Modern pentathlon world champion Samantha Murray started her season with a bang by winning the first World Cup of the season in Sarasota, Florida on Friday.
And, in a big year in terms of Olympic qualification, the 25-year-old was delighted to add another gold medal to her growing collection in her first international competition since winning the World Championships in Warsaw in September .
The West Bradford athlete won the women’s final from American Margaux Isaksen, with Great Britain teammate Kate French claiming bronze, and Samantha, speaking after flying home from Tampa, said: “It’s incredible - it couldn’t have gone any better.I felt just like I did at the World Championships. I had a really consistent day and felt strong.
“I went into the combined event quite nervous as in the semi-final I had a horrendous time with the shoot and was really stressed. But my first shot was my worst, and I’m running really well at the moment, so I managed to sprint away and hold a 50 metre lead.
“I crossed the line and felt comfortable, I didn’t have any massive trauma or stress, I just took it in my stride and it’s another confidence boost after the World Championships.”
The top three at the World Championships in Berlin at the end of June qualify for Rio, with 33 more quota places available - with only two per nation, and Samantha’s eyes are on Germany: “That’s the big one for me this year.
“My world ranking was boosted to fifth by winning in Florida, but doesn’t mean a lot in terms of Rio, other than giving me a lot of confidence and keeping my momentum going.
“It will be interesting how the rest of the season goes and how I get on.
“I’m not going to say I’m unbeatable or anything like that, I’ll just keep this mindset, keep training hard and listening to the advice of the coaches.
There have been suggestions in the American press that the Olympics next year might be the end of an era for her, after winning silver at London 2012, but Samantha is playing it all by ear: “The oldest athlete in Florida was 37, and the youngest 19, so it’s down to the individual.
“I’ll be 26 next year. I’m not going to say I’ll finish and then come back, I’m going to take it a month at a time, focus on Berlin - Rio is my long-term goal and I’ll see see how it goes after that.
“I can’t put a time limit on it.”