Report by Steve Ballinger
photos Phil Searle, Digitalscape
The 25-year-old from Tavistock in Devon sealed her victory with a strong cross-country run to win her first World Cup gold and her second World Cup medal.
It followed hot on the heels of Sam Weale’s bronze medal for Great Britain in the men’s final yesterday’s (Saturday) – his first World Cup medal.
“I’m ecstatic,” said a delighted Fell. “I went into the competition hoping for a top-eight finish so to win it was great.
“I had a bit of a shocker in the run in the semi-final on Friday. I felt quite heavy and I only just made it into the final, which knocked my confidence a bit,” she added. “I was excited just to be in the top 36, so to win it today is brilliant.”
Fell, who won the 2003 World Junior Championships, but then suffered a series of injuries, put together an outstanding sequence in the five modern pentathlon disciplines today, including shooting a personal best, swimming her best time of the year and completing one of only two clear rounds in the riding arena.
Jan Bartu, Pentathlon GB’s performance director, said: “Nobody could come close to Heather in the run today. It was a fantastic finish to the competition.
“She struggled a bit in the fencing, but she recovered in the second half and that was crucial for her confidence. Her swim was fantastic and she produced the best ride of the day.”
Fell produced a strong performance in the final discipline of the day – the 3k cross-country – to win gold.
She went into the run with the most points accumulated from the other four disciplines, which means she set off first on the run with a 10-second advantage over Egypt’s Aya Medany.
But Fell’s gold never looked in doubt – she led throughout the race, extending her lead it to cross the finishing line to win by 14 seconds.
Fell, who achieved the Olympic qualifying standard for Beijing 2008 by winning silver at last year’s European Championships, won her only other World Cup medal – a bronze – in Moscow in May last year.
Britain’s Georgina Harland produced another strong run at Millfield today to finish climb from 15th after four disciplines to seventh overall.
Mhairi Spence finished 15th overall, with Lindsey Weedon 20th and Katy Livingston 33rd.
Fell had taken the initiative early on, shooting 188 from a maximum possible 200 to score 1192 modern pentathlon points.
Her tally – a personal best - included five consecutive 10s from her first six shots to put her joint top of the leader board with Greece’s Donna Vakalis and Anna Arkhipenka of Belarus.
Weedon also shot well with a score of 179, including 48 from 50 for the last five shots. That netted her 1084 points for joint 13th.
Spence shot 176 for 1048 modern pentathlon points and joint 23rd, with Katy Livingston just behind her in 27th with 173 for 1012 modern pentathlon points.
Harland, Britain’s Athens 2004 Olympic bronze medallist, scored 172 – a repeat of her strong semi-final performance – for 1000 pentathlon points and joint 30th.
Spence climbed up the rankings in the second element of the modern pentathlon – the fencing. She won 20 contests and lost 15 to score 880 point, climbing to 18th place overall with 1808 points.
Weedon and Livingston went into the third discipline, the 200m swim, joint 20th. Livingston netted 832 points from her 18 wins and 17 defeats in the fencing and Weedon 760 from 15 wins and 20 defeats, putting them both on 1844 points overall.
Harland won 17 and lost 18, also, adding 808 points to her score, taking it to 1808 and 23rd position.
But Fell was still leading the British challenge in 14th on 1952, netting 760 points from her 15 victories and 20 defeats in the fencing salle.
Lithuania’s Donata Rimsaite led the way after two disciplines on 2072 points.
Fell continued her consistent series in the pool, clocking a time of 2:14.05 - almost three seconds faster than her semi-final time on Friday - to finish fourth in the fastest heat of the 200m freestyle.
That gave her 1312 points, taking her total to 3264 and pushing her up to sixth in the overall rankings with two disciplines remaining.
Spence continued her climb up the rankings too. She swam 2:17.64 for 1272 modern pentathlon points, taking her to 10th overall on 3200 points.
Livingston recorded a time of 2:18.37 for 1260 points and a total of 3104, putting her 19th overall, one place ahead of Georgina Harland, who continued her progress up the rankings with a swim of 2:16.39 – the sixth fastest time in the field. That netted her 1284 points, taking her to 3092.
Weedon’s time of 2:21.35 earned her 1224 points, putting her 23rd overall with 3068 points.
Egypt’s Aya Medany – the 2007 World Cup Final champion - led the field with 3292 points after three disciplines.
The equestrian element of the modern pentathlon can be notoriously unpredictable with riders allocated their horses by drawing lots and only having 20 minutes with their horse before going into the show jumping arena.
But that didn’t stop Fell, who produced the perfect ride to top the leader board at the end of the fourth discipline.
Fell was paired with GV, a seven-year-old chestnut mare, and produced a clear round in 67 seconds – four seconds within the allotted time, to bag 1200 modern pentathlon points. It was one of just two clear rounds in the final.
That gave her a total of 4464 points – putting her 40 points clear of Medany in second and giving her a 10-second head start over the Egyptian for the 3k run.
Harland, riding the six-year-old chestnut gelding Ozzie, had one refusal and 14 seconds worth of penalty points from the riding to accumulate 1104 modern pentathlon points, taking her total to 4196 and 15th place going into the run.
Weedon rode well too. Riding 14-year-old Cassidy, a chestnut gelding, she had just three rails down and came four seconds within the time limit to amass 1116 points and a total of 4184. That put her one place behind Harland, in 16th, going into the run.
Spence, meanwhile, dropped a place to 12th overall after having five fences down and going two seconds over the time allowed on 10-year-old bay gelding Stanley. That gave her 148 penalty points and meant she added 1052 modern pentathlon points to her haul, taking her total score to 4252 ahead of the run.
Livingston meanwhile dropped down the field to 31st after amassing 116 time penalties and 316 jumping penalties on Firkin, a 12-year-old bay mare. That gave her 768 points from the ride, raking her total to 3872.
So Britain went into the final element of the modern pentathlon, the 3k cross- country run, with four athletes in the top-20.
Fell’s time of 11:06.54 in the 3k run was enough to earn her 1056 modern pentathlon points to take her final total for the day to 5520.
Harland ran 10:43.52 for 1148 points and a total of 5344, while Spence ran 11:31.39 for a total of 5208.
Weedon clocked 11:44.46 for 904 pentathlon points and a total of 5088, while Livingston’s 12:45.57 earned her 660 points and a total of 4532.
Today’s results followed on from the success of Britain’s men in the men’s final yesterday. Sam Weale won the bronze medal – his first World Cup medal – with British team-mate Nick Woodbridge coming home in eighth.
Those results give the pair more points on the Olympic qualifying ranking points and increase their chances of a place on the team for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. A male British modern pentathlete hasn’t competed at an Olympic Games since 1996.
Women’s final positions:
Gold: HEATHER FELL (GBR) 5520 points
Silver: Aya Medany (EGY) 5464 points
Bronze: Donata Rimsaite (LTU) 5420 points
7th: GEORGINA HARLAND (GBR) 5344 points
15th: MHAIRI SPENCE (GBR) 5208 points
20th : LINDSEY WEEDON (GBR) 5088 points
33rd: KATY LIVINGSTON (GBR) points
Round three of the 2008 Modern Pentathlon World Cup was at Millfield School in Street, Somerset.
Further information on the Millfield round of the World Cup can be found at the competition website at www.pentathlongb.org/internationals/
Marks & Spencer is providing professional assistance in the delivery of the Millfield World Cup as part of the FTSE 100 - British Olympic Association Initiative.
A total of 36 men and 36 women will compete in the modern pentathlon at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Up to two athletes of each sex can compete, subject to qualification through performances at a series of pre-determined events.
Britain’s Katy Livingston and Heather Fell have already achieved the Olympic qualifying standard by virtue of top-eight finishes at last year’s European Championships. A further qualifying opportunity is at the World Championships in Hungary at the end of May.
For further information about the Millfield World Cup or the GB modern pentathlon team, members of the media can contact Steve Ballinger at Matchtight Ltd on 07765 071 683.