Max Esposito upsets whole of Asia to qualify for Rio
2 June 2015
MODERN PENTATHLON: Australian teenager Max Esposito has upstaged the best senior athletes from Asia and Oceania to win the Olympic qualifying event in Beijing.
It is the first time an Australian male has stood on an international podium in modern pentathlon.
With six Olympic spots on the line (5 from Asia and 1 from Oceania) competition was fierce, yet the 17-year-old stayed calm and continued his recent run of outstanding form to produce a faultless competition.
He beat Chinese Olympic silver medallist CAO Zhongrong (sixth) and secured the men’s Oceania spot for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with a score of 1508 points, passing four competitors in the final event. He was eight points clear of the tied silver medallists from Kazakhstan and Korea.
Esposito has been touted as a future senior star after being ranked as the top youth in the world and reaching the final of his first three World Cups. And under challenging conditions in China he took a huge step in his career.
2016 Team Chef de Mission and Sydney 2000 pentathlon Olympian Kitty Chiller was on hand to cheer on the Aussies. She asked him after the event if he realised what he had achieved.
“Yes, I’m over the moon at the moment I actually can’t believe it,” he said through a beaming smile.
He started the last event the Combined (shooting/running) in fifth spot some 28 seconds back and had moved to first at halfway. The pressure was on!
“I was trying to stay focussed and not worry about all the other people behind me. I was determined to get that first place. I knew if I stayed positive and focussed, I could do it.”
The performance for Esposito is even greater as his qualification for Rio 2016 comes 24 hours after his older sister Chloe, topped Oceania with her fourth place finish on Monday. (Full story here).
Chiller was able to present Max with his medal and reflected on the exciting and emotional two days.
"I have had many wonderful moments in my modern pentathlon career as an Olympic athlete and now as national federation President but today really was probably my proudest," Chiller said.
It is expected that Modern Pentathlon Australia will nominate Chloe and Max Esposito to the Australian Olympic Team Selection Committee overnight and the first athletes selected to the 2016 Australian Olympic Team could be as early as Wednesday.
Max had a faultless day. He started with 17 victories and 12 defeats in fencing to be ranked 12th, he then swam a 200m freestyle small personal best (2:03.24) to move to 10th. In his least favoured event he had a clear round of show jumping (small time penalty) to move to 5th, before a storming finish in his favourite event the Combined.
Esposito was taking on the best in Asia and had to also beat countryman and London Olympian Ed Fernon. Fernon, 27, applied the pressure with a fantastic round of show jumping, where he knocked only one rail and incurred a time penalty, yet Esposito was able to respond when he had his chance 30 minutes later. He then found an extra two gears for the final high pressure run-shoot.
Fernon can still qualify for Rio 2016 but it will require a podium at the World Championships or a big improvement in his overall world ranking.
The Esposito siblings have been training under 1984 Olympian and dad Daniel for years chasing the dream of competing in Rio together. The three of them and mum Suzanne moved to Italy in 2013 and then Hungary in 2014 to establish the best training environment for them to take on the world’s best.
Max got the drive when he watched his older sister compete in London. He went on to compete at the Youth Olympics in 2014 and has made amazing progress since training full-time in Hungary and completing his final year of high school by correspondence.