While the pennants were flying in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, the flags of 16 nations fluttered at San Antonio, where 12 three-man teams and four individual representatives were competing in the Modern Pentathlon world championship.
The Hungarians have dominated the championship since 1963, losing only one individual and two team titles in that time. It was the Russians who handed them the last defeat, in 1969, and the Russians who did it to them again this year in Texas, where Hungary came in second and the U.S. finished third.
Russia took both the team competition and the individual championship, with 34-year-old Boris Onischenko, of Kiev, unseating Hungary's defending champion, P�ter Kelemen. Onischenko did not win a single event, but turned in the overall high score of 5,206 to win his first world championship.
The opening event, a 1,000-meter ride across 20 obstacles, is, of all the pentathlon contests, the most chancy. So much depends upon the luck of the draw, not only for the order of the ride but for the horse. The competitor has only 20 minutes to get acquainted with a strange mount before he begins a ride against the clock over a smaller, but Olympic-style, course. At San Antonio the jumps were festively decorated (with flowers taken from a local cemetery), but the morning was rainy and the footing muddy. The morning competitors were thus at a disadvantage, and none of them more so than Claude Guiguet of France. He drew a horse named Jocko and promptly found himself sliding off a runaway. "He's going to fall in the mud," one spectator predicted. "No," said another. "It's going to be the cactus." Guiguet's was one of the quickest remounts in pentathlon history but, with a stirrup dangling, he was soon on the ground again. When the horse was finally caught, Guiguet had run out of time and was given no points. In any case, he was in no shape to continue. A cut on his leg required five stitches, and his hand was too swollen to hold a weapon in the upcoming events.
The winning rides came in the afternoon, and the end of the day found the U.S., which had drawn three of the best horses, in the lead, with Hungary second and the Soviet Union in seventh place. An unfortunate draw may have ultimately made the difference between a third and fourth place team finish for Germany, though Heiner Thade, who also ended up with Jocko, managed not only to stay on him, but to finish with a creditable 925 points.
The fencing competition on the second day lasted nearly 12 hours, as each of the 40 participants had to fence everyone else in a one-touch �p�e bout. Hans-Gunnar Liljenvall's win put Sweden into second place as Hungary moved into first and Russia to third. With these top three teams tightly bunched at 5,554, 5,478 and 5,423 points, the battle was obviously to be between Russia and Hungary again, not only for the team championship but for the individual honors.
Hungary's Andr�s Balcz�, five times the individual world champion, had only moved up to 20th from 27th place—a bad ride on the previous morning had shaken him enough to show in his fencing—but his young teammate Zsigmond Vill�nyi was in first.
Balcz� began to look like his old self on the third day, sharing first place in pistol-shooting with Russia's Leonid Ivanov and Finland's Risto Hurme, but the Soviets' Boris Onischenko's consistently high performances had by this time put him into first place overall, where he was to remain. Young Vill�nyi finished second, with Balcz� salvaging an impressive third after winning the 4,000-meter cross-country run on the last day.
The final team point standings were: Russia, 15,006; Hungary, 14,989 and the U.S. 14,635—another impressive third. It was this country's first medal in seven years.
A world championship is always colorful, but perhaps the most colorful person at this one was not an athlete but the U.S. Chief of Delegation, Mrs. William A. Hewitt, an accomplished horsewoman from East Moline, III. She strode about wearing a Japanese sports officer's cap on her red head, shouting impartial encouragement to the South African, Norwegian, U.S. and Japanese competitors. "I'm against nationalism in sport," she explained.