GB pentathletes begin season without laser gun training
2012 athletes must stay focused - Fell
By Ollie Williams
Britain's top modern pentathletes have arrived for the first event of their season despite not having trained with newly introduced laser guns.
They will replace air pistols in the combined run-and-shoot finale to the pentathlon, and are set to make their Olympic debut at the London Games.
But the GB team had not trained with the laser guns before travelling to the season's first World Cup in California.
"There's nothing like being thrown in the deep end," said GB's Heather Fell.
Pentathlon's introduction of laser guns has been protracted and controversial, with the new technology rejected by a congress of the world governing body (UIPM) last year, only to be later accepted.
Fell, who won Olympic silver for Britain at Beijing 2008, believes the introduction of laser guns - and the confusion accompanying it - is taking place at a bad time for the athletes affected.
"In my opinion, it's far too late to be changing something again when this is the actual Olympic qualification year," she told BBC Sport.
It all seems very last minute with teething problems to overcome at an important time in the Olympic cycle
"After the congress we heard that lasers wouldn't come in until 2013, and it would stay as normal through 2012.
"But the next thing we heard was that the first World Cup would be with laser pistols. We're not quite sure where that changed and what happened.
"It all seems very last minute with teething problems to overcome at an important time in the Olympic cycle."
February's World Cup event in the Californian city of Palm Springs is the first of four (a fifth, scheduled to take place in Cairo, was cancelled following recent political unrest in Egypt) in what is an important Olympic qualification year for the sport.
Pentathletes used air pistols in the run-and-shoot until this year
The fifth and last of those events, the World Cup Final, will be held in London on 9-10 July as a test event ahead of the 2012 Olympics.
Results this year are critical for British pentathletes looking to qualify for the Games - particularly with at least five British women vying for a maximum of two places at the Olympics.
But they begin the season with minimal training, ahead of the first major international event to use the new lasers.
One type of gun was briefly made available to the pentathletes at their training base in Bath last week, but adapted Morini guns - favoured by most of the GB team - only arrived in the United States on Wednesday, the day before the World Cup semi-finals.
"The first World Cup of the season is always difficult to predict, although my training has been going well," said Fell.
"For us as Brits it counts towards Olympic qualification, because our results at World Cups decide who goes to the European Championships, and the European Championships are an Olympic qualifier.
"So I'm going to give it everything and see what happens."
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