Cook times run to perfection in modern pentathlon

A very talented and devoted runner and rower, Stephanie Cook combined her sporting pursuits with an arduous academic programme, studying medicine at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

One day, she saw a poster for the Oxford University Modern Pentathlon club. It was a sport she had never considered previously, but she decided to go along and find out more, and was hooked almost immediately.

As Cook trained to be a junior doctor, her working hours got even longer, but she still found time to train hard and forced her way on the British modern pentathlon team.

In 1998, the team won a silver medal at the World Championships, and Cook made the decision to focus entirely on her sport. She began to train full-time with the aim of first making the team for the Sydney Games, and then challenging for a medal.

Having racked up six consecutive silvers in competition events, she approached the Games looking a sure bet to win a medal. The question was how far up the podium she could climb.

Cook was not the best swimmer, fencer, rider or shot in the field, but she was, without question, the best runner. Her tactics revolved around keeping in contention until the run, which was the final event, and then charging through the field.

This is how she played it in Sydney. She was never higher than seventh over the course of the first four events, and was eighth as the athletes entered the decisive run.

Leading the field after the first four events was Cook's one-time university team-mate Emily DeRiel of the USA, with Cook's British team-mate Kate Allenby in second place.

DeRiel started the 3,000m race 49 seconds ahead, but Cook closed down on her remorselessly. Allenby was passed with 750m still to run while DeRiel succumbed with nearly a lap left in the race.

Cook finished the race in 10 min 3.16 seconds - more than 19 seconds quicker than her closest rival - to seal the Olympic title, with DeRiel and Allenby joining her on the podium.