14th respectively.

The Pentathlon GB squad celebrate Joe Choong's gold at the 2019 World Cup Final in Tokyo
The Pentathlon GB squad celebrate Joe Choong’s gold at the 2019 World Cup Final in Tokyo

The women’s individual final on Friday saw Kate French produce another excellent international display as she led the Pentathlon GB team home in eighth place.

Fellow University of Bath graduate Jess Varley finished 27th on her first-ever World Cup final appearance and Francesca Summers was 34th, with neither athlete able to make up significant ground after struggling in the fencing ranking round.

Jo Muir and Sam Curry finished 12th in the mixed relay on the last day of the World Cup Final and Olympic Test event in Tokyo. The British duo struggled in the fencing hall and although that meant they were unable to replicate their gold medal winning performance from World Cup 4, they fought back well throughout the remainder of the day to earn a creditable result in the Japanese capital.

There will be more opportunities for Pentathlon GB athletes to set the Tokyo 2020 standard next month when the Modern Pentathlon European Championships take place at the University of Bath Sports Training Village. Sixteen Olympic qualifying places are up for grabs over six action-packed days of competition from August 6-11. Tickets are available now – click here for details.

Picture credit: UIPM / Nuno Goncalves

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