Cambridge narrowly defeated Oxford 29844 points to 29536 points to win the 57th modern pentathlon Varsity match, in the first Cambridge victory in nearly 20 years.
Going into the match, history was against the Cambridge men. Oxford had won 35 Varsity matches against Cambridge’s 21, and there had not been a Cambridge team victory since 1996. Furthermore, in 2013, the Oxford team had broken the Varsity match record by a considerable margin and had four returning Blues athletes from their record breaking side, and three current or former GB pentathletes.
There are six men in the Blues team competing in a full pentathlon which comprises of the fencing, swimming, horse riding and combined run/shoot events. The match took place over two days, starting with the fence and finishing with the combined event.
In the fencing event, after conceding the opening few rounds, Oxford came back convincingly to finish one hit ahead of Cambridge, and gained a lead of 40 points. Cambridge’s James Alexander scored 15 out of a possible 22 hits to come second to Oxford’s Alex Fraser on 17 hits, with Brad Dixon gaining 14 hits to make it a Cambridge two and three.
In the swimming event, five of the Cambridge men recorded personal bests (PB). Brad Dixon recorded a season’s best of 1:58.19, just over half a second slower than his Varsity record time, to win the event by a fingertip to Oxford’s GB pentathlete Tommy Lees. Despite Cambridge’s stellar performance, the Oxford team also recorded five PBs to win the event by 152 points, or just over 12 seconds. Overnight, Oxford led by 192 points.
Historically, the riding event is the discipline where Varsity teams tend to lose the competition, with one rider’s error potentially causing the downfall of the whole team. This year though there were relatively few upsets, with Cambridge conceding a mere 24 points to Oxford, a tiny margin.
On the second afternoon, Cambridge trailed by 216 points, equating to 54 seconds, or 9 seconds per man. This was the closest points difference that any Cambridge team had achieved in recent years. The Light Blues dominated the combined run/shoot event. Ed Tusting crossed the line in second place in a time of 11:55 behind Oxford’s Tommy Lees, with Brad Dixon following in third. Cambridge filled up the spots from fifth to eighth, leading to a comprehensive victory in the event.
Overall, the men scored 29,844 points, a Cambridge team record, versus Oxford’s 29,536 points. Each Cambridge man scored over the required 4,640 point barrier to earn a full Blue. Oxford secured first and second place individually, with Brad Dixon in third place, with a score of 5,280, and Edward Tusting in fourth.
In the men’s reserve competition, Paul Hodgson won the individual title and also won the combined event. Despite this podium success, the men from Cambridge ceded defeat to Oxford, largely due to a very impressive display in the swimming pool by the Dark Blues, which Cambridge found too difficult to make up in the combined event.