Arthur Lanigan O’Keeffe netted Ireland’s second top 10 Modern Pentathlon place at the Olympic Games in Rio last night. The Irishman took eighth place in the 36-strong field, a day after compatriot Natalya Coyle finished 7th in the women’s equivalent.

For the second time, show jumping contributed hugely to a good Irish showing. Lanigan O’Keeffe produced a clear round to earn the maximum 300 points just as Coyle had done the day before. Out of seventy-two rounds of show jumping between the men’s and women’s events there were only 11 clear rounds and two of them were from the Irish athletes. “We both executed it very well and it proved very important in the end,” Lanigan O’Keeffe said.

Competitors only get to find out which of the horses they are going to ride when a draw is made one hour before the jumping begins, and they only get to mount their horses twenty minutes before competing. “We had John Ledingham over with us, so we learned that course off by heart and made sure we had it all in our heads,” he told RTE radio. “It was a good round. I was very happy.”

Having been some way down the field after fencing and swimming, the show jumping saw Lanigan O’Keeffe move up 15th place of the 36 heading into the run and shoot, which saw him climb the standings again to eighth place with the medals just out of his grasp. Russian Aleksander Lesun took Gold, with Silver going to Ukrainian Pavlo Tymoshchenko and Bronze being claimed by Ismael Hernandez of Mexico.

“I was happy that I was giving some people at home something to cheer about,” Lanigan O’Keeffe said. “It wasn’t quite the dream that I wanted but it was still a moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

The results for both athletes reflect their prowess in the sport and when competing together in mixed relay events they have proved to be a formidable pair, winning Gold at the UIPM World Cup in Florida in May having taken Silver in the event the year before.
It is hoped that for the next Olympics in Tokyo there will be a mixed relay element as well as the individual competitions. One way or another, Lanigan O’Keeffe already has the podium in Tokyo in his sights. Mike Dunne