World champion Spence looks to continue proud tradition at London 2012
MHAIRI Spence became the first British woman to win modern pentathlon's world title in 11 years as she stormed to victory in Rome - booking her Olympic place in the process.
DELIGHTED: Mhairi Spence was all smiles after becoming the first British woman to win a modern pentathlon world title since Steph Cook in 2011 (Getty Images)
Spence finished six seconds clear of China's Qian Chen while Samantha Murray was two seconds further back to also secure her spot on Team GB.
That means disappointment for Beijing silver medallist Heather Fell, who will now watch London 2012 from the sidelines, and Freyja Prentice, who achieved the Olympic qualifying standard last year.
However, the selection policy was always weighted towards podium performances at the World Championships and Spence and Murray delivered when it mattered.
Fell came home 15th, one place ahead of Prentice, while former world champion, France's Amelie Caze, and defending Olympic champion and world number one, Germany's Lena Schoneborn, did not enjoy a day to remember either, placing fourth and fifth.
Triple world champion Caze was ahead by just over 30 seconds heading into the decisive run/shoot while Spence and Murray were 37 and 51 seconds respectively off the pace.
But Caze started to tire badly and the British pair, separated by their Chinese rival, slowly reeled her in and surged clear.
Today is turning out to be rather disastrous but it's not over till it's over
Olympic silver medallist Heather Fell @heatherfellnews
"This is something I have dreamt about since I was eight, it's just unbelievable," said Scot Spence, who arrived in Rome as top-ranked Brit.
"We came in knowing if we won a medal then it was a sure thing that you go to the Games. It means so much to have achieved that.
"I thought of all the painful training sessions I have done and coming down the home straight I just found that extra energy from somewhere.
"When you do well it builds your confidence and your courage and that flame inside you that keeps you going. That is definitely going to keep me going for the next couple of months now until London."
Great Britain have medalled in every Olympic modern pentathlon competition since women were first allowed to compete in 2000 - where Steph Cook, the last British world champion in 2001, won gold and Kate Allenby took bronze.
Four years later, in Athens, Georgina Harland finished third while Fell placed second in Beijing.
British team performance director Jan Bartu was delighted by the result in Rome and although officially the team won't be formally selected until after the World Cup Final, he will now head to London brimming with confidence.
“It’s been a terrific day for the British team. As far as the British women's team is concerned, it’s our best World Championships since 2001," he said.
“It was a heroic performance by Mhairi. She was really running on empty in the last 200m. It was amazing to see Samantha overtaking Caze at the end.
“It’s been an emotionally charged day and we’re massively proud. It’s fantastic reward for the whole team and coaching staff, but also for the support staff back in Bath and for UK Sport who have provided funding. We are proud that we have proved again that we are good value for money."
© Sportsbeat 2012