Not your average Joe! Choong wins Britain’s first ever modern pentathlon Olympic gold

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26-year-old Joe Choong has clinched gold in the modern pentathlon for Great Britain – the first time the country has won a medal in the event since its inception in 1912.

In a test of all-round ability, the modern pentathlon tests athletes’ swimming, running, fencing, riding and shooting.

 
 
 
 
 
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Joe, who rates fencing and swimming as his top disciplines, looked as though gold might evade him in the final event – the laser run – when he was overtaken by Egyptian competitor Ahmed Elgendy on the final lap. In a nail-biting finale, Choong sprinted past Elgendy to snatch the gold in the final 200m.

After disappointment in Rio 2016 Olympics, where Choong struggled with shooting and dropped from second to ninth place, as well as the challenges of the pandemic, a gold medal at Tokyo felt all the better.

“I’ve always said I want to be the best in the world at something. I’ve been world number one but it’s not the same as winning a World Champs or Olympics, so this is literally a dream come true.

“I don’t usually cry on the podium but I was pretty emotional.” Choong said. “My grandad passed away a few years ago, just after Rio. He wasn’t well enough to come and watch me then and I knew this would have meant a lot to my grandma.

“She’s been telling me she’d come out to Japan and see me win a medal and she was half-right.”

Joe Choong’s Ethnicity

Choong was born in Orpington, Kent, to a Chinese-Malay father and British mother. He showed early promise in the modern pentathlon, becoming the first British athlete to win the European under-16 title in the sport in 2010. He graduated with a degree in Mathematics from the University of Bath and has continued training at the university’s facilities.

Joe Choong’s Parents

Speaking about his mixed heritage during a trip to Nanjing for the Youth Olympics in 2014, Choong said: “My dad is from Malaysia and he has Chinese heritage. It’s [China is] a really lovely country. It feels good to be able to come back to where my dad’s family originated and to sort of explore it a little bit.”

Speaking at the same time, Choong’s mother, Beverley, said: “The Chinese descent made the trip special. Henry tries to learn some Mandarin even though it’s very hard to learn Chinese in England. He likes his Chinese heritage, he’s proud of that.”

Choong’s brother, Henry, two years Joe’s junior, also competes in the modern pentathlon, and represented Great Britain in the 2014 Youth Olympics. Joe explains that the prospect of competing alongside his brother could keep him in the sport.

“He has always boasted he was the first Olympian because of the Youth Games. He’s the clever one and went to Cambridge and just did pentathlon for fun.

“He’s two years younger than me but four years behind in terms of training. I think he can do it, he’s got the same genes as me, so why not?”

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