UIPM 2021 Pentathlon World Cup Sofia (II): Golden Gulyas (HUN) savours first win
SOFIA, BULGARIA: April 17, 2021 – Michelle Gulyas of Hungary surged to a remarkable, rain-soaked gold medal at UIPM 2021 Pentathlon World Cup Sofia (II), making up four places in the Laser Run and winning comfortably.
The victory continued an impressive breakthrough season for the 21-year-old, who won the season-opening Hungarian Open Indoor Championships and is now fighting hard for a Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification place with the likes of Tamara Alekszejev (HUN), who finished 6th today.
The last women’s event of the regular season saw Gulyas (HUN) joined on the podium by an athlete who began competing in Modern Pentathlon a year before she was born, as well as a fellow first-time medallist.
Francesca Summers became the third woman from Great Britain to win an individual Pentathlon World Cup medal this season and it was remarkable to see her overtake the legendary Anastasiya Prokopenko of Belarus on the final lap to earn silver, with team-mate Joanna Muir (GBR) gritting her teeth to finish 4th.
Prokopenko (BLR), who became world champion in 2018 a decade after her performance at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games earned her a retrospective bronze medal, bulleted through the field in typical style to move from 16th to the podium, proving once again that age is no barrier at 36.
Mexico athletes have competed strongly this season and Mayan Oliver came home in 5th place, with Gulnaz Gubaydullina of Russia (7th) and Ilke Ozyuksel of Turkey (8th) completing the top eight.
The drama of the Laser Run caused a profound reversal of the leaderboard, as the two athletes who had started first – Adelina Ibatullina (RUS) and Xiaonan Zhang of China - finished 11th and 10th respectively.
Gubaydullina (RUS) set the standard in the pool as she does so often, timing 2:10.08 to win clearly from nearest rivals Rena Shimazu of Japan (2:13.81) and Gulyas (HUN, 2:14.09).
Two athletes stood out head and shoulders over the rest on the piste, as Ibatullina (RUS) and Zhang (CHN) each scored a remarkable 27V/8D.
Ibatullina (RUS), the 2019 world junior champion who secured a Tokyo 2020 quota place at the European Championships the same year, added two points to her overall score by winning the final bout in the Bonus Round.
Behind them, Alekszejev (HUN) moved into a strong position with 24V/11D, the same scoreline as Sunwoo Kim of Korea.
A remarkably high standard of riding was evident as 10 athletes scored the maximum 300 points, including Laser Run specialists like Prokopenko (BLR) and Ozyuksel (TUR).
Muir (GBR) moved up the leaderboard with a clean round, while Summers (GBR) dropped just two penalty points to stay just ahead of her team-mate overall. Oliver (MEX) also scored 298 to stay in contention, and Ibatullina (RUS, 293) extended her lead over Zhang (CHN, 286) to give herself a 20sec head start in Laser Run.
The first half of the race went serenely for 22-year-old Ibatullina (RUS), who shot decisively, but it was one of those days when the hunger of the chasing pack was to prove more powerful than the composure of the leaders.
With Gulyas (HUN), Muir and Summers (GBR) and Oliver (MEX) making immediate moves within the top 10, it was only a matter of time before the front-runners felt their presence, although Alekszejev (HUN) had a terrible day with her laser shooting and that opened the door somewhat wider for the chasers.
The third lap was when most of the big moves took place: Gulyas (HUN) overpowered Zhang (CHN) and soon reined in the tiring Ibatullina (RUS) to take control.
In the final lap, Prokopenko (BLR) bolted out of the range and into the silver-medal position but Summers (GBR) was quickly on her shoulder and ensured the women of Great Britain kept up their remarkable record of medal success in this Tokyo 2020 qualification journey, final winning their duel by 2sec to finish 8sec behind the champion.
Gulyas (HUN) said: “It's my first World Cup medal and I'm really happy. I tried to focus on myself and my own performance and I did my best and it worked out.
"It's been tough to have two competitions in two weeks, and I also competed in Budapest, but last week I was tense and I managed to raise my performance, so I'm really happy."
Summers (GBR) said: “I'm over the moon. I had a lot left on that last lap and I just went for it - I'm so happy. It was a day of ups and downs but that's Modern Pentathlon, and I can't tell you how happy I am right now.
"There were some tough corners on the course and it was really slippy from the Riding, but luckily I'm small and I was able to nip round them and that helped me today.
"[Prokopenko] had me in the last World Cup, she just beat me, and I got her back today so I'm really happy."
Prokopenko (BLR) said: “I'm happy because my coaches said my shooting was not good in the last two World Cups in Budapest and Sofia, and today I was very, very good at shooting and I'm happy because I just ran, ran, ran.
"Maybe I'm third because I'm old! But it's true: I've been in Modern Pentathlon for 21 years and it's hard. But I am strong and it's my life. See you at the World Cup Final!"
UIPM President’s reaction
UIPM President Dr Klaus Schormann said: “The second Pentathlon World Cup Women’s Final in Sofia in a short time took place in very difficult weather conditions with an enormous amount of rain.
“Thanks to the excellent preparation of the athletes and the excellent organisation with super horses, we really had an excellent presentation of our sport.
“We could see that the athletes are focusing first of all to be qualified for the World Cup Final in four weeks in Szekesfehervar, and I’m sure we will see the same high performance on the men’s side.
“It was a very exciting, challenging finish and we have shown again through the presentation of our sport what it means to be an Olympic sport.”
Watch and follow
UIPM 2021 Pentathlon World Cup Sofia (II) concludes tomorrow (April 18) with the Men's Final. Live streaming is available on UIPM TV, while results of all competitions are available at the UIPM website and the ‘UIPM Central’ app.
The women athletes have two remaining opportunities to qualify for the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics: the UIPM 2021 Pentathlon World Cup Final in Szekesfehervar (HUN) in May and the UIPM 2021 Pentathlon World Championships in Cairo (EGY) in June.