Czech Republic: David Svoboda
Czech modern pentathlete David Svoboda.
Place of birth: Prague, Czech Republic
Event: Modern Pentathlon
Previous Olympics: 1
Previous medals: 0
He may not have taken the route that he expected but David Svoboda has reached his Olympic goal.
For many years, the modern pentathlete dreamed of being a swimmer. Then he was faced with the same dilemma that many aspiring athletes have been forced to confront.
Unsatisfied with his results, Svoboda had to decide whether he would reach the required standard as a top-class swimmer and in the end he made the tough decision that it was not worth carrying on.
He refused to let that be the end of his sporting ambitions, though, and while swimming was not for him, he did not lose faith that he could still compete on the very biggest stage of all.
Not wanting his previous training to go to waste, he considered several multi-discipline sports before settling upon Modern Pentathlon and a 16-year-old Svoboda immediately felt that he could get to the top. It was a fair assessment.
Invented by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Games, Modern Pentathlon has been described as the sport that most accurately conveys the ideals of the Olympics. And you get the impression that the French academic would have seen Svoboda as an athlete who best embodies those principles.
Not only did the Czech show the desire to learn new disciplines such as show jumping, pistol shooting and fencing, but he recently wrote a thesis on the history of Modern Pentathlon, having already become a full-time military officer.
He does not have to do military service - the Czech Republic abolished enforced conscription in 2004 - yet Svoboda has managed to pursue a military career without it hampering his efforts to become one of the best modern pentathletes in the world.
While it is to be expected that Svoboda remains a strong swimmer, he has improved in the other disciplines to such an extent that he ranked higher in both the shooting and fencing elements at Beijing 2008, where he made his Games debut.
No doubt helped by his day job, he ranked first with a score of 191 from 200 in shooting to put himself in contention for gold, only for his medal hopes to be ended by a poor riding phase.
Svoboda still rates that riding event as his strongest disappointment, but he remains one of the sport's best having overcome that setback to win a second world silver in 2009.
He then won the World Military and European championships in 2010 and was ranked world number one during 2011 to show that he is well and truly making the most of his new-found talents.
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