Czech David Svoboda takes gold

LONDON -- Great start, better finish.

David Svoboda of the Czech Republic won the modern pentathlon Saturday at the London Games after matching the Olympic record in the fencing event to open the competition.

Svoboda, who won the European championship two years ago, led by just one second going into the final event, a combination of running and shooting. He briefly lost the lead after his main rival, Cao Zhongrong of China, was quicker to hit the five targets.

Svoboda, however, regained the lead in the running part of the event, throwing his arms in the air to celebrate long before crossing the line.

He finished with 5,928 points to beat silver medalist Cao by 24 points. Adam Marosi of Hungary, the 2009 world champion, won bronze with 5,836 points.

"In Beijing, I was fighting for the gold medal, but it all ended in disappointment," said Svoboda, who started as the favorite at the 2008 Olympics but finished 28th. "So I decided to fight for gold again."

Cao said he was "quite happy" with his performance after earning China's first medal in the event.

"To show your strength on the Olympic grandstand, that's great," Cao said through an interpreter.

World champion Aleksander Lesun went into the final event in third place, but needed 10 shots to hit his five targets in his first shooting round. He lost too much time there to keep up with Svoboda and Cao, and finished fourth.

Two-time defending champion Andrei Moiseev of Russia lost his chance at another gold, falling to sixth going into the final event and finishing seventh.

Svoboda matched the Olympic record in fencing by winning 26 of his 35 bouts. He equaled the mark set by Moiseev on his way to the gold at the 2008 Beijing Games.

In the swimming event, Amro El Geziry of Egypt set an Olympic record by winning the 200-meter freestyle in 1 minute, 55.70.

Three athletes managed to score the maximum 1,200 points in the riding event -- Italy's Riccardo de Luca, Hungary's Robert Kasza and his compatriot Marosi.

Athletes were awarded points based on their performance in the each of the first three disciplines. The points were then converted into a time handicap for the concluding combined event of running and shooting.

It was the first Olympics held under the sport's new format, which combines the previously separated running and shooting disciplines, basically reducing the pentathlon to four events.

Also new was the use of laser technology for the shooting, replacing a pellet pistol.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, introduced the modern pentathlon for the 1912 Stockholm Games. The premise of the competition is that of a soldier behind enemy lines, who must duel, swim, ride, run and shoot to survive.