AN emotional Samantha Murray realised a childhood dream as she earned a place at the Olympics after winning bronze at the Modern Pentathlon World Championships in Rome on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Clitheroe athlete produced the performance of her life to finish third behind team-mate Mhairi Spence, who was the first British woman to win the individual gold at a Modern Pentathlon World Championships since Steph Cook in 2001.
And the former Bowland High School pupil isn’t going just to make the numbers up – she has her eyes on another medal in London.
In Rome, Murray went into the final 1k run in third place, but was overtaken by China’s 2009 World Champion, Qian Chen towards the end.
But she overhauled France’s three-times world champion Amelie Caze with a sprint finish to come home in third.
She beamed: “I just thought ‘there’s no way I’m not getting a medal now’, and my legs just took me to the line. I couldn’t feel them, but my arms were going as well, and I made it.
“I realised my lifetime’s dream, and just having that feeling of satisfaction was overwhelming.
“I’ve always known I was good enough, that I could be a contender, but...wow. It’s a surreal feeling...I’m an Olympian!
“That was my first thought – ‘I’ve made the Olympics!’, and then I realised I’d won bronze at the World Championships, which is a big deal – a big medal to win. It was crazy, and I’m so happy.”
Jan Bartu, Pentathlon GB performance director feels the achievement has “transformed” both Murray and Spence into Olympic contenders, and Murray firmly believes they have a big chance in front of a home crowd at Greenwich Park.
She said: “For myself and Mhairi, we’re both going for medals in London, no question.
“The World Championships is arguably a stronger competition than the Olympics, but even so, you never know what will happen in competition, and all the big names will be there.
“We’re going to have a home crowd behind us though, I’ve got tickets for my family, and that should give me the surge to push on when I need it.
“But I should be in the form of my life, it’s all about focusing, staying healthy and hopefully injury-free now.”
The University of Bath French and politics student qualified for the World Championships final after a brief scare in the shoot.
Murray set a personal best of 2.08.78 in the swim, and then came 11th in the fencing to go into the run/shoot in sixth.
Despite having to change the battery that powers the pistol’s laser after it failed, she came home in ninth to qualify – “it was a hairy moment”, she said, “but I did enough to get through.”
In the final, in the fencing, Murray’s 18 wins put her equal 14th with 832 points, and she climbed into the top five after the swim as her 200m freestyle time of 2.08.05 cut almost three-quarters of a second off her personal best from the semi-final.
Murray almost went clear in the riding arena, but had fence 11 down, and then the middle fence of the triple down to put her fourth overall.
After the shoot, Murray was 14 seconds back in fourth, but she dug deep to claim a fabulous bronze.
• Clitheroe bodyshop James Alpe congratulates Samantha on her achievement, saying: “We are delighted to be associated with Samantha, having loaned her a vehicle for the last 12 months to assist with her training schedule.”