Natalya Coyle finishes in seventh after exciting modern pentathlon finale
Meath woman secures Ireland’s second top-10 finish of the day after late surge in Rio
Ireland’s Natalya Coyle after finishing in seventh on Friday night. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
No one told us the modern pentathlon could possibly be this exciting, except of course for Natalya Coyle, who in the four years since the London Olympics, had been telling anyone would who listen that she intended on being in the hunt for a medal come Rio.
And suddenly there was, going into the last of five disciplines - the 3.2km run, combined with shooting - in sixth place: it being her strongest discipline too there was every chance Coyle could close up some places, get herself onto the medal podium.
The 25 year-old from Meath gave herself every chance too, starting brilliantly, briefly moving up to fifth, only to fade a little on the final lap, finishing seventh. Still it was a brilliant performance, two places better than her ninth place finish in London, having started that race ranked 29th.
It was also Ireland’s second top-10 finish of the day, Rob Heffernan earlier finishing sixth in the 50km walk down on Rio’s Pontal beach.
There was plenty of Irish support for Coyle inside the Rio’s Deodora Stadium last night too, and for good reason: although only sitting in 12th overnight after the opening day’s discipline of fencing, she produced the perfect show jumping performance earlier in the day, one of only five competitors to earn the maximum 300 points.
Carrying that over in the running and shooting, suddenly anything was possible - as the places can and usually are shaken up. So it proved, Chloe Esposito from Australia jumping several places on the last of the four-lap race of combined running and shooting to win gold, her total of 1372 points, an Olympic record, also improving on her seventh place finish in London.
Elodie Clouvel from France also coming through snatch silver, ahead of Oktawia Nowacka from Poland, who had gone into the final discipline in front, but settling for bronze in the end, with 1349 points.
Coyle’s final total of 1325 left her just six points short of Kate French, from Britain, who took sixth. That also left the Meath women just 47 seconds behind Esposito, who was clearly elated by the manner of her victory.
It hadn’t been the easiest of four years for Coyle since London, injury and over-training effectively forcing her to start over from scratch, but the now determined Meath woman has certainly got some just reward, already coming through an exhausting round-the-world qualifying process to get this far.