Modern pentathlon

Conclusion of the Men's event at the 2004 Summer Olympics

The modern pentathlon is a sports contest that includes five events: pistol shooting, épée fencing, 200 m freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a 3 km cross-country run.[1] The sport is governed by the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), the International Modern Pentathlon Union.[1]



The modern pentathlon was invented by the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games.[1] The name derives from the Greek penta- "five" and -athlon "contest".[1] The addition of modern to the name distinguished it from the original pentathlon of the ancient Olympic Games, which consisted of the stadion foot race, wrestling, long jump, javelin, and discus. As the events of the ancient pentathlon were modeled after the skills of the ideal soldier of that time, Coubertin created the contest to simulate the experience of a 19th century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines: he must ride an unfamiliar horse, fight with pistol and sword, swim, and run.[1]

The event was first held at the 1912 Olympic Games, and was won by Swedish athlete Gösta Lilliehöök. The modern pentathlon has been on the Olympic program continuously since 1912. A team event was added to the Olympic Games in 1952 and discontinued in 1992. An event for women was added in 2000.[1] In non-Olympic years, a World Championship is held, beginning in 1949.

Originally the competition took place over four or five days; however in 1996 a one-day format was adopted in an effort to be more audience-friendly.[1] In spite of the event's strong pedigree in the modern Olympics, and its status as the only event created specifically for the modern Olympic Games, its lack of widespread popularity outside Eastern Europe has led to calls for its removal from the Olympic Games in recent years; however, a vote by the IOC on July 8, 2005, keeps it in the Olympic program at least until 2012.

Following the July 2011 Modern Pentathlon Olympic test event in London, UIPM president Klaus Schormann told Olympic news source Around the Rings that transportation will be the key issue for the UIPM during the London 2012 Olympics. "The transportation is important to get from the swimming and fencing to here in Greenwich Park," he said. "This should be properly organized, for the athletes but also for the spectators as well.”


Except for the fencing competition, athletes do not directly compete against one another in the five events. Instead, a better absolute performance results in a higher points score; points for each event are combined to give the overall total scores. This is similar to the procedure for the decathlon in track and field athletics. However, an innovation was introduced to make the finale of the pentathlon more exciting. The last event is the cross-country run. Competitors are ranked according to their score from the first four disciplines and given different start times, with the leader going first, and other starts staggered by points differential such that the first person to cross the finish line will be the overall points leader and win the pentathlon. This method of finishing the competition would also eventually find use in winter events; the Gundersen method details a means by which a similar finish is achieved in the Nordic combined.

The fencing discipline uses the épée. The competition is a round-robin, meaning each competitor will face all the other competitors once. Each match lasts up to one minute; the first fencer to score a hit wins instantly. If neither scores within one minute, both lose the match.

The swimming discipline is a 200 m freestyle race. Until the 2000 Olympics, the distance was 300 metres.[2] Competitors are seeded in heats according to their fastest time over the distance.

The riding discipline involves show jumping over a 350–450 m course with 12 to 15 obstacles. Competitors are paired with horses in a draw 20 minutes before the start of the event.

The shooting discipline involves using a 4.5 mm air pistol in the standing position from 10 metres distance at a stationary target. Until the 2008 rules change, the format was that of the 10 metre air pistol competition: each competitor had 20 shots, with 40 seconds allowed for each shot.

Beginning with the Rancho Mirage World Cup (Feb 2011), the pistols have changed to a laser instead of an actual projectile. There is a slight delay between the trigger pull and the laser firing, simulating the time it would take for a pellet to clear the muzzle.

The running discipline involves a 3 km cross-country race. Until the 2000 Olympics, the distance was 4000 metres.[2]

In November 2008, the UIPM voted to change the format from the start of 2009. The running and shooting disciplines are to be contested in tandem. Athletes will have three bouts of shooting each followed by a 1000 m run. This is similar to the biathlon at the Winter Olympic Games, which combines cross-country skiing with rifle shooting. However, whereas biathletes carry their rifles while skiing, pentathletes will not carry their pistols while running. The change has been criticized as altering too radically the nature of the skills required. The New York Times asked whether the name ought to be changed to "tetrathlon" given that two of the five disciplines had been combined into a single event.[1] In the new format, in each of the three rounds of firing, athletes have to shoot five targets, loading the gun after each shot; they may then resume running. Misses are not penalised, but exceeding a maximum total time of 70 seconds will result in a penalty.[1]

The interruption of the pistol shooting will alter the format of the race, but not the principle that the overall winner will be the first to cross the finish line.[1]

See also


External links

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