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21 Jan, 2012 12:23

Tough choice for Russian pentathlon coaches ahead of London Games

Russia's pentathletes are marking 100 years since the sport came to the country. But with the Olympics fast approaching, there is little time for the best performers of last year to celebrate.

Russia has been a powerhouse this past decade in Modern Pentathlon with the national team winning men's gold at three straight Olympic Games.

Andrey Moiseev followed in the footsteps of Sydney gold medalist Dmitry Svatkovskiy, winning in Athens and then again in Beijing.

And the man himself knows that nothing short of flawlessness in each discipline will be enough for a third straight gold.“There is not one particular thing to work on as a pentathlete,” Moiseev told RT. “You pretty much have to do well in every discipline. If you cannot perform at the highest level in every event you will never be able to become an Olympic medalist.”

A century of shooting, swimming, fencing, equestrian and cross-country is being marked in Russia, but London 2012 looms large amid celebrations of past accolades.

And while Moiseyev topped the European and World Championships in 2011, there are plenty of youngsters hot on the 32-year-old's heels.

Only two athletes will go to the British capital to represent their country this summer, a selection process which will definitely challenge the coaching staff.

“We'll have to make a choice based on who gives us the best chance to win, but it will be a tough one after this season,” Aleksey Khaplanov, Team Russia’s head coach, said. “Lisun and Moiseev have champion and runner-up medals going for them, while Frolov and Koryakin are past champions. So no doubt the selection process is going to be tough.”

Other competitors like 2010 World Champion Sergey Karyakin cannot be ruled out of qualifying.

The 24-year-old knows exactly who he has to beat for the spot if he is to achieve that podium feat.“We all know who our opponents will be, so the main thing for us is to get selected for the Olympic Games,” Karyakin stressed. “We've had the first preparation period already, and are starting the second phase of our work now. After that we'll be entering a series of competitions, so I'm going to work hard and hopefully stay injury-free.”

So there’s plenty at stake for Russia in what is a historic year for the sport in the country. And while there's been no shortage of pentathlon glory over the past decade, the pressure is greater than ever for the Russians to win their fourth straight gold.