Mhairi Spence wins bronze at Pentathlon World Cup event
Modern Pentathlon World Cup highlights
By Ollie Williams
BBC Sport in Medway Park
Scottish pentathlete Mhairi Spence produced a confident all-round display to come third in the latest leg of the Modern Pentathlon World Cup in Kent.
Spence led after the fencing, produced a strong swim, suffered just one fault in the jumping but slipped back in the run-shoot as France's Amelie Caze won.
"A podium was more than I expected but at the back of my mind I knew I could do it," she told BBC Sport.
Lithuania's Donata Rimsaite took silver while Britain's Katy Burke came fourth.
Bronze for Spence caps a week of encouraging performances from GB's female pentathletes, after a record eight British women reached Sunday's final, and suggests the British team are in line to challenge for a fourth successive Olympic medal in the women's event at London 2012.
"I know I'm in good shape," added Spence, who had never previously won a World Cup medal. "I've been training well and I just wanted to have a decent competition, because I was struggling a little with my motivation after last season."
I was quite happy with a podium finish
Of the seven other Britons, younger duo Burke and Samantha Murray both impressed to finish fourth and seventh respectively.
Heather Fell, who took Olympic silver behind Germany's Lena Schoneborn in Beijing two years ago, struggled in Sunday's first event, the fence, and eventually finished 13th.
The 27-year-old from Devon lost her first five bouts but, by contrast, Scottish pentathlete Spence raced to eight consecutive victories.
She maintained her momentum to record a total of 26 wins and just nine defeats, the best record of the morning, to propel her to an early lead ahead of Poland's Paulina Boenisz and leading Caze, both one win behind.
Spence then set a time of two minutes 15.4 seconds in the 200m freestyle swim, Sunday's second event, to sit third-placed and in contention at the day's halfway mark.
Murray and Burke impressed in the fastest heat, Murray coming second overall in a time of 2:09.72 with Burke just over half a second behind her, a result which moved the former - whose fence had also been strong - up into fourth.
And with Burke and Katy Livingston in fifth and sixth respectively, the British team headed into the show jumping event occupying an unprecedented four of the top six places.
But the equestrian discipline in pentathlon, in which horses are introduced to their riders just 20 minutes before the pair compete, has a lively reputation for good reason.
With the competitors going in reverse order, the four top Britons were forced to wait. As they looked on, Fell, riding 18th, produced an expert clear round as a dead hush descended on the Medway Park venue.
Livingston dropped out of the medal reckoning as her horse, Archie, twice refused at jumps, but just one fault from Spence helped her into the lead, with Murray fourth and Burke fifth, ahead of the run-shoot.
Spence fell away as her shooting failed to match that of the cool Caze, and she was overtaken late in the combined event by Lithuania's Rimsaite, who used her pace to power through the field from 11th place.
The Inverness-born Spence said of her performance in the finale: "The combined event's quite new and, since it started, I haven't started in medal contention position, so I didn't know how I would hold my own.
"I was quite happy with a podium finish."
Freyja Prentice finished ninth for Britain after a strong combined event, while Livingston dropped down to 15th, Lydia Rosling came 19th, and Kate French crossed the line 28th.
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