Chloe Esposito stormed through the closing running-shooting combined contest to win the women’s modern pentathlon gold at the Rio Olympics, giving Australia its first medal in the five-discipline event.
Esposito was seventh going into the final stage of competition, which combines a 3,200m run with pistol shooting.
She started 45 seconds behind Poland’s top-ranked Oktawia Nowacka, but missed just one target in the four lots of five shots as she worked her way to the top of the field.
Her final combined time of 12min, 10.19sec took her points total to an Olympic record of 1,372 and the gold.
Elodie Clouvel of France won silver with 1,356 points and bronze went to Nowacka with 1,349.
“I know combined is my strongest event but I just didn’t want to think about getting a medal, [thinking] ‘I’ve gotta do this, I’ve gotta do that’,” she said.
“I just thought ‘I am good at this event, I enjoy it the most, I’m gonna have fun with it’.”
Esposito, coached by her former Olympian father Daniel, who represented Australia in modern pentathlon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and was selected for the 1988 Games but missed the trip to Seoul through injury.
She was also cheered on by her brother, Max, who competes in the men’s modern pentathlon.
Sixth after swimming and fencing, she produced a solid ride in the penultimate show jumping, with two obstacle penalties and two time penalties.
She benefitted when 2012 gold medallist Laura Asadauskaite and 2008 Beijing champion Lena Schoneborn of Germany were ruled out of medal contention when their horses refused four jumps.
“I still can’t believe it. First person ever in Australia to win a medal in pentathlon, and I can’t describe it,” Esposito said.
Inspired by her father’s feats she set her sights on the Olympics, although she at first was not attracted by her father’s sport.
But with athletics, swimming and riding on her plate she decided to take a stab at the other two disciplines — although her training schedule was complicated by the fact that she trained with a different club for each.
In 2014 she moved with her father and brother to Hungary to focus on her training and the move has paid off with solid World Cup performances and, now, a gold that had her beaming on the medal podium.
“I was just thinking of all the hard training I’ve put in in the past four years,” she said. “It’s been a tough road.”