Esposito gets Olympic gold in women's modern pentathlon
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Chloe Esposito emerged from the tunnel into Deodoro Stadium, her bright, white teeth sparkling in the lights.
The smile stuck with her on the long walk to the medal stand, through presentations of bronze and silver, and onto the top step.
Esposito had just claimed Australia's first medal in modern pentathlon and added the first Olympic gold to her family's decorated athletic history.
That smile isn't going away anytime soon.
''I knew this day was going to come when everything came together,'' Esposito said after capturing gold in an Olympic record of 1,372 points Friday at the Rio de Janeiro Games. ''Today was the day and I'm so thankful it was today.''
Elodie Clouvel of France captured silver and Oktawia Nowacka of Poland earned bronze.
Esposito was solid throughout the five events of the pentathlon: seventh after swimming, sixth through fencing, up to fourth following equestrian.
Her best event is the running-shooting combination in the finale, so she knew gold was still within reach.
Esposito charged from the start, making up ground quickly while slowing herself down enough to hit her targets on the shooting range. The 24-year-old from Sydney had the second-fastest time through the four 800-meter segments and missed just one target to make her way to the top of the podium from fourth place.
Not bad for someone who had limited training early in the year because of an Achilles tendon injury.
''All the hard training the past four years, it's been a tough road, especially this year I had a few injuries,'' Esposito said. ''Nothing was easy.''
Esposito had been training for this moment all her life.
Her father, Daniel, competed for Australia in modern pentathlon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. He brother, Max, will compete in modern pentathlon on Saturday and her sister, Emily, is a former pentathlete who competed in shooting at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Competition was just a part of the Esposito household - especially when it came to fencing with Emily - and helped put her in position to make history for family and country.
''Since I've been young, I've known I wanted to go to Olympic Games and I was lucky enough to come to my second Olympics and have the support of my family,'' said Esposito, who finished seventh at the 2012 London Games. ''Being able to train with them has been amazing and I couldn't ask for anything more.''
Esposito wasn't the only one with athletic genes.
Clouvel's mother, Annick, was a national distance running champion and her father, Pascal, set a national record in the 5,000 meters.
The world-record holder in modern pentathlon swimming, Clouvel was solid all day and entered the final events in second, 12 points behind Nowacka. She couldn't catch Esposito, though, finishing nearly a minute off the winning time in running and needed 34 shots to hit 20 targets.
Clouvel fell 16 points short of gold, but still earned her country's first Olympic medal in modern pentathlon since 1984, when its men's team took bronze.
''It was a very good day,'' Clouvel said through a translator. ''My shooting is not so good, so I was just thinking, `Run fast, run fast.' But I got the medal and it's fantastic.''
Nowacka surged to the lead after winning the one-touch fencing event and remained there after a solid run in equestrian. She was in the lead early during the running-shooting competition, but began to fade over the final 800 meters.
But, like Clouvel, she was able to break a long modern pentathlon drought for her country; the medal was Poland's first in the sport since the 1992 Barcelona Games.