Masala grabs last-gasp modern pentathlon gold

When organisers of the Olympic modern pentathlon changed the format of the event for the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, they could scarcely have anticipated the dramatic finale it would conjure up.

In hindsight the change seems utterly logical; setting the competitors off at timed intervals according to their points accumulation so that the first man to cross the line for the final lung-bursting 4km run would be the winner.

The battle for gold stretched over four days and was contended principally by Italian Daniele Masala and Svante Rasmuson of Sweden.

Masala took the joint lead after an impressive opening riding round, but was pegged back by the Swede in the fencing after amassing a formidable total.

Masala, who had finished just out of the medals eight years earlier in Montreal, recorded a convincing points win over his Swedish rival in the swimming before it all came down to the final day’s events.

Rasmuson narrowly edged the morning shooting round but Masala would start the final 4km run with an eight-second advantage.

In modern pentathlon terms this can be eaten up in a short time and it would all come down to who had the best energy levels and determination in the hot sun of Los Angeles.

Rasmuson ate into Masala’s lead and with the finish line some 150m to go the Swede edged into a narrow but relatively confident lead.

However, stumbling on the sandy surface that three days earlier had hosted the equestrian opener, Rasmuson lost his footing and almost toppled over to allow a jubilant Masala to gallop past and secure gold.

Rasmuson gathered himself and crossed the line in second and was the first to congratulate the celebrating Masala.

Behind them the battle for bronze was playing out, and another Italian Carlo Massullo burst clear of Britain’s Richard Phelps to secure third and with it the team gold medal.

Massullo went one better four years later to take the individual silver in Seoul, while Masala was 10th as the Italians finished runners-up overall to Hungary.