The modern pentathlon is based on the romantic tale of an officer whose horse was brought down behind enemy lines, fighting his way out of trouble with pistol and sword, before swimming across a raging river and running cross-country to deliver a vital message to his general. Today, Team GB boasts an embarrassment of riches in the form of three women pentathletes vying for gold.
Georgina Harland is the official World No1, Kate Allenby is the 2004 World Championships runner-up and Olympic bronze medallist and Stephanie Cook is the Olympic individual gold medal winner. Within an eight-hour period, these three all-rounders will discharge 20 shots at a target 10 metres away, take on the other competitors with an epee, swim 200m freestyle, jump 12 fences on a horse drawn from a ballot and finish off with a 3,000m cross-country race before nightfall.
The schedule is a gruelling one, but Team GB is confident. “There are about six to eight women in the world who are capable of winning gold (including Hungary’s Szuza Voros, the world champion) and we have two of them”, says coach Dominic Mahoney, himself a bronze medallist in Seoul in 1988, “so it’s a pretty healthy position to be in.” Watch Kate Allenby and Georgina Harland go for gold in Athens on August 27.