The Rio Games marked the first time the women’s event was introduced in 2000 that Britain failed to win a medal. Still, French-made amends spectacularly, maintaining her composure superbly in the final run-and-shoot to set a new Olympic record.
The 30-year-old Kent native started fifth – the same position she finished in Rio – but surged into the lead by the end of the first lap and never looked back, hitting her laser gun targets impeccably, missing only two of her 22 shots.
She follows Stephanie Cook, Sydney’s first Olympic champion, and Kate Allenby and Samantha Murray, all of whom won Great Britain medals.
French stated, “I’m overjoyed, especially after Rio. It snapped the medal run’s chain. I couldn’t be happier to have joined the ranks of other British women who have accomplished so much in the past.
French was considered a medal contender after winning gold at this year’s World Cup Final.
She was disappointed with her fencing performance on Thursday, despite her sixth-place finish. She dropped to eighth after Friday’s 200 meters freestyle swim, held in the same venue for the first time, with a temporary pool erected at one end of Tokyo Stadium.
She stood proudly atop the podium and stated of her gold medal, “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.” It’s always been a dream of mine, and I’m still in disbelief that it’s come true.”
Britain has a good opportunity to win its first Olympic medal in the men’s competition on Saturday, with Joe Choong in the front line after the fencing.