IT was a smile that beamed joy from the other side of the world.

Tavistock's own Kate Allenby had rounded off Great Britain's most successful Olympics for 80 years with a stunning display of determination and skill.

The 26-year-old pentathlete won the bronze medal in the first ever Olympic modern pentathlon for women on Sunday — the last day of the Games.

And she won the hearts of thousands with her exuberant delight at her achievement and that of training partner Steph Cook, who took gold.

As Kate booked her place in Olympic history, her beaming smile was broadcast into living rooms all over the world as the reality of her fantastic achievement sank in.

Speaking to the Times from Australia this week Kate said: 'I'm pretty chuffed! It was just fantastic.

'Walking into the opening ceremony was the proudest moment of my life. Going into the stadium the noise just hit you, it was incredible to have all these people shouting for you.'

Kate had to wait for the very last day of the Olympics to compete, rubbing shoulders with international sporting superstars from every


She said: 'The whole thing was a bit surreal, to be there and seeing Kathy Freeman wandering around, and Jonathan Edwards.

'I was drumming my fingers a bit because we were the last team to leave the preparation camp. There were 400 people there at first and then 200 left, so it was a fairly small group there eventually.

'To begin with I would watch the TV and I just felt like a rabbit caught in the spotlights, I was terrified because it's the biggest thing I've ever done.

'Then I got a bit more immune by the time I got to the actual competition.'

Kate said competing at the very end of the Olympic Games had its downside too.

'I was walking around the Olympic Park and I started seeing all these closing down and sale signs and I kept thinking "I haven't even started yet!",' she said.

So did the success of the rest of the British team prove an inspiration or did it make competing even harder?

Kate said: 'Because the British had done so well you tended to think "It's not that difficult". I warmed up in the shoot and got a nine, nine, and ten and then I just froze and the next six or seven shots were awful.'

The pentathlon calls for nerves of steel, stamina and a wide range of skills.

Shooting is the first discipline, followed by fencing, swimming, riding and finally a 3,000-metre run.

Kate's next event, the fencing, went well and the support from the British was 'amazing'.

'I just loved it,' she said.

The best swimming result Kate had produced all year came at just the right time, pulling her into second place in the competition with just the ride and run to go.

'I had a really nice horse, he wasn't easy, I had to take it quite slowly and maintain a good rhythm,' she said.

Kate entered the run knowing she had to catch America's Emily de Riel if she wanted to win the coveted gold. But she could not keep up the punishing pace and former flatmate Steph Cook had the legs to beat both Kate and Emily.

'Steph was a better runner on the day — she deserved to win the gold,' said Kate.

Kate returns to Britain tomorrow (Friday) but takes part in the World Cup in France in two weeks' time. She also has her sights firmly set on next year's world championships in Britain next year.

So will she aim for Olympic gold in Athens 2004?

'I'm just taking it a year at a time. I don't know what the reaction is going to be when I get back home, but I haven't dismissed it either,' said Kate.

And she sent a heartfelt message of thanks to everyone who has supported her from Tavistock.

'I had 85 good luck cards from Tavistock which were all pinned up in my room — it was miles more by far than anyone else!

'The support I have had from Tavistock has been brilliant and I just don't know how to thank people enough.'

Mayor of Tavistock, Cllr Judith Williams, paid tribute to Kate 's Olympic success at this week's council meeting.

Cllr Williams said: 'The council on behalf of the residents of Tavistock send congratulations to Kate on her wonderful achievement of winning the bronze medal for the modern pentathlon.'

A civic reception is planned for Kate when she returns to the town.

l See pages 20 & 37 for more on Kate.