Modern Pentathlon

The sport of modern pentathlon consists of five elements: fencing, swimming, riding and combined running and shooting.

Did you know?

George S Patton, who later became General of the US Army, competed in the first Olympic Modern Pentathlon at the Stockholm 1912 Games.
Women competed in Modern Pentathlon at the Olympic Games for the first time at Sydney 2000, where Team GB won gold (Steph Cook) and bronze (Kate Allenby).
Until Atlanta 1996, the Modern Pentathlon competition was held over four or five days.
Greek philosopher Aristotle described competitors in the Pentathlon of the ancient Games as ‘the most perfect sportsmen, because in their bodies strength and speed are combined in beautiful harmony’.

Key facts

Venue: Handball Arena (fencing); Aquatics Centre (swimming); and Greenwich Park (riding, combined running and shooting);
Dates: Saturday 11 – Sunday 12 August
Events: Fencing, Swimming, Riding, Combined Run/Shoot Event
Gold medals up for grabs: 2
Athletes: 72 (36 men, 36 women)

Modern Pentathlon: a history of the sport

Modern Pentathlon has its origins in a 19th-century legend.

It is said that a young French cavalry officer was sent on horseback to deliver a message. To complete his mission he had to ride, fence, shoot, swim and run – the same five challenges that face competitors in modern pentathlon today.

For more information on the history of the sport visit the IOC website.

Modern Pentathlon at the Games

Modern Pentathlon has been part of every Games since Stockholm 1912.

The sport was invented by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the modern Olympic Movement. He saw the event as the equivalent of the Pentathlon at the ancient Games, which was introduced for the first time at the 18th Olympiad in 708 BC, probably by the Spartans as a method of training soldiers.

It consisted of running the length of the stadium, jumping, throwing the spear, throwing the discus and wrestling.

The Pentathlon held a position of unique importance in the Games and was considered to be the climax, with the winner ranked as ‘Victor Ludorum’ (‘Winner of Games’). 

How to play

Athletes compete in five different sports. The order of events is fencing, swimming, riding and the combined running and shooting event.

Points are awarded according to how well the athletes do in each of the events. 

Fencing: Pentathletes are required to fence once with every other competitor in sudden death bouts. The target area is the whole body. If neither competitor has scored a hit after one minute, they both record a defeat. A total score of 25 victories equals 1,000 points. The value of each hit is +/- 24 points per hit.

Swimming: The swimming event is a 200m freestyle race, with athletes seeded in heats according to their personal best time. Times are translated into points, with 2 min 30 secs equating to 1,000 Pentathlon points; each one third of a second above or below these times equates to +/- 4 points.

Riding: Pentathletes ride unfamiliar horses over a 350-450m course that features 12 show-jumps including one double and one treble. Athletes pick their horses by lot and have 20 minutes and five practice fences for warm-up before entering the arena. Competitors start with 1,200 points and lose points for knockdowns, refusals or disobedience to jump, falls and other defined infringements. Time penalties are also awarded at four points per second for being over the standard time.

Combined Event: Pentathletes start on a handicap, based on scores after the previous three events. They run a short distance to the firing range, shoot unlimited times within 70 seconds to hit a target five times; run 1,000m, then shoot a further five targets; run a further 1,000m and shoot another 5 targets; then run the final 1,000m to the finish line.

The winner of the event is the athlete who crosses the finish line first.

Jargon buster

  • En garde: French for ‘on guard’, the position that fencers take before a bout begins.
  • Freestyle: A race where the swimmers may use any stroke they choose – usually the crawl.
  • Handicap Start: the type of start used in the running event where the leader starts first and then athletes start after them depending on how far they are behind them after the four events.

Get involved

If you like an all-round challenge, Modern Pentathlon could be for you.

The best way to get started is to contact Pentathlon GB . Also visit  the Union International de Pentatlon Moderne

competitiors at the shooting discipline of the modern pentathlon in beijing 2008

~ by superbowlnyc on February 17, 2011.

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