Graham Croker

Sydney University pentathlete Ed Fernon finished 13th at the Asia-Oceania Championships held in Chengdu, China, last week and, as the top-ranked Oceania competitor, qualified for selection in the Australian team for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The top five Asian men at the championships earned Olympic qualification spots, along with the top-placed athlete from Oceania. And Fernon, a Sydney University Sports Scholarship holder and MComm student, was the top-placed competitor from Oceania.

Korean Jin-Woo Hong won the men’s Asian-Oceanian Championship with 5860 points when he claimed the final event at Chengdu, ahead of local favourite Zhongrong Cao, who finished with 5836. Zhongrong, who led going into the combined event, finished with silver and Jinhwa Jung, of Korea, won the bronze medal with 5712 points. Shinichi Tomii, of Japan, finished fourth with 5676 points and Guan Wang, of China, finished fifth with 5648 points to claim the other two Asia Olympic qualifying berths.

Hong had a consistent day finishing with 1000 points in the fencing, which was good enough for 4th position behind Hayato Noguchi (Japan), who produced a 1064-point performance.  Hong then dropped down the leader’s board managing only 10th place in the swim behind Zhongrong.

The key to Hong’s gold medal was his flawless ride for 1200 points. Zhongrong could only manage 1100, allowing Hong to overhaul him in the combined, the final event.

Australia’s Yang Liu was dramatically disqualified for breaking shooting rules, leaving Fernon, with 5400 points, as the highest ranked Oceanian athlete.

The result was a dramatic improvement on Fernon’s efforts at the 2010 Modern Pentathlon Senior World Championships at Chengdu, when he finished 25th in Pool C and missed out on the finals, which included the top 12 from each Pool.

The modern pentathlon includes five events: pistol shooting, epee fencing, a 200m freestyle swim, show jumping and a 3km cross-country run. Except for the fencing competition, athletes do not compete directly against one another. Instead, a better absolute performance results in a higher score, with points for each event combined to give the overall total scores.

After winning the 2009 Australian pentathlon championship, Fernon moved onto the international stage last year, training and competing in two World Cup events in a two-month stay Europe before tackling the World Championships in China.

“Ultimately, I would like to make the 2012 London Olympics, but there is always a large scale for error in the pentathlon,” Fernon, a University Blue, said after winning the Australian title last year.

He has been working towards perfecting all of his events by training closely with Sydney University Sport and Fitness head coaches.

“Being part of the Elite Athlete Program at Sydney University Sport has been fantastic,” he said. “It has put me in contact with a lot of specialised coaches. And it has helped me with travel grants so that I could compete overseas.”

The next Olympic qualification event will be held in London, where the winners of the men’s and women’s events will automatically qualify for the Games.