Riccardo De Luca established himself as a favourite to take next year’s Olympic modern pentathlon title in Rio de Janeiro with a surprise victory in the men’s individual World Cup final in Minsk, Belarus.
An outstanding performance in the final combined shoot/run enabled the Italian to overhaul the three men who headed the overall World Cup men’s rankings going into the Final with just six point separating them - Pavlo Tymoshchencko of Ukraine, Ilia Frolov of Russia and Valentin Belaud of France.
After taking gold and guaranteeing his place at next summer’s Olympics, De Luca commented:
The highly-rated Tymoshchenko had to settle for silver.
"But I am also a little disappointed to miss out on the Olympic qualification as there is only one place up for grabs, but second place is better than other places.
"Riccardo is a good winner, he is strong and ran very well.
"I was hoping to make him nervous in the Shooting and make some ground up on him before the running, but once he started the final running loop I knew I wasn't going to be able to catch him."
"I am very proud of myself.
"I have worked very and I am getting better all the time and to know that I am not only the World Cup Final Winner, but I have also qualified for the Olympics is such a wonderful feeling.
"I changed some things about my approach to the Combined Event at the start of the season and now I am better and I had a good competition. I am very, very happy."
Third place and bronze went to Kazakhstan's Pavel Ilyashenko.
De Luca started as he finished by winning the opening fencing event, where he was one of four athletes with 23 wins, the others being Tymoshchenko, Frolov and Szymon Staskiewicz of Poland.
But a disappointing swim dropped the Italian out of the medal places as the two outstanding performers in the pool, Amro el Geziry of Egypt and Britain’s James Cooke produced times of 1min 56.40sec and 1:56.46 respectively for the 200 metres freestyle which saw them take joint first in the event and catapulted el Geziry up to first on the leaderboard.
It turned out to be a good Swimming round for the Britons as Cooke's countryman Joseph Evans finished third in the pool in a time of 1:59.28.
De Luca’s time of 2:09.38 left him sixth overall as Tymoshchencko moved up to the bronze nedal place with 2:08.53 and Poland's Michal Gralewski moving into the silver position after a time of 1:59.54.
El Geziry maintained his overall lead after the equestrian event, taking a 21-second start into the combined finale.
Tymoshchenko finished second in the riding, and started the Combined in silver medal position ahead of De Luca, but only by a margin of three seconds after the Italian had put himself back into contention with victory in the equestrian element.
Russia’s Frolov was just five seconds behind de Luca, followed closely by Jung Jinhwa of South Korea and Staskiewicz, setting up a dramatic finale.
The event was decided in the final moment of the combined event with De Luca pulling clear of Tymoshchenko in the final running loop to secure the gold.
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