RIGA - The name Laura Asadauskaite may not mean much to too many people, but for pub quiz aficionados out there, it may well be one worth remembering in years to come. That is because it is the name of the Lithuanian 28-year-old gold medal winning modern pentathlete, who will go down in history as the final gold medal winner at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
It is also assures that should one visit the official London 2012 Web site, one of the first things that will welcome them is the Lithuanian flag, right there next to the tab for the most recently won gold medal.
Voted in 2011 as Lithuanian sportsperson of the year after winning bronze at the World Championships in Moscow, world no. 1 Asadauskaite went into the Olympics as one of her country’s best medal chances, and did not disappoint.
However, across the four events that make up the modern pentathlon, it was not always Asadauskaite out in front.
Following the first event, fencing, it was another Balt, Elena Rublevska of Latvia setting the pace, when the Beijing silver medalist went within three bouts of setting a new Olympic record, winning 25 of her 35 bouts. However, a poor swim, in which the 36-year-old only set the 32nd quickest time in a field of 36, cost her any real chance of medaling.
Rather, Asadauskaite climbed the ranks as the day continued. Finishing third in the fencing, Asadauskaite finished in the middle of the field in the swimming before consolidating her place at the front of the field with one of the best riding events of her career, only picking up 20 penalty points to finish third overall.
In the final discipline, the combined event that brings together cross country running and shooting, Asadauskaite was still being closely tailed by Brazilian Yane Marques, who began the combined event with a perfect shooting display. However, her running speed could not match her shooting skill with the 28-year-old eventually fading back to finish third behind Samantha Murray of Great Britain, leaving Asadauskaite to cruise home for the gold.
“I am immensely excited,” Asadauskiate was quoted as saying by the Associated Press following the victory, adding, “I had a great deal of support from the people of Lithuania. It is only a small country, so this means the world to them. I felt very excited and emotional when the crowd cheered for me.”
The gold goes into Asadauskaite’s personal collection alongside three bronze and one silver World Championship medals, and two silver and three gold European Championship medals.
It is also adds to an even larger family collection with her husband, Andrejus Zadneprovskis, having already won two Olympic medals, silver in Athens in 2004 and gold in Beijing four years later, four gold, two silver and four bronze World Championship medals and two gold, two silver and one bronze European medals.
Asadauskaite’s gold brought Lithuania’s medal tally in London to five, alongside the gold won by Ruta Meilutyte in the women’s 100m breaststroke, the silver won by Jevgenij Shuklin in the Men’s C1 200m canoeing, and the bronze medals won by Aleksandras Kazakevicius in the men’s Greco-Roman 74kg wrestling and Evaldas Pretrauskas in the men’s 60kg boxing.
The five medals match Lithuania’s haul of five in Sydney 2000 and Beijing in 2008. However, in terms of medal value, this was Lithuania’s best Olympics with the two golds, one silver and two bronzes beating out the two golds and three bronzes won in Sydney and the two silvers and three bronzes won in Beijing.