Spurred by shock bronze

Shermaine Tung finished third in the triathle (shoot-swim-run) women's senior class last Sunday at the UIPM Biathle/Triathle World Championships in St Petersburg, Florida. It was Singapore's first medal at this level.
Shermaine Tung finished third in the triathle (shoot-swim-run) women's senior class last Sunday at the UIPM Biathle/Triathle World Championships in St Petersburg, Florida. It was Singapore's first medal at this level.PHOTO: UIPM

Tung's podium finish at world c'ships result of hard work; eyes medal at SEA Games

Such is the obscurity of Singapore on the modern pentathlon world stage that an official at the sport's Biathle/Triathle World Championships suggested to Shermaine Tung's mother that she would not need to use the Singapore flag.

But it was Tung who had the last laugh at the International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) event in Florida on Sunday, as the 24-year-old surprised her fellow competitors and herself by finishing third among the 11-strong field in the triathle (shoot-swim-run) women's senior class.

Her bronze medal in her first major overseas competition was also a first for Singapore at the world championships.

"I was super happy and it was just unbelievable," she told The Straits Times. "My mum was on the brink of tears and my coach (Bernhard Petruschinski) was very happy."

"I'm proud to be able to win a medal for Singapore and that is something special," added Tung, who finished first in her age group at the UIPM Global Laser Run City Tour in Kuala Lumpur last March.

Singapore Modern Pentathlon Association (Simpa) president Cassandra Choh said: "I never expected her to win a medal because the competition was so intense and this was just for her to experience competing at the world level. For her to bring a medal back is really amazing."

After a mixed relay seventh place on Saturday, Tung did not have high hopes for the individual event. An elite field that included America's three-time national champion Samantha Achterberg - a member of the United States' 2020 Olympic team - and Heidi Hendrick also meant a "super nervous" start for the Singaporean.

"They were really friendly but it was like swimming against Joseph Schooling or Michael Phelps", she said. "I didn't think I had a chance as my running and swimming are weaker than my competitors from Britain and the US and I did badly for my shooting in the mixed relay."

Neck-to-neck with Britain's Suzie Cave, a bronze medallist at this year's European Triathle Championships, Tung rediscovered her sharpshooting skills which allowed her to gain a slight advantage over Cave before she pulled away in the last 200m of her run to finish third in 22min 7sec. Achterberg and Hendrick took the gold and silver respectively in 18:38 and 20:23.

Triathle is a new initiative by the UIPM where athletes compete in a shoot-swim-run format.

For the world championships, athletes had to complete four rounds of shooting (five bull's eyes), an 800-metre run and a 50m swim.

TOUGH CHALLENGE AHEAD

It will be tiring as I have four events back-to-back over four days and my main competitors from Thailand and Indonesia are strong.

SHERMAINE TUNG, national pentathlete, is aiming to win a medal at the SEA Games.

Tung's victory in Florida is a huge boost ahead of next month's SEA Games.

Modern pentathlon's triathle and biathle (run, shoot) disciplines will be making their debut in the Philippines and Singapore will be represented by a three-man team comprising Tung, Kok Kiat Xuan and Marcus Ong.

Tung, a former Singapore Sports School shooter who took up modern pentathlon 10 years ago, is aiming to win the Republic's first medal in the sport at the Games.

She will compete in four events: the individual beach biathle and triathle, and mixed relay beach biathle and triathle.

"It will be tiring as I have four events back-to-back over four days and my main competitors from Thailand and Indonesia are strong," said Tung, who works as a business development executive at Smart Local.

"The terrain will also be tough as we will be running on sand, which is harder to run on and I need extra training and have to do more leg work."

Choh credited Petruschinski for Tung's performance at the world championships and has targeted two medals at the SEA Games.

With financial support from the UIPM and private donors, Simpa was able to recruit the German expert coach from UIPM from July till next month to help prepare the athletes.

Choh added: "Shermaine is our most promising athlete and I'm quite confident that she will bring back at least one medal.

"For the mixed biathle, we have Marcus and Shermaine and I'm confident they can bring back another medal.

"Shermaine has put in a lot of effort and we requested a coach from UIPM and within a short period, she has gone up to world level. She really deserves this."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2019, with the headline 'Spurred by shock bronze'. Print Edition | Subscribe