Germany's Laura Asadauskaite and Brazil's Yane Marques go into the
combined shoot and run finale of the women's modern pentathlon level
after a riding leg in which just one athlete scored maximum points.
Ukraine's Iryna Khokhlova was the only competitor out of 36 to manage
a clean run of the 12-jump circuit in Greenwich Park, while world
number one Asadauskaite toppled just one rail to put her on 3,268 points
after three events, the same as Marques.
France's Amelie Caze also knocked down just one rail, leaving her
third behind the leaders going into the final event, with Britain's
Samantha Murray in fourth.
A sport invented by Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern
Olympics, modern pentathlon involves fencing, swimming, horse-riding,
shooting and running. At the 2012 Olympics, it takes place in a single
day at three separate venues.
Under a complex scoring system, points awarded to athletes in the
fencing, swimming and riding are combined into a time handicap, meaning
that whoever is in the lead after those events gets to start the
combined running and shooting event first. The others follow in an order
determined by their score.
Whoever crosses the line first in the biathlon-style finale wins gold, making it easy and exciting for spectators to follow.
Hungary's Adrienn Toth, who had led the field after the first two
events, dropped to fifth after knocking down five rails during her ride,
and will begin the finale nine seconds behind the leaders.
Her compatriot Sarolta Kovacs, who performed poorly in the fencing
but broke the Olympic record to finish first in the swimming leg,
dropped to 33rd place after a disastrous ride in which she fell off her
horse at the penultimate jump.
Modern pentathlon is celebrating its Olympic centenary in London,
having made its debut in Stockholm in 1912. But women pentathletes have
only been competing since the Sydney Games in 2000.
Latvia's Elena Rublevska, silver medalist in Athens in 2004 and the
only woman pentathlete to have competed in all four Games since Sydney,
won the fencing with 1,000 points, having won 25 bouts and lost 10.
But she was less strong in the water and finished 16th in the riding, dropping to eighth position ahead of the finale.
Germany's Lena Schoeneborn, the defending Olympic champion, goes into
the combined shoot and run in 21st place, 59 seconds behind the
leaders, and may find it hard to claw her way back into contention for a
Derided by critics as an archaic sport not easily accessible to young
athletes around the world, modern pentathlon has introduced innovations
over the past 20 years to try to keep in touch with the times.
For London running and shooting were combined into a single event to make for a more exciting finale.
Athletes shoot at five targets and once they have hit them all, they
run 1,000 metres. They do this three times in a row. In another
innovation, they will use laser guns and electronic targets instead of
the traditional air pellet pistols.