PLYMOUTH modern pentathletes Myles Pillage and Kerenza Bryson got Great Britain off to a dream start at the 2019 European Championships by winning mixed relay gold on the opening day of competition in Bath.
The former Plymouth College pupils provided a vocal home crowd at the University of Bath Sports Training Village with plenty to cheer throughout the day as they won the swimming, fencing and riding disciplines to take a 40-second advantage into the decisive run-shoot.
That lead never looked in danger of being eroded as mature performances saw Bryson and Pillage finish well clear of Czech Republic duo Eliska Pribylova and David Kindl, who claimed silver.
“It feels awesome,” said Pillage afterwards. “This is the first international gold medal I have won, so to do it with Kerenza is really cool. It was a really good day for us.
“It was about holding it together in the run-shoot and maintaining that big lead as neither of us had been in that situation before. Thank you to everyone whose support helped us do that.”
Bryson added: “It was great to have the home crowd behind us – you could really feel the support, although trying to shoot while people are cheering you was quite tough!
“I’d just like to also say thanks to the National Lottery for supporting us and to my friends and family.”
The pair celebrated with their families after receiving their gold medals.
They made a great start to the day by clocking the fastest time in the swimming pool. Pillage, one of the best swimmers on the pentathlon circuit, chased down Russia’s Viacheslav Bardyshev to win heat two by just four-hundredths of a second.
The winning time was 1:56.46, while third-placed Lithuania were the only other nation to go under two minutes as they clocked 1:57.31.
Bryson then came to the fore in the fencing as GB again came out on top with 23 wins from their 36 bouts to maintain their overall lead.
A testing riding round saw Pillage and Bryson extend their advantage with a skilful performance while their nearest rivals all suffered mishaps.
Despite her horse losing a shoe halfway round the course, Bryson only clipped one fence and then Pillage went clear as Britain collected 286 points out of a possible 300 – the joint best performance of the round.
The British duo had a 40 second advantage in the decisive run-shoot and that margin never looked under threat as Bryson and Pillage shrugged off any nerves they may have had to complete an excellent day of competition in style.
Bryson had already completed her first visit to the shooting range by the time her nearest rivals started and she maintained that healthy margin before handing over to Pillage, who was equally assured as he brought GB home for the gold in front of a delighted home crowd.
Pillage will be back in action on Wednesday when he partners fellow University of Bath student Oliver Murray in the men’s relay.